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  • “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

    I went to work Thursday morning feeling like I still needed to cry some more. I had cried myself to sleep the night before, after having cried myself all the way home, after crying myself out of that conversation and out the door. I knew it was the wrong way to end it but after 2 hours of talking in circles I had no more fight left in me. The last thing I said was “I need to go cry a lot and be hugged by someone who loves me.” A friend had finally let out all the anger they’d been developing since we met. Little things, big things, major differences, conflicting ideologies, the opinions of others. It was a lot to bear. Most of it was right, some of it was not, and it all hurt.
    I prayed for strength as I set up the table for the day and prepared my lessons. I had Ezme in the morning, and as she walked in, I prayed that God would spare me any of her potentially turbulent behavioral issues. Misbehavior meant consequences, unheeded warnings meant write-ups. Write-ups meant that my entire afternoon would be spent bringing Ezme down from violent outbursts. As miserable as it was, to not follow the proper discipline procedures would mean that certain behaviors would go unchecked and multiply, and I’d eventually lose control of my student.
    A few hours later, Ezme sobbed in desperation as I told her it would be another write-up. She knew exactly what it meant: a phone-call home, a possible suspension, and no invitation to the Super Scholar party at the end of the month. Yet despite this, she had managed to blurt out a curse-word laden threat after several promises of improving her already spotty behavior for the day. I had to follow through.
    After she began to cry, I moved from the other side of the desk to sit next to her and gently explain that there are consequences to making threats to teachers. She sobbed and shook as tears covered her face. I wondered if, with her cognitive disabilities, Ezme even understood her own actions. She was truly lamenting, crying from some profound place that was making it impossible for her to even form words. I expected her to respond with her usual aggressive tirade and moved all throw-able objects out of her reach. But all that came were tears. This weakness was a stark contrast to the strong-willed and stubborn personality that challenged me daily in the classroom. The same one that threw chairs and ripped artwork off the hallway walls when angry; that rarely showed signs of affection and several times told me she was going to beat me up with her shoe. But now, she was utterly breaking down before me.
    And then, Ezme did something that surprised me. Exasperated, she took a deep breath and laid her head in my lap and whimpered, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” My heart broke and I knew that this was not the time to review the class rules and explain consequences. I put my arm around her and gave her the comfort and affection I knew in my heart I was craving. I made my best imitation of my mother, who bears the magical ability to make all problems go away by the warmth of her arms and the softness of her singing. I rubbed Ezme’s back and sang softly. We stayed that way for several minutes. I thought back to how much I missed this about my mama, about how much I monumentally needed to be in Ezme’s position—to lay in someone’s lap and lament my own failures while not having them be explained back to me. I had failed at love. I had had a friend treat my life up and down. I was left in tears over the ache of their words and over the frustration of not understanding my own actions. Not understanding why love didn’t enter the picture sooner—before the offenses were committed, before they let unforgiveness turn me into an enemy, before I decided it was okay to cut them down infront of others. The confrontation didn’t feel like an opportunity to grow, it felt like a write-up, going in my permanent records. Phone call home. No invitation to the Super Friend party. No more chances.
    I’m still aching with the need to cry and most certainly welcoming it. Crying to me is similar to throwing up; it rarely happens and it’s equal parts spiritual and physical. I don’t relate to other women who define themselves as such because they cry at the drop of a dime, but when I do it feels like I’m letting out months of inexpressible weight and secretly wish I did it more. For ladies like me, crying brings about a softness of heart that is hard to come by, yet our saving grace. It opens up a part of myself that I sometimes forget exists. Softness of heart is a gift. It illuminates a need to be forgiven, a need to be held, a need to be shown love.

    What better way to begin loving others than knowing that you need to be loved as well?
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