Burrito theory: Or, Why I Don't Cry Often

When my Dad first died, I felt like time moved both painfully slow, and too fast. Each day felt like this terrible separation between him being here, and not here. I dreaded being able to say "My Dad died a WEEK ago". Or a MONTH. Or a YEAR. Now it's been TWO years. And it feels like forever and yesterday since I've heard his voice. 

I went to an embarrassing number of gift stores in London to find this.

I went to an embarrassing number of gift stores in London to find this.

Today I was in Starbucks working and this man walked up to my table and something about him; maybe the way he walked or his giant white socks, or his eyes... I had to catch my breath because something in me, for a split second, thought it was Dad. Like somehow he was coming to meet me at Starbucks and buy me tea. 

It happened last week too. I had to go get a breast ultrasound (it's fine, all fine) and I was freaking out just a tad. I was laying on the table with my boob out (which, by the way, can we work on a better way to make this happen?) and I just started to get really anxious. And then I had this strange sense of calm and for the first time in a really long time, felt like my Dad was there, and that he was just telling me it was going to be fine and just waiting for me to be done with an appointment, the way parents have always done. I haven't thought about this since, and I didn't cry in the moment, or even get upset. I moved on, I went to work, I answered phone calls, I sent emails and wrote home studies and picked my son up and made our family dinner and exercised and showered and went to sleep. 

So this is my burrito theory: that to keep myself functioning and moving forward, I can't unravel and let the contents of the burrito be exposed. Because I will never, ever, get the burrito to fold back the way it's supposed to and it will just look like a mess. There will be sour cream everywhere and I will certainly use a million napkins even if they do "come from a tree" as the sign reminds me.


Most days I keep my burrito of sadness intact with help from my son and my husband. They tend to be the foil wrapper of happiness and joy and lightheartedness that holds me together. 

When I'm with my Mom, I feel myself gritting my teeth, just trying not to break down and show how each time she forgets something, or stumbles over my name, or gets lost in the bathroom feels like a punch to the heart. I tell myself that it's okay that she is wearing that same damn blue shirt again. I'm sure she didn't wear it yesterday. I just know it. Today at the dentist they told her to sign her name and she said "What should I put?" to me. I told her her name and then tried to look at the receptionist with a normal face, as if this was a normal question for a 70 year old woman to be asking. I didn't show emotion, I kept the burrito rolled up. I had things to do. Drop off Mom, finish my work day, pick up my son, take him to the park, make dinner, exercise and shower. No time for a burrito explosion. 


But I will tell you wonderful reader, that today I am a mess. Today there is burrito everywhere. On the floor, in my hair, a napkin wouldn't begin to cut it. We are talking wet paper towel mess. Or skip the paper products- someone bring me a wash cloth! My joy today is the space to make this mess. That I have a comfortable chair in a wonderful home, in a great city. That I was so tired coming home today and didn't think I could hold my burrito of sadness together to even make it through the door and my neighbors came out and played with Dominic and made us both laugh. I am thankful for the good friends I can/have called crying and they just let me be, and don't judge or ask if they can somehow re-wrap me up to make it easier for them. My joy is that they call me too, when their burritos have burst. I also intentionally set aside burrito blasting times- it's why I pay for counseling, even though my insurance co pay for it is bonkers. It's taken time, but I have come to realize the only way to continue is to let myself unroll to trusted friends, to a wonderful counselor and here. The biggest joy has been deepened friendships, insight and a community of people around me who are okay with a little mess.

This is my burrito challenge to all of you who are grieving and/or caretaking. Find one way to unravel this week, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Set aside the time to mess up your makeup, cry on your outfit and blow your nose like you mean it.
Patricia Cruz