If you have spent 2.5 seconds around Latin Americans, specifically Mexicans, you probably know a little urban legend about La Llorona- the weeping woman. For my friends who are not familiar with this folklore, allow me to share one of the many versions of this particular tale.
Maria (la llorona) was a beautiful woman who lived in a small town. Men revered her and one man in particular, had to have her as his wife. The story goes on to say that Maria had children but the man she married did not like her kids at all. So much so, he insisted on her getting rid of her children. Maria loved her children so she did not want to get rid of them. Therefore the man ended up leaving her for another woman. On that rainy night, in her blind rage, Maria took her children to the river and drowned them. Then she killed herself. Here’s the kicker (and the main purpose of sharing the story), legend has it that Maria’s spirit still roams and on rainy nights, if you listen close, you can still hear her weeping in the streets “where are my children”? Some versions say that if she even hears a child crying she will snatch them and drown them in the river.
I know as adults we hear this folklore and can agree that while Maria’s story sounds familiar to things we hear in the news quite often, the idea of her spirit STILL roaming the streets and drowning children is pretty foolish and unlikely. However, if you grew up in a Mexican American household like I did, chances are you were genuinely terrified of La Llorona when you were growing up. Confession? I was so scared to take a shower (as opposed to a bath) until middle school because I thought Maria would come behind me in the shower and kill me- I KNOW! As children you don’t always know how to separate fact from fiction, bringing forth so much fear. If you wanted your child to quickly stop crying in the grocery store or at home, all you had to do was call them a llorona or say to stop crying before you get llorona. Worked every time!
The problem with this tactic is that it never dealt with the root of the issue. Instead of people talking things out with children and getting to the source of why they were crying, it seemed almost easier to just call them a “crybaby” for a lack of better words and silence them. By doing so, we deny children from learning basic coping and communication skills. Sure, that child will most likely stop crying but- what if they were justified in their tears? What if we were in the wrong because we chose to let our lack of understanding and frustration cloud our judgment?
I don’t know if you have turned on the tv or scrolled through social media lately, but it’s everywhere! This virus going around is spreading like wildfire and I don’t think it has any intention of stopping any time soon. It is affecting our friendships, it is affecting how we treat our families, it is affecting the way we see the world around us. Llorona virus may not be a novel virus- but this one is lethal- of the heart, mind and spirit. You have the power to stop this one though!
“From the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach is satisfied; he is satisfied by the yield of his lips. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”Proverbs 18:20,21
Before we discuss how to cure the llorona virus, it is imperative that we discuss some of the symptoms, which include but are not limited to: irritability, lack of understanding, slandering, deflecting, shutting down, oppression, judgment, condemnation, suppression, sorrow, fear, desensitization.
Oh, you didn’t think that llorona virus was a one sided virus did you? No, no my friends. This virus’ basic reproduction number is greater than measles, the flu or any other virus you can catch. Why? Because unlike other viruses, you can’t just slap some “hand sanitizer” over the harsh words you may have just spoke to someone who is experiencing a hardship. Unlike other viruses, there is no set life span if the llorona virus was contracted by another person in your path. Therefore, there is no telling how long that damage will affect them or who they will now spread it to. In some cases, undealt llorona virus will lead to permanent damage. While it may not directly cause physical death, it can lead to spiritual, mental or emotional decay.
When you are scrolling through Facebook and see someone voice frustrations about what they are missing their senior year and comment with the “it could be worse” spiel, you have just spread the virus. Perhaps when someone is being vulnerable and trying to tell others to take COVID serious and you slap a Christian quote or remind them to “have faith over fear”, you have just spread the virus. See while you have good intentions and are trying to speak from a place of “love”, your words are not always conveying that you are there to walk alongside that person. Instead it can leave people to feel even more alone and give people the idea that they should just suffer in silence. In other words, we have just told someone that they are being a llorona.
The problem is, we never got to the why behind the what. See while your friend may be voicing concerns about COVID, what they failed to write on Facebook is that their relative has been on a ventilator for the last 6 days and not only that but they are not even allowed to go the hospital and see if their relative is even alive right now. What they may not be saying is that they don’t want other people to go through the unknowns that they are currently experiencing. Yes, Bible verses and prayer are important. Please don’t misinterpret my message. What I am saying is that more than just telling someone they need to choose faith (more than telling someone to not be a llorona) what people need to hear is that you are there for them! We are all walking in uncharted territory and while you may feel strong in your faith one day, someone might need you to be strong for them. So instead of trying to impose how they SHOULD think or feel, remind them you care. Remind them they are not alone. Remind them they matter and remember to show grace to others because we all need it.
I try my best to live and lead from a place of openness and brokenness. So as I share about this llorona virus, please note that I too am overcoming said virus. For me, llorona virus looked different. Instead of telling people to suck it up, I was using humor to mask how I really felt. I was consumed by the fear of it all. I was the one roaming the streets crying- I calling out for help and I didn’t even know it. The problem with that is, if we do not speak up and share what or how we truly feel or what is actually going on inside our brilliant minds, we leave room for doubt, fear and worry to consume us. Not only that but if we remain silent, we can never have people truly come alongside us or share in our burdens. Perhaps you can relate? Maybe you too have been consumed by a specific emotion or thought but are too scared to voice it because you don’t feel like you have a trusted space to let your wall down? Maybe you have been bottling everything up inside because you think you need to be strong for everyone around you. No one is invincible though. Eventually your walls will come tumbling down and while you may not be crying actual tears, your bottled emotions may come out in the form of anger, depression, deflecting, etc- not to forget those who you may hurt along the way.
See, when I was casually posting away memes to hide my genuine fears, there was a flip side to it. On the other side of my memes were clients who are immunocompromised. On the other side of my memes was my mother who is still fighting her battle against cancer. On the other side of my memes are the 64,716 people who have lost their lives to COVID and their families and friends left behind. For them my memes may not be perceived as just jokes. Perhaps to them my memes could be perceived as desentized or heartless. Perhaps my unphased attitude came across as a badge of invincibility or lack of respect.
So where exactly is the middle ground? What is a healthy way to cope with what is happening around us while not spreading the llorona virus ourselves? Is it even possible?
Considering that the tongue has the power of life and death- I am also led to believe that yes, there is a middle ground to not only “flatten the curve” but live a life of intentionally stopping the spread of llorona virus.
- Be intentional about what you post.
Is what I am posting going to cause fear, spread awareness, is it from a reliable source, am I just posting to avoid dealing with how I truly feel? What is the purpose behind it? By being intentional about what you are sharing, you are taking back control of the message you are actually trying to convey.
2. Take a break from social media
This is a HUGE one (and low key I am probably going to convict myself too)! If you notice a decline in your mental or emotional health, you may be in need of a social media detox, even if for just a few hours. If you are getting burnt out by all the things you are seeing being posted and are getting annoyed by humanity, you may need a detox. If you are spending hours obsessing over what everyone else is doing and letting FOMO make me feel isolated and lonely- call a friend.
Because what people portray online is not always the reality they live daily.
3. Choose to listen, even when you get frustrated
(be a safe space for someone)
I know it is easier to silence someone when you THINK they are overreacting or in your eyes, being a llorona. My challenge for you is to see beyond yourself. To choose to see beyond your own preferences and personal limitations. One thing I have learned is that sometimes we have been given eyes to see things others can’t and sometimes it can be used for good. So while you may be a little frustrated because you don’t have full understanding (yet), maybe someone’s breakthrough is on the other side of your words spoken. Maybe.
4. Speak up, because as much as we want to read minds, no one can
Yes, online platforms are a great way to voice that you are scared or feeling x,y,z BUT if you are experiencing something that needs to be followed with actual dialogue and encouragement, you may have better luck reaching out to someone directly (and vice versa, check on your friends who you may think or see need some extra tlc).
5. Hold your circle accountable
This one is a little different than just checking on your community. This one has to do with making sure that your direct circle is staying true to whatever code yall live by but also that no one gets lost in the sauce of what is happening right now. Encourage your friends to continue reaching their goals or pursuing whatever they were working towards before. This tip means staying active in the lives of those close to you and trying to maintain some level of normalcy.
6. Don’t assume the worst
At the end of the day- we are only human- imperfect people. We will get things wrong and we will fail many times before we get something right. With that being said, know that our perspective is not always reality and there is often more in the details that we may never see. So show grace. When you are at the grocery store and see people still stockpiling, maybe it is someone bringing groceries to their family and their sick neighbors. When your child starts lashes out and you don’t know why they are suddenly acting so different. When you are driving to your essential job and see lots of people in their cars driving or people roaming around.
If ever there was a time when we were literally all in this together, it is now. While we may not be in control of many factors happening around us, we are in control of how we respond. People are watching and they too will remember how we responded in this greatest time of need.
Stay safe and be vigilant to protect yourself and those around you.