Learning to cry

Sometimes the things we did so naturally before we knew how to think at higher levels become things we think aren’t so natural anymore.

Like crying.

I’m not big on tears. On average, I probably cry twice a year, maybe three times if it’s a bad year. For reasons I won’t discuss right now, I learned to suppress my tears long ago, and I’ve always done my best not to let them even build up inside my eyelids.

I’ll tell you right now that it’s not a good thing to do. What usually happens is that I wait so long to cry about so many different things that when one thing finally sets off those tears, it’s like a freaking waterfall exploded, and I’m wallowing about months and months of bottled-up emotions. It’s ugly crying to the extreme: My face gets ridiculously splotchy, and my eyes are usually so puffy the next day that I have a tough time getting in my contacts. I realize it’s not a good idea, but it’s been the story of my life for as far back as I can remember.

And then 2016 happened.

learning-to-cry
My baby sister (left) has been giving me great advice for years.

Last year was not a good year for me. A lot of different things happened that didn’t make me smile, and the biggest thing I faced was a heartache that seemed to form slowly but then shatter my heart suddenly—and it just won’t go away. I cried more in 2016 than the past few years combined, and I felt like such a fool for it. My sister has always told me that there is nothing wrong with crying and that it’s actually healthy for me, but I’ve struggled to believe it. She might be right, though.

There’s an episode of Gilmore Girls in which Lorelai is trying to get Rory to wallow after her first broken heart, but Rory doesn’t want to and tries to spend all of her time not thinking about her pain. By the end of the episode, Rory is sitting on the coach with multiple big containers of ice cream, ready to let the tears flow.

Because crying is natural.

A few months ago, I had been trying to ignore tears and my feelings. I was sitting at my desk at work, and something sparked my emotions, and I felt the tears coming. I bolted to the elevator and ran to the bathroom in the adjacent hotel and cried for what seemed like way too long. There was some convention going on, so the bathroom suddenly filled with women on their break, and I hadn’t been smart enough to hide in a stall. One of the women asked me if I was OK, and I shook my head to say no. She put her hand on my shoulder and said, “Sometimes all that you can do is cry.”

I’m slowly learning that what she said carries validity in many instances. No, I don’t think it’s right or necessary in every situation that upsets us, and I can’t say that I’m suddenly going to become someone who cries in movies (except for My Girl, the only movie that can make me cry—I can’t take that scene at Thomas J.’s funeral when Vada wants to go climb trees with him again and says he can’t see without his glasses; it’s an absolutely heart-wrenching moment). But maybe I’ll be better about crying when I need to instead of holding it all in and waiting to explode one day in the future.

When we’re happy, we smile. When something is funny, we laugh. When we’re upset, we might show anger or frustration. When we’re sad, we cry. I don’t know why it’s so difficult for me to do that last one—and I don’t think I’m necessarily alone in this regard. It’s hard to let others see we’re hurt or upset or maybe not always as strong as we’d like to be. But maybe crying really isn’t the sign of weakness I’ve made it out to be. Maybe it’s just a way of showing that you’re human and have emotions. Jim Valvano said it’s something we should do daily, and he’s a man I greatly admire. Though I don’t think that will be the frequency for all of us, he makes a valid point.

We’re all going to face hurt in life—that’s inevitable. As much as I’d like to act like I’m immune to it all, I’ve come to realize that I’m not, and I can’t. And my sister is right: It’s OK to cry. If you have to break down in a bathroom by yourself, sob in your bedroom while your sister sits with you and lets you let it all out, wallow in your car, or cry in a parking lot where you met your mom because you needed a hug, it’s OK to cry sometimes.

And I know a lot of Atlanta Falcons fans can relate right now.

2 thoughts on “Learning to cry

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