I come from a hard family–not mean, or ugly, or hateful, but hard. We clench our teeth and openly walk into the pain of life without flinching. We carry our burdens with upright spines and necks made strong by years of holding our heads up high. We do not break, barely bend. We live determined and sure in the many faces of uncertainty.
Except me. I cry.
I cry often and greedily, tears cresting at my cheek bones before taking the detour to my lips as I sip my own sorrow. I cry when I am overwhelmed, when I feel loving, when I feel loved, when I am angry, when I am frustrated, when I am happy, when I am anxious, when I am weary. And sometimes, I cry just because I feel the need to.
There is no other feeling in the world as gratifying to me than shedding real tears.
To those in my life, I often seem weak, soft, unable to cope. But they have never really known me or how I work even though they love me. They only see the me that makes sense to them, and ready tears just don’t make sense. They baffle the mind. Except mine.
When I cry, I clean everything inside my heart, and all the unnecessary clutter washes away. What’s left are salty tracks down my face and lightness in my soul. I can hear better after I cry–the answers come to me in a feline quiet that I miss when everything sits bottled up. The soothing blankness that I inhabit after weeping slows down my brain so that my mind can catch up. Like a fast, hard rain down south, my tears bring life into focus and everything gets clearer and sharper and more colorful. I can think again. Feel again. Move again. Rest.
People these days are ashamed of their tears. Crying means you are weak, incapable of “handling it”–which could not be further from the truth. Whining and complaining mean you can’t handle it; staying stuck and not moving mean you can’t handle it. Crying means that you have become overloaded and need to adjust by physically releasing stress. Instead of accepting crying as the tool that it is, we bully and embarrass those who do it and praise those who struggle through life hiding it. Somehow not crying became equated with being tough–especially for boys and men. Even for women, there is a negative connotation to crying: that you are manipulating someone or something other than yourself, that you need constant saving and protection because you are weak and emotional. I can say with unequivocal boldness that I do not need anybody to save me, protect me, or take care of me. My emotions are not some crippling disease. And my tears are not a nasty side effect thereof. If anything, I am clearer and calmer than most people because I take the time to release built up tension in a nonviolent, non-costly manner.
I want to end by saying that it is okay for you to cry. Cry as many tears as you need to until you can refocus and readjust under whatever weight you carry. Don’t let the people in your life make you feel incapable just because you need to cry. Tears mean something, have a purpose. Don’t be ashamed to use them to your benefit.