I don’t cry much in public. My waterworks seemed to malfunction when my father died. For some reason I lost the ability to cry when the occasion seemed to call for tears. It has created a few problems for me over the years because I often appear to be cold and uncaring. Even back then some of my friends told me that it seemed strange that I was so stoic about Daddy’s death. They wondered out loud if I had even loved him. Of course I did! The tears just would not come, at least not in front of people, and I’ve been that way ever since. I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. It simply is what it is. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have feelings or that I never cry. In fact, I often sob but in very private places. I never know when the urge to shed tears will hit me but when it does I can’t seem to turn the waterworks off until I am almost exhausted.
When my father died I usually had my emotional outbursts at night in my bed. I don’t recall ever once being discovered. It was my own private time and it happened now and again even long after he had been gone. Sometimes I get a trigger to this very day and dissolve in a fit of sobs and hiccups. Always it is when I am all alone. The same is true with regard to my mother’s death. Last Friday I began to blubber when I was driving near her home just because I heard the song Happy Day and it reminded me of her. It actually felt good to have that little meltdown.
I am what some people call an ugly crier. The actress whose tears most closely resemble mine is Claire Danes. She screws up her entire face and becomes almost unrecognizable. She really lets it all out. That’s the way I am but I never quite know when it will happen. The only thing that I am relatively sure of is that I will maintain my composure when others are around. When alone I may sob over a Wounded Warriors commercial.
I’ve only lost it totally while in the company of other humans a couple of times. Once was when my grandfather died at the age of one hundred eight. I suppose that it was actually a shock to me that he was gone. He had begun to seem immortal as we kept celebrating his birthday year after year. When his age finally caught up with him it was so traumatic for me. I had relied on his wisdom for most of my life. At his funeral someone thought to play Grandpa by the Judds. I was so surprised when the music started that I wasn’t my usual self and I burst into a full blown, face wrenching, body shaking hard cry that I had no power to stop. It actually felt good to be able to do this when others saw me. It made me feel just a bit more normal.
The other time that I made such a public display of emotion was when my cousin, Sandra, died at the age of sixteen. I attended her funeral with Mike, my brother, Pat, who was her age, and my newborn daughter, Maryellen. I was able to steel myself all the way up until my aunt threw herself on Sandra’s casket and began to wail. I let lose with my tears and cried for at least two hours straight. My body actually hurt by the time I managed to calm down a bit.
Dealing with my mother’s mental illness often made me cry, but only after I had left her and was driving in my car. At those times I probably appeared to be someone who was a bit unstable. The tears came so quickly and heavily that it was like trying to drive in a heavy thunderstorm. I sometimes added a bit of frustrated yelling to the mix and I suppose that there were many people driving by me who were a bit concerned and may have even wondered if I was the person suffering from some form of mental problem. I may have scared a few of them but it felt so good to get rid of my frustrations.
It’s probably not particularly advisable to cry while driving a car but I suspect that it is one of the favored places for women to let it all hang out. Sometimes we just have to get those poisonous feelings from our systems before we get home. The automobile can be a kind of sanctuary where we can be ourselves. I’m not certain but I would be willing to bet a bundle that there have been very few women who have not driven all teary-eyed after a really bad day at work at least once. I particularly liked the long journey that I had down the Beltway that allowed me the pleasure of dissolving into a total state of delicious body shaking angst after some of my toughest days.
Of course a safer and oft used private place for tears is the bathroom. With the door locked and the shower muffling the sound I have been able to enjoy some rejuvenating crying spells. I was a bit disappointed to learn notlong ago that my daughters knew exactly when I was shedding my frustrations over their teenage antics. I had always thought that nobody was the wiser.
I have often wished that I had the ability to turn on the waterworks when most appropriate. My mother had no problem with that. She seemed so sweet and loving the way she was able to share the feelings of the moment with others. Tears ran down her face at weddings and funerals. She genuinely showed her concern for people in distress by crying along with them. I have definitely become better as I have grown older. Perhaps by the time that I am eighty l I will be a master of crying any place any time.
I suppose that we are each a bit different when it comes to emotions. I don’t know why I froze up so when my father died but I did. Perhaps I saw how broken my mother was and I somehow believed that I needed to be strong for her and for my brothers. Over time as my mother became more and more ill with her bipolar disorder I knew that I had to stay calm. Whenever I broke my steadfastness she would use my weak moments to convince me that I was the problem and not her. I learned how to become clinical with her much like a nurse, a doctor, a therapist, a police officer, or a fire fighter. I knew that I had a job to do and emotions would only get in the way of my ability to get my mother the help that she needed. In some ways that became my rule for every situation.
I try not to judge people by the way they express or hide their emotions. Each of us is wired in a different way. We approach life in the manner that works best for us. We never really know what a person is doing in the car or in the dark of night when alone. It’s wrong to assume that those who do not show emotion publicly are somehow less thoughtful or compassionate. They simply may be like me, dealing with emotions that are sometimes stuck in their throats.
I’ve learned to appreciate who I am. I do so love the times when the poison that has built up in my soul comes running to the surface. It is such a cathartic feeling to finally loose my composure and just respond to the thoughts in my heart. I know that crying can be a very good thing but it is still my personal thing. I hope that I haven’t frightened too many folks when I’ve been engaged in those really ugly cries while in my car. Most probably the women passing me have understood and simply smiled with understanding. They have no doubt been there a time or two.
Crying is a really good thing as long as it isn’t overdone. Just as a deep down belly laugh is good for what ails us, so too is a good session of weeping. Tears are a part of our humanity no matter whether they appear in public or hide in our personal spaces. They are God’s way of getting rid of some of the stress that builds up in our souls. That is a good thing!