One August evening 2017, I was sad to hear a nine year old girl yell out “Don’t cry” twice to another girl who had just sung on Americas Got Talent, and was receiving a standing ovation.
The judges were accepting of tears; yet I still hear all too often, “stop crying,” or “don’t cry,” or “sorry,” for being ashamed of crying.
For way too many years I hid my tears, until I became a Marriage and Family Therapist and later became brokenhearted by my fourth husband’s distrust of me – accusing me of having affairs and lying about it. I cried. I sobbed. I yelled and stomped my feet like a toddler. Eventually, I became connected to my grief of my mother’s distrust in me to have my own opinions, beliefs and feelings. I became a human thunderstorm, (en)lightning cracking my heart open enough to trust myself, especially my feelings, the best F word going.
Usually, I cry several times a week, (it’s our bodies natural way to let go of physical and emotional pain) and was recently triggered by re-reading my 12 year old granddaughter’s hand-created birthday card for my 70th, where she lists 10 wonderful qualities and ends with the “best thing you are is my grandma.”
Why all these tears?
Another day this same month of August 2017, I signed up to rent a kayak for an hour or two. Will, a 22 year old, very handsome man took my money as I signed the release form saying Puddledockers was not responsible for my safety. Next to my signature was a line for my age. As I write 70, I say, “I have to say it out loud in order to begin to believe…while being greatfull for my excellent health without medications.”
Will inquires as to what is my secret. Crying is my smiling answer. Will responds, “That makes sense because it decreases your stress.”
“Stress is really fear of something: not enough money, won’t pass a test, or ultimately I won’t be liked, or loved as I need.”
Will asks: “What’s the best moment of your life?”
“You ask great questions!” I take a breath before I answer with my first thought: “the birth of my first child.” I am surprised how interested he is in my life.
When I return from an hour of strenuous kayaking out to the lighthouse and back on Cayuga Lake, Will continues our conversation, “I can’t remember the last time I cried – how can it happen?” I suggest he go to a sad movie, or play a sad song and to be aware (pay good attention) not to suppress your sadness. Then, we laugh together.
Later, in this same August, I am watching a 20/20 documentary of the trial of 18 year old Michele Carter, convicted of killing her boyfriend, Conrad Roy, with her words. I am still astounded how readily humans wish to blame instead of understand. Michele had tried to encourage Conrad to get help for 2 years. Then, she gave up, and went along with Conrad’s continued wish to commit suicide. Conrad’s mother had taken Conrad to a psychiatric unit prior to Michele’s involvement, mostly by text, as Conrad and Michele had only seen one another three times in their over two year relationship. During the documentary, no one asks why Conrad or Michele didn’t go to their parents for help. Or why Conrad felt so poorly about himself. (Both were from middle class families and attractive. Michele was known to have an eating disorder.)
What really matters is that we pay good attention to children’s feelings; become aware of the essential need to teach healthy loving relationship skills in our high schools, which I have been advocating for over 25 years, and is still not offered as an elective.
What makes a person feel successful; what brings happiness into our lives? I asked Ithaca high school students this past spring. “Education, money, communication” are what I hear first, until I push for the deeper happiness… LOVE they say.
Always, I cry for more love.
“There is sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They are more eloquent than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief…and unspeakable love.” – Washington Irving