Last Friday was one of those days that hit me unexpectedly, and again, had me crying in public. I don’t really know when this public display of emotion started. A friend who has known me since I was 19 once said to me that in all the years we spent together (from university through to our mid-twenties) she had never seen me shed a tear, even during the most difficult of times.
You see, I was brought up in an environment where crying was seen as a very negative display of emotions. As a child, if I cried for no (obvious) reason, I was given a reason to cry. As a teenager, my being upset would prompt my mother to tell me how upset it made her, and of course, I didn’t want to upset her, so I learned to keep it all in. In my previous relationships, I dealt with various degrees of reactions to my tears from emotional bullying (kick her while she’s down), to flippant, to having the men emotionally retreat. One even started cheating on me when I was going through a tough time. Then there is that ‘crazy’ label used for things they don’t understand. Asking for a shoulder to cry on, in my experience only led me to feel worse. When a friend of mine said that her partner could just be there and hand her chocolate as she completely broke down, I was totally amazed at his maturity. It never crossed my mind that anyone could just do that.
The thing is tears can be prompted by a whole range of emotions including those that are yet unnamed and just need an outlet. I had become used to crying alone, and so, I had built this shell around me. I would wait until I was completely on my own to break down. When my engagement ended, I waited to move to another country to do the bulk of my grieving, filling the time between that end and my move with a fling that left me feeling worse. When my grandmother passed on a couple of years ago, I was in a relationship and yet, I dealt with it by crying into my yoga mat and just texting my then partner. I didn’t expect him to be there for me, and he didn’t call. Somehow I felt that emotionally, he was ill-equipped to deal with my grieving.
I very rarely shared my tears with females, and even more rarely would do it with the men in my life be they relatives, friends and especially partners.
And then I took that crazy vow of celibacy: https://azphoenix.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/act-of-celibacy/. It was an interesting and amazing journey. However, just as I was about to step out of it, my father passed away and I retreated again into myself. I am so grateful for the friends who were there for me during this time. Although I tried to shut the door, they waited right outside, ready for when I could allow myself to need them. It was a lesson on how there were people out there who are at the same time both gentle and strong enough to support you through your grief.
That is the thing about grief and tears. Most of the time, you don’t want someone to make it better and you definitely don’t want someone to make it about them. Sometimes, all you want is for someone to hold you and to let you cry, or to hand you a baby to hold for a little while.
When my father passed away I was sad, and I was angry – angry at him for being the kind of father he was and angry at him for not telling me how ill he really was. Most of all I was angry at him for not being around during my moments of vulnerability, these moments of vulnerability when he, as a father, should have been there. The last thing I wanted was to let another man in or even have one near me. I felt that people in general couldn’t be relied on in times of grief, and more so if they were men.
I was wrong.
As my yoga practice has grown and my mask has dropped, I’ve learned that people can be there for you if you let them. They might not be in a position to do something about it, but a hug is free and tissues don’t cost that much. There are friends who will not brush it off if you cry for your grandmother who passed away 15 years ago. There are friends who will bring you gelato and let you hold their baby for the warmth and comfort. There are friends who will sit with you, waiting patiently for the sobs to subside and for you to catch your breath so you can tell them why you are upset. And there are men. These men who are just there with their gentle strength, neither running nor reacting to your tears, offering their warm arms so you can melt, even if just for a moment. These men just listen while you open up with your emotions and although they might have that manly desire to fix everything, they don’t try to. They are just present.
There are people who understand that sometimes emotions flow out in bursts before laying dormant for a while. Then something triggers them, and there they flow again, and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
And there are times you learn that strong emotions can awaken different parts of yourself that might have been asleep.
For the first time in a long time, last week I wished that I wasn’t spending the evening alone. I wanted to curl up on someone’s lap and let him hold me. When I awoke in the middle of the night, I wanted to hear another person breathing beside me, to feel his warmth and know that comfort.
Tears are amazing. They remind you that you are alive. They are the physical manifestation of your feelings, showing you that your body and your emotions are connected. They are the gateway, allowing things that might remain stuck inside to flow. And sometimes they come only to tell you that it is time to let your guard down and write the next chapter of the story.