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.

Things I don’t understand

There are a lot of things in life I simply don’t understand.

And I’m learning that’s OK.

While I used to get frustrated when things didn’t make sense to me—you know, like why humidity insists on making my hair a disaster—I’ve started to accept that there really isn’t a need to know everything about everything. That would probably be pretty overwhelming, anyway. I’m not claiming to be wise like Mr. Miyagi or Mr. Feeny, but I do believe a person can still get along in this life without having wisdom and understanding about all of those pressing questions and unknown wonders out there.

no sense2
When things don’t make sense

This popped into my head as Lady Gaga was singing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl on Sunday. I think she has a wonderful voice, and this was one of the first times I had seen her not wearing an overly extravagant outfit. I thought her sparkly red suit was pretty appropriate for the occasion. And she belted that anthem like a lot of people can’t. But I’m sure there will still be lots of self-made critics of her posting things on social media to let people know their opinions and reviews of her performance. I’m sure we’ll hear a ton about the halftime show, too. This is one of those things I won’t ever understand: why people have to be so hateful to famous people on social media outlets. Most of us have never met these individuals, yet we somehow become experts on analyzing their every moves and knowing what they should have done in certain situations. Makes total sense.

I’ve compiled a short list of things that don’t necessarily make me feel scholarly in terms of their subject matters. Perhaps you can relate, or maybe you’ve mastered all understanding of these. Either way, I’m going to throw them out there.

So much in politics—I don’t follow the stuff that goes on in the political realm of our country, and I can’t tell you many facts about any of the candidates. What bothers me most and what I can never wrap my mind around is why so many parts of the political world seem corrupt and not at all very nice. People are always trying to dig up dirt on the candidates and their pasts and anyone affiliated with them, and it’s almost as if no one can trust anyone—which then makes it hard for the members of the public to say they trust their leaders. There are so many disagreements, and social media yet again makes it possible for people to start heated debates and criticize others. It’s tiring.

Science—I’ve given up all hope. I don’t understand anatomy, biology, physics, botany or really anything that falls under this umbrella. I did pretty well in chemistry back in the day, but I could tell you zilch about it now. I think the only way I made good grades in science was by memorizing what I needed to for tests, but all of that is gone. I think it’s great things function the ways they do, but I must leave it at that and not try to figure out why.

Financial stuff—I am trying to learn more since I work in this industry now, but there’s still a lot that I don’t get yet. Investments, the market, portfolios and more than a handful of other concepts still go over my head a little, but I’d rather not be a complete dunce. My boss would probably prefer that, too.

Men—Enough said.

Many Super Bowl commercials—Only a small number of them are actually funny anymore. Most of the ads don’t make much sense to me and sometimes leave me wondering what was actually being advertised until the very last second. Maybe they’re all trying too hard. This year was the first time in a long time that I didn’t have to take notes during the commercial breaks to discuss with my students as part of the advertising unit I taught every year at this time, so I maybe didn’t pay as much attention to the ads this time around. I did like the Buick one with Odell Beckham Jr., though. “She Odelled it.” And the one with Ryan Reynolds was definitely visually appealing. I’m pretty sure it was a Hyundai commercial. The Super Bowl babies thing was pretty neat, too. I mean, SEAL.

Intentional meanness—I know I’m not always the nicest person to everyone every single second of my life. I’ve certainly said and done things I regret that have hurt others, but I can’t wrap my mind around calculated meanness. I know a Pollyanna existence really isn’t logical, but it doesn’t hurt us to try to be nice to people as much as we can. There are lots of quotes about love that I could throw in here, but the bottom line is that love is always a better choice than hate.

There are likely more things I haven’t grasped full comprehension of just yet, but I’ve exhausted my lack of wisdom for the time being. I’m fine with not understanding all there is to understand as long as I live a life full of love and spending time with people. I think one of the best things we can give others is not necessarily knowledge but time.

And time spent loving others is never wasted or unwise.