waterworks: the shedding of tears.
Tears flow with abandon in my house everyday. Faces flush, lips tremble, salty tears well up, spill out and run down cheeks. Other times they erupt in a burst of rage or frustration or pain. Lilah bangs her knee on an open drawer. Ella comes home from a “terrible” day at school. Ruby can’t find her Family Tree assignment and it’s due tomorrow. The floodgates open and the waterworks begin – but not from me.
I don’t do tears. Crying makes me uncomfortable. I don’t want people looking at me or feeling sorry for me or wondering what’s wrong or how to make it better. Sad tears are the hardest for me, but even tears of joy or relief are hard for me to come by. I’m better at keeping it all in than letting it all out.
It’s not that I don’t cry at all. I’ll cry in a dark theater when a movie tugs at my heart. I’ll get teary watching sappy commercials (the Coca-Cola Mean Joe Green one is a vintage favorite). I’ll well up reading an article about children orphaned and starving in war zones. I’ll cry when one of my kids does or says something totally true and amazing that only a child’s beautiful mind would think to do or say. I’ll cry in the car once all of the kids are dropped off or into my pillow after a good fight with my husband.
But I can’t cry in front of other people, especially not my kids. As a mom, I often feel like there’s not a whole lot of room for me to express myself. My three girls are extremely emotional and effusive. When they emote, I retreat emotionally. Isn’t it my job to be available to them, to make them feel safe in their sadness or received in their great joy? I want them to let their emotions out, acknowledge them and live with and through them. I just can’t seem to do this for myself.
Instead I keep my sadness knotted up inside, usually somewhere between my heart and my stomach. Maybe I’m afraid if I let it out, it’ll be so overwhelming I’ll never recover. I know, I know. I’m a therapist’s dream. Even my dear friend Nicki teases me about my perpetually dry eyes.
A few weeks ago we talked through the tension we’d been feeling between us, collapsing together in a big, warm hug. She ended up in tears while I could only muster a brief salty stinging. It’s not that I didn’t feel anything – in fact, I felt totally flooded with love and friendship, appreciation, relief and even sadness that we had both felt so badly for the past few weeks. I just couldn’t express it in tears, even though I wanted to so badly. I blinked my eyes and swallowed my feelings right back down into their hidey-hole.
That night, I dream Nicki and I are back at the café, talking and hugging, and the best part is, I’m bawling. I woke up feeling emptied and relieved and, well, happy. I suppose dream tears are better than no tears, but if a good, hard dream cry with a friend can bring me so much comfort, then maybe a real-life sob fest with loved ones is just what I need.
Bring on the waterworks.
I’m participating in the 2014 A to Z Challenge during the month of April using the very broad theme of LOVE to carry me through the alphabet. Check out writing by other bloggers taking on the #atozchallenge at @AprilA2Z.