“So. . .you spent the last 20 minutes trying to hold it all in and contain your feelings. Maybe you should have just had a good cry?”
These are not the word I expected to hear, least of all from my singing instructor. Well, why not cry?
Because! Because I was just tired, and because it was just a silly quiz, and because it didn’t really matter, and because I should be more mature than that, and because what was done was done and here I was now, and because. . .
But none of my reasons were compelling. Why not cry? The question lingered, even after the singing lesson was over.
Who and what and when and why, even, are we taught not to cry? Because it’s unpleasant to listen to? Upon reflection, I had to admit that in some ways this was a good thing. Crying is a sign of distress; one should not have joy listening to it. But did that validate the idea that one shouldn’t cry unless one had a very good reason to?
Perhaps the idea of “not crying” is just a social or cultural construct. This does not necessarily make it bad, but neither does it make it good. I search my memory for a passage in the Bible where God says, “Oh my word, stop your crying already! I hate it when you do that, and you don’t even have a good reason for it!” Instead, I turn up Jesus weeping and Jesus defending the woman who washed His feet with tears. I remember that God promised to wipe every tear away–not to finally fix people from their stupid crying thing, but acknowledging the pain and promising the comfort–the final, full comfort.
I was tired, and I got a 72 on a Physics quiz, and I’m mad at myself for not being able to control my emotions better, mad that I can’t just breeze into my singing lesson and pull off an elegant rendition. It feels right to be angry at myself for being weak, but then I don’t know how to answer my instructor. Why not cry? Where is your justification for for thinking it is more righteous to hurt on the inside instead of letting your pain out? What right do you have to be angry at yourself for feeling, for having emotions? Why are you trying not to feel what is yours to feel?
I want to be above my emotions. I want to hold them in regal authority, allowing them not to move me until I concede it is so. But echoing in my head, I hear the voice of God in passage after passage. . .My heart was grieved within me. . .My heart was moved. . .I have had pity on you. . .My heart longs. . .My heart was stirred. . .
The God of the Universe feels. The God of Universe does not dismiss His emotion, or discount it. Indeed, He created us to be able to cry, a feat I do not see repeated in any of the rest of His creation.
And we stifle it.
It is wrong to cry, wrong to show tears in public, it is weak, it is childish, it is shameful. Why? Now that the question has been asked, I find it rather confounding and difficult to let go of. Why should I be ashamed of tears, why should I be frustrated that there is no place on campus to be “alone enough to cry”? Why am I afraid to let anyone know that what I really want is to be comforted? Is it because I am afraid that in my pain they will only hurt me worse? Do I think they will scorn my “weakness”? Or is it more simple than that, and I just really don’t want anyone to know that it hurts me to be tired and get a 72 on my Physics quiz?
I’m not happy with any of those answers. But I find that I’m also unable to reject them. I’ve boughten in too deeply to the social construct that being “tough as nails” is a good thing, and that the way a woman is tough is to not let anyone see her cry. That for a woman to be strong, it means to play the boys’ game, and win anyway. That people should be shocked to know you cried, because for something to make you cry–you!–it should be so devastatingly horrible it takes your breath away.
I know that’s not true, but I can’t let it go, either. I wish–what I really wish–is that I had the guts in and the grace to stroll into my Physics professor’s office, and tell him, “By the way, please don’t give me my grades on Wednesdays. I cry a lot, and that screws up my singing. I’ll pick them up on your Friday offices hours.”
But still–I want to be able to say it, and not flinch. Say it, and not blush. Say it, and not care if he laughs that I cry over grades that aren’t perfect enough. Say it, and rule my emotions with an iron rod.
I’m not willing to accept myself as an emotional being. I’m not willing to admit that I need to schedule in time to feel, to hurt, to cry. I’m not willing to admit that it’s not a bad thing to cry, and I don’t even quite dare to write that it might be a very good thing to cry. I want to be cool and keep it all together, not admitting that I go all to pieces weekly and I don’t want to admit that it’s both expected and okay. I want to conquer that, not get better and better at saying, “Boy, I go all to pieces!” Maybe, if I got really good at it, I could say it with a laugh.
I read a blog post this week, and since then I’ve read it an re-read it. There’s a lot that sticks. One part is this:
“I’ve got to quit being so down on myself. If GOD LOVES ME, but I’m constantly berating myself, it’s apparent – just speaking logically, here – that I believe that what I think of me is more important than what He thinks.”