I used to be uncomfortable in emotional movies because I’m a crier. I am moved very easily, I have always been moved very easily.
So during a movie, or when witnessing an act of kindness, or when hearing a touching story, I would hold my breath, or wipe my eyes quickly, or blink fast – whatever needed to be done to retain my composure.
I spent a lot of my childhood and early adulthood fighting back tears, pretending or finding the nearest bathroom so I could cry without witnesses.
But for the last several years I have traded bathroom stalls for allowing. Allowing my tears, allowing my emotional expression, allowing myself to do what I need to do.
I have learned so much about tears, especially the way tears can heal. I have learned so much about emotions, the way emotions allow us to process the world.
Having an emotional response to something is our system’s way of working through it, allowing it to hit our heart and then recover from the often intense experience.
Having an authentic emotional response is a deeply present-moment experience, a stop and feel situation. Once felt, tears allow us to release so we can move forward with lightness.
The swallowing of tears or the repression of emotions is a stifling of reality. It’s a way of shutting off or pretending. It’s a way of stopping the body from doing what it naturally knows how to do.
I once perceived my ability to “hold it in” as an essential defense, but now I view this as a delay or even a flat-out denial of feeling.
Now I know that feelings are a gift, and crying is a natural tool.
With all things there is a balance, so I am more reserved with my tears when teaching, counseling, and presenting, but when it comes to life in my home, I let them go.
My husband doesn’t try to stop or distract me, and he is usually quiet – he just puts his hand on my leg and trusts my ability to process.
My daughters know their mom is a crier, but in the early days I used to quickly wipe my eyes, or give an excuse for my emotion, or walk away so they couldn’t see.
But now I cry. And when my girls look at me, I look them in the eye. Sometimes I even smile so they know I trust myself. I don’t make excuses for my emotion, I don’t act ashamed.
If I need space, I ask for it, and when I return I let them know I am better – because I do feel better when I cry.
I feel real when I have an emotional experience. I feel connected when something touches my heart.
I don’t want to stifle it, and I don’t want to teach how to stifle it.
The best part of tears is that I often finish with a laugh, somehow tears and laughter get intertwined, especially when I am having a big cry.
It’s a reminder of how closely joy and sadness are linked. It’s a reminder of how light and dark go hand in hand.
The more I feel and show my tears, the more profound my joy. The more I experience something difficult, the more grateful and present I am for the calm.
I can still imagine myself as a child, hiding somewhere, swallowing my feelings, feeling weak because I couldn’t “control” my emotions.
And now, ironically, I just cry. I cry with people who are crying. I cry when I experience loss, and I cry when I feel tremendous happiness and gratitude.
I don’t feel compelled to hide anymore. I grab a Kleenex, I make eye contact, I breathe, I smile.
And it feels nothing but real. It feels nothing but strong.