Sunday, February 25, 2007

boo hoo hoo

A post at Long Story Longer made me think of the first time I let loose and cried after a 13 year tear hiatus. It was early New Year's Eve, 1982. There was a year-in-review retrospective on television and it caught my eye. I was about three weeks sober and something about the Vietnam Memorial hit me and suddenly my eyes filled and then my cheeks were wet. Within a few seconds I was sobbing with that breathless gut level urgency that bespeaks tremendous pain or an unexpected escape from something dreadful.

LSL wrote ". . . I also cried like a schoolgirl with no lunch money. Actually, I think it would be called sobbing. I had to concentrate to not go into the loud cry." This was the loud cry: uncontrollable, the body's wet and wracking response to hurt that is, at least for the moment, unspeakable.

I quit crying at twelve, about two weeks after my mother vanished. It seemed I had spent those two weeks at the front window, listening, watching, expecting that she would return only to reach a point of certainty that she was never coming back and crying wouldn't make it happen. I gave it up. Tears reminded me of those hopeless two weeks at the window. This loud cry on New Year's Eve was 13 years of stuffed, wrapped, constricted, should-have-long-since-been-let-loose need to cry and it went on and on and on. The post-tears calm was notable in that I felt peaceful and free. Remarkable.

Over the next several years, the tears were like slow leaking springs in a rocky outcropping. I was a hard, hostile, angry young woman with tears in her eyes. My AA card players, those precious old men who "adopted" me when I first got sober, would smile when the tears would come, then one or the other would get up and come around the card table to hug me and rock me and make it okay. They couldn't make the hurt better, but they could make it okay to be a tough, rowdy, foul-tempered, profane child-woman with a tear streaked face.

In my mind, tears were evidence of weakness, of tenderness, of a soft inside that was vulnerable to hurt, and they accomplished nothing beyond letting others see my humanity. Exposing the soft center of me did not appeal. There was a crazy kind of strength ~ and an awful loneliness ~ in pretending to be invulnerable. But absent alcohol, absent excess food, absent all of those things I've used to manage life, there was no way to keep the wet inside. I leaked.

Once the well was emptied, I found a balance and now tears just come and go as I suspect they are supposed to. It's a shame that our society looks down on or makes light of tears expressed by men. Having had the advantage of crying freely for the last 24 years, I am saddened that the men I love have to struggle so with letting go in this way.

It seems that in my younger years my emotional life was constricted to a single point: anger. Rage, actually. As I got better, my range of emotions widened until I was capable of experiencing all of them. In the same way, the painful episodes of crying in my younger years have diminished and I've reached a point of being able to cry for all sorts of reasons.

Tears today come with hurt and sadness, of course, but also as the result of having a sense of peace, of spiritual connectedness, beauty, love and affection, tenderness. I think the best day I can have is one in which I laugh so hard I can hardly breathe, and also have the opportunity to cry just a little. I don't want to live a constricted life. I want a big, rich, full life brimming with every normal human experience and then some. Being the way I am, I want maximum emotion, maximum experience, I want the most there is, all the time, with great intensity. I think it's possible if I just let go.

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Anonymous tater said...

Thank you for that. Beautiful and honest! I wish I had been there to hug you when your mom vanished, I am without words to express my condolences. I am so proud of you, and the strength conveyed by your ability to get through that time in your life. In a way I am glad you self medicated, it is probably the only coping mechanism you had back then other than the ultimate escape. I self medicated my way through my teen years and later, because I needed to escape the pain of my life as well. If I hadn't found pot and alcohol at 14, I am certain I would have ended my life. If I had only known what I know now. The only true way to handle absolute heartache and pain is to meet it head on and feel it. To rant and rave, cry, punch a wall, etc. You really touched a nerve with me. The emotions I had trapped after years of escape, came out in a torrent, just as yours did. It will someday be a story on my blog as well.

February 25, 2007 2:20 PM  
Blogger angelfish24 said...

I want to be like you describe. To cry when I need to, to laugh out loud a lot. But, I a lot of the time I do not. I feel myself holding back. My dad was a lot like this and didn't show affection. Though, I do show affection for my hubby and son, I feel I hold back sometimes and I hate it. It's something I'm still working on or is it just my personality? I can hug for a while but then I pull back.

I'm happy for you that you want to live your fullest life possible and are doing so. You've come such a long way and have had some terrible things to overcome, I just can't imagine what you have been through.

Through blogging and expressing our feelings and thoughts, it helps so much. Thanks for sharing.

February 25, 2007 3:24 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Aww geez--now you got me bawlin'! But it doesn't take much for me--I cry at card tricks.

February 25, 2007 5:09 PM  
Blogger TrixieBelden said...

I haven't had a "good cry" in forever. I think my tear ducts are jammed. Actually I think it has something to do with the medication I'm on for anxiety and depression. It feels weird that I don't cry after years of sobbing. I'd like to have a full range of emotions like you describe. I am happy to say that I have laughed so hard I had trouble catching my breath. That feeling is a wonderful one. :)

February 25, 2007 9:19 PM  
Blogger LSL said...

Thanks for the link, and for the really touching brief story you left in my comments, and for posting this story. I just get it, get it, get it. When I'm happy, I laugh. When I'm sad, I cry. It sounds simple, but it's taken a long time to get there. I just so appreciate this post.

February 25, 2007 10:57 PM  
Blogger rodger said...

Off subject...Thanks for stopping by. Unfortunately we're experiencing cool temps here and some light snow so, as usual, it's too early to consider planting.

We have started seeds in the house and will set up the mini greenhouse next weekend.

Thanks for stopping by again and I'm adding you to my blogroll because I love reading you and I think my readers need your Southern perpective.

You rock Lynette!!

February 25, 2007 11:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Belle --

Crying feels like a sacrament and a tragedy rolled into one - the latter only when you can't. I wish I could cry about what matters most. For all of my manhood, relatives passing or being institutionalized; breakups with lovers; firings and ordinary sh*tty days we all have leave me tearless. But if "A Place in the Sun," "Imitation of Life" or "Brief Encounter" goes on I'm presumptively a mess...this is really, really messed up, and a sign of how deeply we throw the "off" switch when society tells us a real man, or a real woman, and of course, big girls, don't cry.

--Freddy in P'town

February 26, 2007 1:09 AM  
Blogger Ms. Place said...

From reading your posts, I sense that we would be friends outside of the blogosphere. I love to be around and surrounded by people who feel life fully, and who aren't afraid to laugh, cry, rage, and express their emotions in general. Sometimes we are looked upon as bugs to be squashed by the stiff-upper-lip people, but I do know that folks like you and me have hearts as big as gold and genuinely care about the plight of others.

Lovely post.

February 26, 2007 6:13 AM  
Blogger David said...

I get tear-eyed at odd moments, like when I've received a compliment, or I'm feeling overwhelmingly happy. My last sob-fest, though, was when my lovely Courtney passed on in December '05. Nothing major since then.

February 27, 2007 1:04 PM  
Anonymous Michele said...

Lovely heart ache post Ms. Lynette - makes me appreciate being a Mulholland/Sullivan by birth. Our DNA is 99.9% Irish so we laugh and cry often and for the damndest things.
My father was an easy and open crier and my brothers have that gift as well. Glad my young sons have it and my husband (the Kiwi) too.

Speaking of "blog" protoccol - can I ask you for a personal favor/advice off blog? AA related -my generic email is

February 27, 2007 3:25 PM  
Anonymous lynette said...

i loved reading these comments, very touching. thank you.

michele ~ tried that email, no luck. i am bigassbelle @ gmail dot com

February 27, 2007 9:08 PM  

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