The Worth Of Tears.
I have a crying ritual.
Whenever I feel like a cry would do me some good, I buy myself a bottle of wine (I find whites work better since I will be drinking the whole thing), make a carefully selected sad song playlist, wait until no one is home, and sit in my shower until the tightness in my chest finally releases.
If someone were to ask me what was wrong, or in any way indicate that they knew I was crying, I would be mortified.
I can intellectualize things, sure. I can write a sad song or a journal entry, but actually letting myself feel and express any kind of physical vulnerability requires the kind of concealment usually reserved for late night booty calls.
My tears were used against me, growing up. They were an indication of my natural feminine inferiority.
Not that those words were actually used; instead, they were implied by lips curled with disgust, and the abrupt announcement that I was too emotional to have this conversation right now.
If I cried, it canceled out any kind of rational evidence I may have been trying to present, any kind of need I was desperately trying to get across. Needless to say, I got really good at shutting my tear ducts down. A little too good, actually.
I didn’t cry at my grandfather’s funeral. I didn’t cry when my beloved pets died. I didn’t cry when I got my heart crushed. On the rare occasions I cried in front of someone, it was promptly followed by a shame spiral.
I just swallowed all those painful feelings down, or worse, distanced myself from any situations that might hurt. I loved less, I reached out less, I slowly and systematically withdrew myself from the world.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes has this amazing audio series, The Dangerous Old Woman, in which she recounts the tale of Snow White as a parable of the benefits of hardening: Snow White learns not to trust every old woman who comes offering apples, her sweetness countered by the Prince, her own warrior side rising up to protect her soul.
We all must learn to have tougher skins if we are to claim power over our lives. We must learn whom to trust, when to express our whole truth, and when to withhold parts of ourselves.
Acquiring a certain amount of emotional armor is a necessity, as long as we still have something soft to protect. Too often, though, our fear of pain acts as an internal Medusa, calcifying our souls from the inside out.
I’d become so accustomed to trying to live up to what other people thought strong meant, I forgot how to embrace the paradox. Softness and hardness, masculine and feminine, assertion and surrender, the warrior and the caregiver, we need both in order to be whole.
So here I am, 29, trying to learn how to cry again.
Not all the time. Not crocodile tears or manipulative tears or that-guy-was-mean-to-me tears, but the kind of tears that well up when life is too beautiful to stand, the kind of tears that carry heartache out of the body to be evaporated and reabsorbed into the earth, the kind of tears that remind me that underneath there is still something worth protecting.
Allie LaRoe doesn’t believe in dumbing down for anyone: not in her music, and not in her writing. That’s not to say she is inaccessibly intellectual. Rather, Allie believes people are capable of (and are not so secretly craving) so much more than 45-second soundbites and lowest common denominator pop stars. Pulling from philosophy, psychology, and experience, her work often feels like staying up till 2 am with close friends and a bottle of good wine. You can read more of Allie’s writing here.