The Crying Game

Kate stands center stage.

It starts with a very strong emotion.

Kate touches her cheekbones lightly with her fingertips.

Sometimes it happens completely in my eyes. Suddenly, the tears are there, welling up precariously at my lower lids.

Kate lowers her hands and holds them near her hips, then gestures the sensations she describes.

Sometimes it is this surge, a force pushing its way up my chest through my upper body until it gets to my face and prickles around my nose.

Kate gestures to her throat.

Other times, my throat clutches at itself and crackles with a nervy burn, my face feeling full and tight with flashes of heat.

My response is the same for each.

Kate stands with her arms and legs locked and her face a rictus of expressionlessness.

I go into an extreme physical and emotional lock down, while my mind screams some version of DON’T CRY DAMMIT. STOP IT NOW.

Kate releases from the rictus.

This strategy is physically painful and strangles my ability to speak temporarily. If I can push past this initial stage and move into emotionless mental paralysis, I can usually stomp all those feelings down for the remainder of that day. The emotionlessness can last a couple days to a month.

Then, the next time I have even a whisper of space for vulnerability, I cry. Great horrible sobs that usually end up lasting for a long time, perhaps even limiting the activity I can do for the remainder of the day or the next few days.

I have waged this war of attrition with myself for a few decades. I never wanted to be that weepy girl everyone thought was too emotional. Too weak. Too incapable.

I still feel those fears about crying. But recently I’ve been trying out a new response.

It starts with a very strong emotion.

Kate holds her hand over her heart.

I notice what the emotion does in my body. I feel the feeling as it courses through me.

When tears seem imminent, I let them come.

The whole process lasts a few minutes. It goes better when tissues are around.

If there is another person around, it is undoubtedly unnerving for them. But I have a new strategy to deal with that eventuality as well.

Kate holds up her hand and closes her eyes for a moment before looking up and saying:

“I’m okay, I’m just feeling something that is too large for my body.”



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