Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone.
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own…
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
At what point do we learn to cover up our emotions? Is it when we are a child and ‘shushed’ into silence? Is it when we are teenagers and are trying so hard to fit into ‘survival of the fittest’? Is it when we realise that someone we look up to has never been spotted crying? I hear pain in people’s voices and wonder who taught us to keep it in. I see masks on so many faces and wonder when we learnt to adhere to something that takes us away from ourselves.
I used to hate crying, used to berate myself for it, and believe that I was stronger for it. I remember going through something awful (when I get bold enough in time, I will write about that too) and weeping in a sodden mess at the top of the stairs. Not just crying, but weeping like my soul was trying to get out of my body and into a different experience and time. Whilst I knew that what had happened was big, all that was going through my head was ‘I have to get past this before mum and dad get home, no-one can see me like this. If they see me like this, then I have to deal with them too.’
So, yes, I am strong now. I got past the top of the stairs and, that evening, descended downstairs like a serene teenage goddess (Yes, I appreciate the oxymoron!) with nothing but tranquility on my mind. Yes, it bit me in the ass years later, when I looked back at how foolishly I was handling life. And yes, I got past that too. For some people, I know that holding it in seems to work, because it seemed like that for me then.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a weepy mess of a woman now. That actually couldn’t be further from the truth, i cry less now than i did as a kid. It’s just that I am saddened hearing my friends so very tired in the middle of whatever maelstrom they’re in, and still feeling compelled to be the tower of strength for whatever reason.
There’s a belief that, somehow, if the ‘floodgates open, they will never close’. Floodgates are designed to both open AND close. It’s not an irreversible process. There’s a belief that when you are at your most vulnerable, it’s somehow best to give up your humanity and be somehow more-than-human.
If life is about yin AND yang, if it’s about balance, then surely it’s okay to have moments of weakness. Not to dwell in or to settle into, but just to feel, to acknowledge the pain, to see where it comes from so that you better know how to fix it.
Cry a little, for an hour or a day, but spend that time getting to know yourself rather than rage or sink. Cry with others or by yourself. Then let yourself look around, see that the world is still turning and waiting for you to join it again, stronger, happier and more fulfilled. Friends don’t need to see masks. Friends know who you are and know where you will get to. We all know it for ourselves too, if you take the time for yourself.