Lisa in LaLaLand

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Lisa Gritter


I must have done it, I know I did. I just can’t remember. I remember screaming, anger, walking away. I remember many bathroom stalls or boyfriend’s rooms. I remember a lot of hiding. It’s usually easy to sense them coming. You can feel it in your throat first. Your glands contract, your jaws clinch, blood runs to your face. It’s hard to hide that first shimmer of wetness, most people can see it, most try to avoid it. When you see someone maybe starting to cry, when you catch that glimmer in their eyes, that millisecond of desperation in their face, it always seems like you have the power to either make it stop -by looking away quickly pretending you never noticed-, or –if you’re bold- by not losing eye contact, therefore causing the tears to be drawn out into the world, onto the cheeks. A superpower that hasn’t made it to the big screen, but still, pretty impressive.

My therapist holds that power, in a professional way. When my eyes get that glimmer, she looks at me with just enough depth to let them rip, but not enough to force me. Leaving me with the power to decide. I look away, swallow, try not to blink (this may cause that first shimmering drop to roll out of my eye) and take a sip of water. I worry she might be disappointed in me for never actually doing it. I’ve been seeing her for over a year, she has never once seen me cry. Yet, I come in telling her how I just cannot seem to stop weeping like a teething baby. I tell her, I tell my friends, I write it down, I post it online. But, I never cry in public.

Saying your troubles out loud is difficult for some. Putting it into words, describing your hurt. It’s sometimes impossibly hard. We try to explain our hurt physically, mostly because that is how we normally describe pain, but also because it gets physical. It can feel like you can’t breathe, like your insides are burning, like someone drop kicked you in the gut. Or it can feel like a storm, a hurricane, or a thick fog. The words are meant to give meaning, to explain the pain, but they will most likely never really be completely accurate. People might understand, but no one can really know what someone else’s pain feels like. Words are just information. A description of the situation. However short or elaborate, it’s still just words. Showing your pain is something wildly different.

This summer I cried in front of friends. Friends I’ve known for almost my whole life. Unfortunately, it started off with that old friend anger. Hurting’s defense weapon of choice. I walked off passive aggressively, hid in the shower where I ugly cried without making any noise (we were on a camp site) before I sent an angry, accusing, text about how the F they could just stay out for hours, leaving me all alone. They came back. In this tiny space of this old, raggedy, hired camper van in the light of one fluorescent bed lamp they did not argue, but instead tried their best to see passed my anger and that’s when they came. Rolling down my cheek like the Niagara Falls where these wet and salty streaks, causing my eyes to swell, my nose to run and my mascara to make festive stripes under my eyes. A Halloween kind of festive. And Lord, I was released. Well, maybe not as released as they who find comfort in believing that there is a man somewhere in the clouds deciding about life, death and beyond, but I did feel freed. And I think they did as well. My tears cut the tension.

We are told not to. Tears that are so human, but almost always feel uncomfortably inappropriate are held back. Unless you’re at a funeral or a wedding (and even then, you’re a soppy loser). Thinking our hurt is a too uncomfortable burden for our friends or family to see. Don’t cry at work, it will make you seem unstable. Don’t cry with a boy, it will make you seem crazy. Don’t cry with a girl, it will make you seem like a pussy. Don’t cry with your parents, they’ll worry too much. Don’t cry, it will make you seem weak. When tears really are just the same as laughter. An outburst, neither good or bad, just a physical manifestation of emotions. R.E.M said it and we all know it: everybody hurts. And some people cry. That’s all.

You see, hurt can exist without anyone ever shedding a single tear or even ever talking about it. In fact, it festers without it. Crying might be just as healthy as laughing. And personally, I’d rather see a boy cry than fart. Or fight. I’m not saying we should all be weeping and bawling all f-ing day, and sobbing for attention is really not a good look. But, maybe it could lose a bit of it’s bad rep. Tears have nothing to do with weakness, being uncomfortable around it might have though. A lesson I am still learning, one swollen Halloween face at a time.

So, truthfully: I did cry in public. And it was the best thing I did all year.