I believe its okay to cry.
When I was young, I cried constantly. A bruised elbow, a raised voice …nothing was safe from my fits of rage.
I even had a method. I would stand in front of a mirror perfecting my sobs, studying each twitch of my face as my eyes squinched up. I felt the blood rush to my head and my cheeks flush, my temples began to pulse as salty torrents slowly trickled down the corners of my eyes.
I didn’t enjoy the attention, but the feeling of it. I liked air of calm after crying. My head felt light and my shoulders felt unburdened. When my tears were completely spent, I began smiling and ran off to play Barbie.
As I grew older, I stopped crying.
I associated it with weakness. I wanted to appear as stoic as Nietzsche’s Ubermensch. I remember girls who wept over grades, two-week boyfriends, tiffs with friends…I despised the thought of being them, so for three years, I didn’t cry.
Bottling up feelings is like bottling up steam. The pressure builds until finally something explodes. When I was thirteen, all rational wires to my brain were cut. I soon set myself upon a path of destruction. By the end of eighth grade, I had ruined every scrap of self-confidence left.
Then a small voice in the back of my skull whispered I needed a good cry.
I ignored it.
I found myself unable to conjure up a meltdown. A few tears would surface, but the gratification was fleeting. I simply could not cry.
Sophomore year, I discovered my dad, a man who loved me despite the vast spectrum of stupidity that had plagued my early teens, was diagnosed with mouth and neck cancer.
My mind turned to the worst. I couldn’t stand the thought of my dad slowly withering away. Yet I still could not muster up the monumental cry my body was pleading for.
What I needed a deluge of tears to maintain my sanity.
Finally, a friend sat me down and forced me to spill my guts. As I spoke, she began to cry. At first, I couldn’t understand why she was sobbing over my story. But then I knew.
And then the tears started flowing.
She hugged me as I sobbed. Unaware that I was amongst fifty of my peers in a crowded hallway, I buried my face in my hands, feeling the salty tears form a pool in my palms. When my eyes dried up, I threw away the crushing weight of four years of depression, stress, sadness, and grief.
There is no shame in crying, it is the highest form of self renewal. When the tears finally wash away all the pain and sorrow even for a brief moment, there is no better feeling.
My father’s struggle with cancer is far from over, but I always make time for myself to cry. Even if the sadness is overwhelming, it’s okay to cry.