Cry me a river

Recently I have taken to posting a “thankful thing” to facebook every day. I’ve found my tendency is to use facebook for whingeing about whatever is bugging me that instant, and the thankful thing is  a welcome antidote to that. It provides an avenue for humour, and for publicly appreciating people. It also provides a focus for thinking about the positives, even on days when the positives are especially difficult to see.

Yesterday I posted a thankful thing about how my 5 year old had heard me crying, and come to find me so that she could cuddle me, and then (on the advice of her father) tickle me to cheer me up. I hesitated to post it – I didn’t want to be melodramatic and let everyone know that I had been crying. I worried that people would think I was attention seeking, or not coping, or that it would be somehow awkward. And then I pulled myself together, thought of everything I’ve coped with this year, and decided that a few tears were perfectly reasonable under the circumstances, so I hit “publish” before I could change my mind.

But I still felt a little odd about it.

Public crying. We don’t do that. We’re not supposed to do that. My instinct those times when I am caught out in public, unable to stem the tears, is to run and hide, or pretend it’s hay fever, or mutter about something in my eye. Unless there is a close friend nearby into whom I can collapse in safety, I will do everything in my power to suppress those tears and pretend I am ok.

Which, if you think about it, is crazy.

Crying is a normal, healthy psychological and physiological response. It’s nothing shameful. Yet we have so many pejorative terms. Crying in public is bawling or blubbering. It makes you a cry baby, or worse – a girl! (and why that should be pejorative is a whole ‘nother post) Big girls don’t cry. Boys certainly don’t cry.

Now you say you love me
Well, just to prove that you do
Come on and cry me a river
Cry me a river
I cried a river over you

Cry me a river – Arthur Hamilton

Yet the rather soggy truth is that I often feel better after a good cry. It’s an emotional and physiological cleansing of impressive proportions. I remember freaking out a male friend I was traveling with, many years ago, when we encountered a fairly dramatic setback and I burst into tears. He was panicking and finding ways to get me home while even through my tears I was looking at him as though he was crazy, because I knew that once I had got it out of my system I’d be fine. I could deal with it and move on. Tears were effective therapy, a way of handling shock and getting past it.

I cry fairly easily and it sometimes bothers me, because I know it’s not socially acceptable except under extreme circumstances. Yet who is to judge which circumstance is extreme? Who can count the burdens currently weighing anyone else down? Who is to say whether crying right now is justified or not?

We hush our kids when they cry. We praise them for being brave when they don’t cry. And I wonder about teaching them that not crying is something to be proud of. Are we setting them up for trouble in later life?

So go on – cry me a river. It might just be good for you.

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