Dig Baton Rouge

East of the River

By Katie East

I’m not one of those girls who cries easily. Much like a guy, I try to hide my feelings with sarcasm or rude one-liners. That doesn’t mean I don’t have feelings or I’m bad at dealing with them necessarily. It just means I don’t really cry, or so I thought. Over the last few years I have made a point to talk about my feelings that usually didn’t involve crying, though.

As I get older, I find that I am becoming more and more sensitive; many of my friends have told me the same thing too. A lot of my closest girlfriends are fairly tough and independent; we don’t like to admit when we are weak or vulnerable. But, as we get older and our hormones change, we find we are crying when we’re sad or happy. Sometimes, we’re laughing through tears of joy and that’s just when we see a good commercial.

It’s not something that upsets me or embarrasses me, but rather confuses me. Just last week I took a pregnancy test because I cried five times in a week, which is more than I usually cry in almost a year. Normally, I save crying for yelling matches I have with family members when we’ve had too much wine at social functions. To me, crying is always bad, it’s an extreme.

After a week now of not crying I realize that my tears weren’t necessarily because I was sad or depressed. In fact, the few times I have been depressed in my life I don’t think I had enough energy to cry. In actuality, I think my recent lament has been over change.

We are all creatures of habit. Though I usually welcome change, it can still throw my body into a bit of shock. After some reflection time, I realized that my mourning wasn’t due to sadness but rather a loss of my routine.

My husband recently got a new job that has him working almost 70 hours a week. Despite the stress and long hours, he couldn’t be happier. It’s nice to see him in a position that challenges him and allows him to live up to his potential; I love it.

Sure, his stress levels certainly can cause some tension around the house, but I mainly attribute my crying to the fact that my sense of normalcy is gone. I’m alone most of the time at home and we can’t really make any plans together knowing his schedule could change at any second.

I’m independent and am fully capable of fending for myself. In fact, I’m finding new ways to enrich my alone time and am getting more work done. Rationally, I know this change is for the better so why am I crying when we can’t spend time together?

Recently, I saw a slideshow online of tears that had been magnified by a microscope. Each tear had been produced during varying states of emotional situations. Every tear looked unique in its own way, like some beautiful aerial view of a river or a futuristic wasteland. The photographer depicted tears of joy, hope, grief and change.

If we know crying can mean a variety of things, why do we always assume there is sadness involved? Rationally, I know crying can be good sometimes, or at the very least, a necessary evil. I still always feel like something is terribly afoot, though. Even when I cry tears of joy I think something must be wrong with me. When I cry tears of laughter I assume I’m having some sort of allergy attack.

Recently, one of my good friend’s mother passed away from a long battle with cancer. The memorial service was in Spanish so I didn’t understand much. And though I couldn’t decipher what my friend was saying I cried watching her struggle through her speech. I felt her pain and couldn’t help but commiserate with her.

A couple weeks later my friend told me she wished she could hold back her tears in front of her young daughter. She explained that though I couldn’t understand the priest he said we must not cry for the departed because they are in a better place now.

“No way,” I told her. “Those tears aren’t for your mother. They’re for you. You know she lived a good life. You know she’s out of her pain now. Those tears are for you and you’re entitled to them. You need to let her go and those tears are the best way to do that. Sometimes we just need to cry.”

It’s always easier to say what you need to hear to other people than to yourself. I hope it was a good lesson for both of us. Tears get a bad rap but sometimes they’re exactly what we need to move forward.

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