So last week I was sitting in my car outside our local coffee shop with my laptop in the seat next to me, thinking I was going to do one of my favourite things, sit in my local coffee shop and write on my laptop. Instead I remembered a friend had texted late (8:21 pm – late for me anyway) the night before asking me to give her a call. She needed my “advice and wisdom” (hand to god, her words not mine). I shudder to think that anyone would ask my advice these days when I appear to be such a liability upon myself, but she called and I answered, at least I was gonna try my best hardest to at the very least listen. Knowing that this is all I need from others sometimes, and it often feels like their advice is given in their presence and it feels pretty wise?!
As she gave me some context, I sat and listened (I also noticed that I sat so quietly for so long that I was worried she would think I had dropped the call), interestingly enough this did not seem to be her concern, so I listened intently some more. The concern being something much more difficult to ponder, transitions in long established relationships that are subject to the inevitable, change. Change is good right? Not so, I’ve come to learn how scary and difficult and unbridled change can be. She was asking as a Mom to another Mom, also wanting my teacher perspective, but most importantly my trusted friend perspective. So I did my best.
Ultimately she wanted to know how to support her loved ones through this difficult transition. This is what I was able to intuitively share with her. The focus on the separation of her from her best friend and partner of over a decade and how to approach this with their child wasn’t really what needed their attention. I believed what they all needed to do to move forward was to be vulnerable with their emotions. To be willing to cry in front of each other and describe what they were feeling and where in their bodies they could feel it. With this type of modelling they would not only be authentic with their child but also show (not tell) it is okay to have difficult emotions during such a challenging time in their lives, most significantly showing these emotions in a healthy way. It wasn’t about the apartness, it was about the togetherness they would always share in the acceptance of each other good, bad and ugly. That was something that never needed to change, no matter how many new pieces would be added to their puzzle.
So? Ya! She was very appreciative of this and felt it was what she needed to hear. Whew! I felt humbled by her experience and her honesty, it also gave me a bit of muscle tone back to the person that was me (someone who could be counted on for sound advice and acceptance).
Cue the irony.
This now circles back to Forgiveness Friday’s Ugly Crying Post, Part Deux.
Fast foward to a lazy Sunday morning on the couch. I sat drinking my bulletproof coffee from my favourite mug, still in my PJs at 10:00 am. My husband was busy doing this and that, because this is just how he is, rearranging my misplaced items in the dishwasher or something (this used to piss me off beyond belief, now I find it amusing and feel like he might actually like rearranging my way of doing things, like its some reality game of Tetris, so you’re welcome hun.) And my son sat at the kitchen island, papers spread out in all directions, madly drawing and re-drawing the tragic sinking sequence of the Titanic.
I was flipping through the ridiculously abundant selection of stations, finding nothing of note and then settling on PBS. I am getting old. They were airing a documentary on Mindfulness and so I thought, ya my brain likes this put the remote down. As I watched, I knew my son was half-listening as he parroted phrases, asking things like “What does emotional flexibility mean?” Half way through the program one of the featured contributors, ABC World News anchor, Dan Harris spoke candidly about his on-air panic attack. A man who is well-respected, intelligent and seemingly had his shit together had an emotional breakdown on live television. When he spoke about his moment in 20/20 hindsight, he was able to articulate how he was living his life, pushing, leaning into the next thing and the next moment and the next goal, never really being right there where he really was. He was struck by the realization, in that panic-stricken moment, that he was doing this, unpresent and ultimately unfulfilled and now that he had seen this, he couldn’t unsee it. It was the inability to go back to ignorance that seemed to trigger the panic.
Can’t unring that bell hey, Dr. Phil?
So this is where I come in. As Harris spoke into the camera, I felt that familiar tightening in my throat and that pain in my sinuses as I suppressed the urge to cry, recognizing myself in the person on TV. I tried to talk myself out of it, as I often do, you don’t need to cry Sarah, you will upset your son, confuse your husband, ruin the day! Don’t do it, for crying outloud, don’t cry. And then I held myself accountable. I just wrote about casual crying 2 days ago. I noted how it was helping me. I just told my friend to cry in front of her family, to show that it was healthy and acceptable. WTF, you are being a hypocrite!
So I did it. Like a timid swimmer standing on the edge of the diving board at the public pool, instead of waiting for everyone to look away before diving in, I went for it. It was a quiet dive, I wasn’t calling out “Look at me!” but the tears came with a warm welcome relief. At which point the tiny splash did get my husband’s attention, “Are you crying? Again??” (It was like, the tenth day in a row for crying, I was on a real role here) he asked with concern and some amusement. At which point I responded with a firm head nod yes sir it’s tear-time once again.
My son looked at me with alarm. “Mom! Are you okay?! You don’t need to cry!” Again parroting what he has heard from us time and time again. He pushed his chair back from his drawings to move closer, get a better look at this rarity. I squared my body to look at him directly, with a tiny smile on my tear streaked face, really confusing his emotional recognition. “Are they happy tears?” he hesitated. I told him that I guessed they were and then explained to these two, highly-concerned males, that I was crying because I needed to. The man on TV had said some important things about how to live, and about how he (we) used to live and that once you know you can’t unknow it. I explained that I felt relief hearing someone else say what I felt, like I wasn’t a crazy person. My son stood face to face with me, really examining the tears dropping from my eyes, tracking them down as they fell from my chin. There was no shame, only compassion and curiosity. And then acceptance.
There was no need for him to question my motives or my past actions and messages to him about repressing tears and overtly emotional gestures. He didn’t call me out on any of my shit. He just said “Okay, so those are happy tears then.” He smiled and turned around to go back to his art work. And guess what, the day wasn’t ruined!
It took me a while but “this guy” wised-up and took her own advice in spades from Call and Answer, to Crying When Needed, including crying no matter what audience you might have. I am intrigued to also report I am on day 11 without a migraine. This is my longest stretch since the onset of chronic migraines began in October of 2017. There is still so much for me to understand and reconcile within my own being, and I am thankful for the migraine reprieve, freeing up that much more energy for exploration into my emotional health. I do not believe the act of crying is what has interrupted my migraine pattern, I believe it is the shifting within, that has given my body, mind and spirit a break; the ability to show my emotion because I am tapped into it, completely. No more half-hearted recognition that things don’t quite feel right, that something is off…I am awake and I am in it, facing it head on, letting it look me in the eye WHILE these eyes are filled with pain, relief or joy. Not looking away in shame, hiding for fear of judgement. This guy, owning her feelings, the good, bad and ugly (cry). Making her way back to wholeness. This guy.