My Rainbow Garden

Originally posted elsewhere, November 29, 2013

Unless you have been very, very lucky, you have undoubtedly experienced events in your life that have made you cry. So unless you have been very, very lucky, you know that a good, long session of weeping can often make you feel better, even if your circumstances have not changed one bit.

~ Lemony Snicket

I’m a weeper. It’s just…something I do. I cry when I’m sad, or frustrated, or overwhelmed with rage. I cry when I feel ashamed or guilty or extremely self-conscious. I also cry when I’m enveloped in joy, overcome by gratitude or nostalgia or love or peace. I cry while watching tear-jerkers, yes, but I also cry at DIsney movies and Hell on Wheels and Buffy. FFS! I cry if I blush too hard, or laugh too long!

I cry. A lot. I almost always have (that ‘almost’ is significant, but I will get to that in a minute). I probably always will.

I’ve taken an awful lot of shit for this, over the last 30 years or so.

I remember a conversation I had with my paternal grandmother when I was very small, probably only four or five. She kept all the kids in the family during the summer, after school, whenever our parents needed a sitter, so there were always at least six or seven of us around. One of my cousins had probably done something mean, and my feelings were hurt, and I was crying. I remember sitting on her wonderfully squishy lap, my head on her shoulder, and feeling very betrayed by the words that were coming out of her mouth.

You’re gonna have to stop all that cryin’, baby girl. Nobody likes a crybaby. You cain’t go through life bein’ so soft-hearted. Now, go wipe your face and go play with the other youngens.

And I did. I ‘sucked it up.’ I stopped crying. It took a huge physical effort, on my part. And it hurt. It hurt like hell. It made this lump in my throat that was big and hard and painful. This pressure built up behind my eyes, and all through my head. It’s the first time that I remember actually having a headache, and it was awful.

My parents were quite fond of the whole, “Stop that crying right now, or I’m gonna give you somethin’ to cry about!” thing.

Once school started, I figured out that crying would actually entice certain kids to try to make me cry.

When I was older, and involved in romantic relationships with boys and men, the guys would inevitably say, “I wish you wouldn’t… I hate it when you… For fuck’s sake, can’t you just stop all that… Dammit, there you go again with the – crying.” I’ve been told, now, by at least three different people, that a woman crying is the absolute equivalent to “emotional blackmail.”

Over the years, I’ve learned to mostly hide the weepy me. To excuse myself, even from the company of my nearest and dearest, when I feel it coming on at a ‘socially unacceptable’ time, or for a ‘not-good-enough’ reason. Because almost inevitably, someone would then break out one of those arguments, and I would feel guilty for crying. As I mentioned above, I cry when I feel guilty.

Just last year, at the not-so-tender age of 33, I did a desperate search on Google, and found this gem.

At thirty-three. Why? Because I was in an abusive relationship, where my weep-worthy negative emotions were frequently, intentionally triggered, and then gaslighted away, invalidated, and ridiculed. Translation: he made me cry on purpose. A lot. Then tore me to shreds for crying.

I spent a lot of time in the bathroom with the water running, blowing my nose, lavishly, as suggested in that article, breathing very deeply (yet quietly), and freezing my hands under the spigot, so that I could hold them against my eyes, to make the puffiness and redness go away. I kept eye drops on my person at all times, in case I couldn’t make it to the bathroom, so the tears would seem to be just Visine.

Not crying, when I feel the tears building up, is a damaging thing.

The “emotional blackmail” thing is hard to hear. Hard to process. It makes me all stabby.

I get that the more well-intentioned of the guys who feel this way about a woman crying are just trying to say that it makes them feel uncomfortable. That they instantly feel responsible, and, in most cases, want to “fix” it, whatever ‘it’ may be.

But what the people using that logic don’t understand, regardless of their intentions, is that IT ISN’T ABOUT THEM. Even if the tears flow as a seeming result of a heated conversation we’re having, or something they said, or something they did, the tears HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THEM. Nothing.

They’re a release of emotion, my emotion. My emotions aren’t anyone else’s responsibility. And how I handle them isn’t, either. Nor is it anybody else’s business what I need to do to process, to cope. I’ve been down the suck-it-up route. I’ve been down the hide-in-the-bathroom route. I didn’t like the end of those roads. The headaches, the shame, the pressure behind my eyes, the not-being-able-to-swallow-past-this-giant-boulder-of-a-lump-in-my-throat. The eventual feelings of numbness and detachment and apathy that are far worse than whatever emotion(s) originally made me get all teary-eyed.

There’s a Native American proverb (at least, I think that’s the origin. The interwebz could be wrong.) that states, The soul would have no rainbow if the eyes had no tears.

My soul is full of rainbows. Anyone close to me knows this. I’ve been watering my rainbow garden all my life.

I don’t intend to stop. They’re my tears. I’m entitled to them. Nobody gets to tell me otherwise.

Because they’re not about you. My tears, my feelings, my need for cleansing. Mine. You can’t take them, and you don’t get to judge them.

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.

~ Washington Irving