I used to be ashamed of crying. I’ve known girls who were what you’d call “sensitive.” The kind of girls who get their feelings hurt so easily that everyone walks on eggshells around them. When I was young my cousin showed me how to make little rockets by filling plastic film canisters with water, dropping in an alka seltzer, shaking vigorously, and setting the canister cap-down on the pavement. After a few seconds the pressure would build inside of the little canister and blow the plastic body up into the air, separating from the lid. That’s what these girls remind me of. That plastic canister full of fizzing alka-seltzer water, poised to explode at any moment.
When I first started dating Jonathan I felt it was incredibly important not to be a “sensitive” girl. I would be cool. I wouldn’t get my feelings hurt easily or be whiny or clingy. And I certainly wouldn’t be one of those girls with extreme emotional highs and lows that affected everyone around her. I would be even-keeled. Steady. Relaxed. Hah.
Here is the truth about me. I cry all the time. In the shower. At my desk at school. At the movie theater. At coffee shops and restaurants. In the fitting room at department stores. At church. In the kitchen. At the beach. On the bus. Into my pillow. Actually, it might be easier to make a list of places I haven’t cried. When I say I cry, I don’t always mean hours of gut-wrenching sobs (though sometimes that is the case and when it is, it’s UGLY). And it’s not always because I am sad or my feelings are hurt. In fact, I’d say I cry less often out of sadness than for any other reason.
I come by all this crying honestly. A few years ago, my mom came to visit Jonathan and me when we lived outside of Chicago. We went to see the Lion King musical which was playing in the city. The moment the cast started singing the first note of “Circle of Life,” both my mom and I instantly burst into tears. Jonathan thought this was both weird and hilarious.
Most of my family is hyper-emotional. Sometimes going home is hard for me just because being around other people who feel so much makes every conversation potentially gut-wrenching. Because we love each other so deeply that we cry. Or we feel so proud that we cry. Or we feel misunderstood so we cry. Or we feel nostalgic for something that’s been lost so we cry. Or we laugh at each other so hard that we cry. And then it turns into more crying because we miss each other so much. Here is a short list of things that make me cry:
- Anything involving soldiers being reunited with their families
- Anything really sweet – old people who still love each other, sweet romantic gestures, random acts of kindness
- Spoken-word poems (Like this one. Or this one I wrote myself and cried while writing).
- Babies being born
- Talking about my family
- Talking about God
- Incredible food
- Social injustice/violations of human rights, particularly towards women and children
- Books or movies in which the characters suffer some sort of significant loss or fear or experience some sort of great triumph.
- The following TV shows: The Voice, the Biggest Loser (though I don’t necessarily condone it), What Not to Wear, So You Think You Can Dance or any other show that involves people accomplishing something they never thought they could, or coming to feel proud of themselves for the first time in their lives.
- The Olympics – Again, it’s the great human achievement thing. Basically, I am moved to tears anytime I see anyone do something hard particularly well.
- Running. In particular, running my first half marathon and marathon were very emotional experiences for me. I cried all along the way as well as when I crossed the finish line.
- Talking about anything that’s really important to me
- Being surrounded by friends
- The moment when you get to the top of the mountain
- Witnessing accidents or people getting hurt in some way
- Music, especially bluegrass/folk music for some reason. So basically every time I hear Mumford and Sons played anywhere.
- Watching dancers
- Traveling and experiencing new cultures
- Missing my cats.
- Seeing people getting engaged (even rando strangers)
- Weddings (even the weddings of rando strangers or fictional characters)
- The time I saw the Shamu show at SeaWorld (I was 18)
- Disneyworld. And Disney movies. And Disney songs.
- Seeing The Lion King (or many other musical productions) onstage
- Also this video of the Lion King cast singing on an airplane
I used to be deeply ashamed of this. I spent a long time trying to hide those unwelcome tears. But I’ve learned something about myself in the past few years. Crying is my physical response to any overwhelming emotion – frustration, sadness, pain, anger, exhaustion, confusion, anxiety, fear, joy, excitement, pride, tenderness, compassion, empathy. I cry equally for the things that are broken and for the things that are too impossibly beautiful. Crying is the response of my body to truths in my soul – often truths I feel too deeply to articulate well with words. If part of who I am, deep in my core, is best expressed through tears, why would I try to suppress that?
Admittedly, crying so much can be exhausting. It is emotionally draining. And it can be overwhelming to the people closest to me. Particularly Jonathan, who I have known for seven years, but have seen cry only once (and by cry I mean the corners of his eyes became moistened). But here is the thing—I cry because I am moved. Because I am human and because there are moments when I feel so deeply connected to the world around me – to beauty, to God, to grace, to the suffering or the triumphs of other humans like me—that I am moved and it wells up inside of me and leaks out of my eyes and onto my face. And I am not ashamed of that.
I want to be moved by this wondrous and brilliant, aching and breathtaking world. So let the day that I am not moved by a haunting melody, by an act of courage, by a shattered heart, or by a sky full of stars, be my last. And until then let me live a rich, gorgeous, marrow-sucking life with tears dripping off my cheeks.