Thursday, November 8, 2007

Cry, mammaleh, cry...


As per a concerned parent's request, yesterday morning's circle time was devoted to glorifying the exciting first visit to the dentist. We extolled the virtues of the special chair that goes up and down, the exciting made-in-China prizes for well behaved patients, the delectable bubble gum flavored toothpaste...

The class was enraptured, eyes wide, drinking in the glorious world of dentist visits. Most of the children who'd never had the delight of such rides and prizes were noticeably jealous of little Ahuva, but at least the rest of the class gleaned some sort of benefit from the lesson; Ahuva was lost unhearing in her own spaced-out word of dental anxiety. Alas, poor child...

The lesson then turned to discussion. As with most circle times, the girls were each allowed to raise their hand and contribute something on topic. Most of them related how they had once gone to the doctor/dentist/allergist and how they'd gotten prizes and the like. I listened to their accounts, mildly enjoying my 10 minutes and my adorable students, until one small child said something that bypassed my mild interest and stunned me into instant concentration:
"Morah, one time in the summer, I got a shot and it hurted and I cried a lot cuz it really hurted..."
Oh, my child. My naive yet brilliant and knowledgeable child... That is how we're born to be. We hurt. We cry. There is something inherent in hurt that spurs tears, and something inherent in tears that eases the hurt.
And yet...yet...
We live in a world where we are told to suppress those inherent reactions. We are told, "Be a big girl, don't cry. Crying is for babies." And as young chilren, we listen, internalize, acknowledge and identify with the fact that yes, we need to be brave and control our emotions outwardly so we can fit in with the mature world of adults. For a child of 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, being called a baby is one of the most heart-wrenching insults, and so these children will supress their tears if they can rather than release what is so big and painful for them...
And as adults we are not spared that painful choice either.
So often society demands stoicism, does not permit open emotion, turns away from outward displays of passion. Upon witnessing a heartbroken wailing father, or grief-stricken families, or individuals unable to cope with their raging inner worlds, most people feel uncomfortable and try to ease that discomfort by either ignoring those situations entirely, or attempting to ease the situation as best they can. Nobody wants to witness pain like that. But why must it be so awkward? Why do we feel that crying is so shameful, so embarrassing, so wrong?
I am not saying that everyone in slight emotional, physical, or mental anguish should walk the streets proclaiming their misery outright and cry incessantly. Obviously, that is not beneficial for those in pain, nor for those who must deal with them, and there are various coping methods available to help them handle their problems. But on the other end, when it comes to real, valid, excruciating pain, why should we have to suffer by feeling that asking for help or shedding tears is embarrassing or shameful?
We hurt. We need to cry. My Mindy understands it so clearly...
Is there anything we can do to make others--and ourselves--less uncomfortable?
I am so grateful to all those who have personally heard my pain and have supported me through the times I felt it necessary and theraputic to cry...Thank you...

11 comments:

The Dreamer said...

A good cry is sometimes all one needs to get back to oneself...

But when one cries all the time, that's not a good sign.

I guess crying is seen as weak because it seems as if you're not in control.
but expressing grief is important...
don't know what else to say...

David_on_the_Lake said...

There is nothing as cleansing as a good cry..
I'm never embaressed to cry..and I'm a guy.
Anything can trigger it..a song..a story..a memory..

Scraps said...

I think one of the hardest feelings in the world is the feeling of needing to cry but not being able to, held back by some invisible force that simply won't let the tears come.

One of my friends once said, "It takes a big person not to cry when something hurts...but sometimes it takes a bigger person to cry and admit that it does."

pobody's nerfect. said...

funny, just yesterday i was thinking on similar lines.
i was running a shabbaton which offered an optional trip for sunday and monday. one girl called her mother motzei shabbos in tears asking if she could come home early. A well-meaning friend was trying to console her, saying "Don't cry. Don't cry. We want you to stay. It's going to be so much fun. Please don't cry." And i was thinking, what a terrible attitude. Don't cry? You're 8 years old and you miss your mother! You slept 5 hours last night! Cry! Cry all you want- get out that fear and homesickness! Yes, we want you to stay, but if you're sad, cry!

Anyhow, she ended up staying.

Separately, while i am a big believer in crying (as you well know, corner), i must say that from my experience, crying alone is more painful than holding back tears.

Madd Hatter said...

Pobody- Interesting. In my experience, I don't find it worse, but it's definitely painful. Afterwards, though, I feel so much better. That doesn't happen if I hold it in.

Scraps said...

Pobody--I agree, to a point. They're both painful, but in slightly different ways.

halfshared said...

You are an incredibly talented writer. I love your style. That said, I agree. Sometimes we just need to let down the facade and give in to our need to cry. And always remember to channel your tears to pray to Hashem.
There is nothing more whole than a broken heart.

Ezzie said...

I'm also a big believer in crying, but I actually like Pobody's example and want to flip it a bit. I also think that this part was important: I am not saying that everyone in slight emotional, physical, or mental anguish should walk the streets proclaiming their misery outright and cry incessantly. Obviously, that is not beneficial for those in pain, nor for those who must deal with them, and there are various coping methods available to help them handle their problems.

The well-meaning friend isn't just well-meaning, but perhaps right, though doing it out of order. She was telling her friend on a simplistic level "Yes, it's hard and sad, but think of the other part, too: We're going to have fun, we're going to smile and be happy and have a good time." Instead of saying "don't cry", which is how that stigma of not crying starts, it should have been "you won't need to cry soon" [though that too isn't worded wonderfully].

Anyway, I think crying is important in so many ways; alone or with friends. I disagree with Pobody that crying alone is more painful than holding back tears; but certainly, crying to/with others is so much more comforting, particularly when they get it.

And crying for good things; when we're touched by something or someone; etc. are all good, too.

AT PEACE said...

I think holding back tears and suppressing painful feelings is much harder.

There's something releasing about crying, about letting it out...

I love your style of writing : )

corner point said...

Dreamer--
It's funny...I see crying not so much of an "out of control" act, but more as an attempt to achieving a more controlled level of self-awareness and coping.
Not sure if that made sense...

David--
Ah, so you're the one crying unabashedly at your child's Siddur play... Yeah, I know you :-)

Scraps--
Oh...I understand that so well...Like a dam holding back tears too heavy to hold up anymore...
And then there're those times when you wish that dam would be available...and it isn't...

Po--
So true, on both points you made...
About the first one, though, extra true--I remember stepping on a sprinkler at a friend's house once as a young child, and I remember her gentle mother soothing me, saying, "It's okay to cry...go on, I know it hurts...it's okay..."
And that felt so so good. Good enough for me to remember it about 15 years later...

Madd--
I agree with both you and Pobody. There is some kind of balance between the two, I think...

Half--
There is nothing more whole than a broken heart. Oh, how I love that quote...
And thank you...a lot...

Ezzie--
Interesting diyuk; I agree that it's important to include both--the empathy, plus the practical aspect that will get the other person to see things more objectively.
And so true about the happiness. I can't remember how many times started tearing seeing happy, hopeful, gorgeous things...like birchas kohanim by the kosel, or hearing "amen, yihei shmei rabah" belted out by thousands of people...or even the really emotional ends of some movies...(back in the day :-P...)

Peace--
Yes, it's super hard. But unfortunately some of the time it's even harder to cry...or even allow yourself to cry.
Thanks :-)

the apple said...

I'm also a big believer in crying. However, understanding what things are worth crying for is important.

(Were you in my afternoon class in 11th grade that afternoon when I burst into tears right in the middle of class?)