Driven to tears

A baby will cry the SECOND she is irritated, hungry, too cold, too hot, stuck in an uncomfortable position, or hurt, with no filter, no hesitation, no wondering if a good hearty cry is really the most acceptable or effective form of communication, the baby will just let it out…mewing with tears or a full-bodied wail with heaving sobs…whatever kind of cry the baby creates it is because she is not feeling good…We assume she is feeling something other than what she wants to be feeling.  It is so simple.  Why once we are all “grown up” do we have to hide behind a facade of “everything’s fine” ALL the time??!!  What if a good heaving cry with buckets of tears is the best way to communicate that something is amiss??!!  Why do we have to filter ourselves as adults to the point of NOT feeling or NOT expressing our genuine upset or distress??!!

Now to be clear, I have not felt the need to have a good cry in a number of months.  For me, when I honestly feel that need to have a deep cleansing cry that gets me in a good position to reboot and restart I will watch –Steel Magnolias– or  –Terms of Endearment-.  When I feel over anxious or over stressed or just so NOT me, I find a really good sob is an excellent way to regroup.  There are a number of films that get me to that climactic sobbing state, but these two are for me a guaranteed good cry.  To be clear, I sobbed with Marley & Me, The Notebook, Titanic, Hachi , My Girl…in fact I think my propensity to appreciate a good cry started at a very young age, at the drive-in theater in our town when I was a little girl, in the back of my parent’s Pinto, when I first saw Dumbo.  Anyone who does not cry when Dumbo’s momma rocks him in her trunk is just cold as ice or secretly a robot and won’t GET the drift of today’s writing no matter what…

I enjoy happy tears too…the kind that come to me when I watch When Harry Met Sally, Ever After, The Princess Bride, Pretty Woman, Sense and Sensibility, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, Pride and Prejudice, Love Actually, Nine Months…the list is very long.  I also enjoy the kind of tears that come to me from gut busting laughter, like from the movies Ted, The Big Lebowski, There’s Something about Mary, Best in Show, the blow job tutorial from Old School, the news segment in Bruce Almighty…you know, Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy sorts of really funny stuff that you can’t help but laugh out loud!!!

Now I have cried my eyes out and had actual LOL’s with books too…but I don’t dog ear my favorites, and books take much longer to get through than a dvd…so they are not my go to source when I need a good laugh or a good cry.  I was thinking about the act of or art of crying yesterday when I was babysitting the wee-ones in my life who had a snow day off of school and how the older one, who is now eight, seldom cries, at least not in front of me, unless she is physically injured, or really upset about a situation, or has hurt feelings.  The little one, who just turned six, still cries a lot with not a lot of prompting, she defaults to crying whenever things are not going precisely her way at that very moment, and it got me wondering when does it change?  When do we evolve from the immediate cry for immediate information communication to the more logical and reasonable?  It can’t just be once we speak, because in my world, babies talk and communicate effectively and clearly VERY early.

I’ve cried, but a different kind of cry, when I’ve been overwhelmed with beauty, nature, and love.  I’ve cried, but a different kind of cry when I twisted out my knee in kickboxing, when I had vein surgery that went wrong, and  when I fell off a ladder.  I’ve cried, but a different kind of cry when I think about my parents dying, or my daughter, or her kids.  I’ve cried, but a different kind of cry when I’ve been frustrated, irritated, and confused about life, my life, asking myself “how did I get here?” at various times.  In a biology class many years ago I learned that there are different kinds of tears, they might feel the same on our cheeks, but that reflex tears, like from a thorn in your eye, are very different from emotional tears, like when your daughter drives off to start her married life, and the tears like when you blow your nose too hard are just the kind that keep your eyeballs from drying out like a scene from an apocalyptic science fiction movie.

But yesterday I got to thinking about all the things associated with crying, tears, and feelings, and I realized that it has been months since I was driven to tears…the sad, the worried, the frustrated, the anxious, the hurt, the injured… I have laughed very hard over the last month during several movies, I have laughed because the little kids in my life were clever, cute, and creative.   I have laughed with both my Mom and my Aunt because they both tell a great story.  I have laughed because my boyfriend and I seem to be on a sushi bender and can’t seem to stop.  I haven’t had to filter myself, I haven’t had to mask my feelings, I haven’t had to pretend that everything is fine when it isn’t…it got me thinking that maybe things are just right, “sleeping baby right,”  right now.

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Total Recall

On too many occasions, I’ve walked upstairs to my office or outside to my garage, only to discover upon arrival that I’ve no recollection whatsoever as to why I am there…and yet, with precise detail and sweet emotion, I can describe and remember the minutes and the  hour after the birth of my daughter, holding each of her ten tiny fingers, one at a time, and marveling at the perfectly shaped nail on the tip of each one.  28 years ago this week my heart ripped open and I’ve cared about somebody else, more than myself, every second, of every day, since.  When your heart rips wide open on the day you become a mother, you have no idea really, at all, how your heart will never go back to the way it was before.  You believe that all your parts will bounce back to the way they were, and some really blessed or lucky women do get their previously perfect bellies and boobs back, but for most of us, none of our parts, especially our hearts, are ever the same again.  Sometimes you think you’d like to return to an existence when all you really had to worry about was getting to school or work on time, how fabulous your outfit was,  and how your hair looked, but once the heart is ripped open this way, it is impossible for it to return to its previous state of egocentric self centeredness…

Remembering is sometimes so strange, we can dwell in upset for days or weeks or months during difficult situations or bad circumstances and then the second that things turn around, we forget all of the negative we had been holding onto…and in the case of parenting, I find, as each year passes, that I remember fewer and fewer of the rough times and am able to recall more and more of the smooth times.  In high school we learn about Mendel, his peas, and why we have green eyes, & we learn about Pavlov, his dogs, and why we want praise for good behavior.   In college we learn about Freud and why we want to marry our fathers & we learn about Kant and why we understand right from wrong…but nothing EVER prepares us for understanding what it means to mother, to be A mother.  I know women who had mothers who were world-class worry-warts, and tried to protect them from everything, and I know women who had mothers who chose to protect them from nothing.  I know women who had mothers who never ever punished them, and I know women who were beaten by the very mother who then demanded their love.

It’s EASY to fail your child, let’s face it, we ALL have demons, skeletons, and regrets and it’s often difficult to keep those negatives from tinting and distorting one’s view of the present, but as the days of our lives become memories, it’s often easier to recall the happy, the good, and the pleasant memories…and they color the present in a pleasing way…It’s very hard to be handed a human that can do NOTHING for itself, and take care of it until it can do EVERYTHING for itself…yet we keep doing it, over and over and over…

When your baby is an infant, you watch her roll off the sofa, because that one fall will be enough for her to learn that she can’t go too close to the edge without getting hurt—and a few months later you watch her let go of the coffee table and fall on her way to the chair, because that one fall will be enough for her to learn that she has to balance before she takes a step—and many years later when she is a teenager you watch her fall for a really stupid awful boy, because that bad breakup will be enough for her to learn that she has to look for qualities other than straight white teeth and big biceps to truly fall in love—and a few years later you watch her drive away, in her car filled to overflowing with all the things she thinks she can’t live without, on a muggy mid July morning, hours before the sun has even come up, to move to her new place in North Carolina where her new husband is already there and waiting for her…and you will cry your eyes out as you nervously clean and scrub every single inch of your house, for hours and hours and hours until you get the phone call that she has arrived safely…and all of the sudden you realize, you did it…you took a human who could do nothing for herself, and  cared, loved, and tended to her until she could do everything for herself—and almost ten years later you watch your neighbor every day, your baby all grown up, as she does it too, with two…

a rose by any other name would smell as sweet

…and so, the woman who has wished for years and years and years to be in a wonderfully loving relationship & for someone to love her dearly enough and truly enough for her to have the title of “wife,” and the woman who, at 14 years old, when she had her very first pang of ‘true love’ swirled and twirled her pens and markers over and over and over on every album cover and any blank piece of paper in her bedroom, writing and signing her name as if she were married to this boy she was sure she “loved,” rather unexpectedly and surprisingly finds herself telling her betrothed that she doesn’t think she’s going to take his name when they get married later this year…the girl who wondered what her signature would look like with every last name of every “real” boyfriend she’s ever had,  how it would flow on a credit card receipt or her driver’s license, and how the letters would wind and weave around themselves, is oddly, now that she has finally found one dear enough and true enough, for REAL, a man who loves her for all that she is, and more importantly, despite all that she is not, is not practicing her ‘new’ signature with a new last name…

I might take his name, but I might not…it doesn’t matter either way, I don’t think, but what I find strange is that for the first time in my adult life there is real unconditional love, and there was a real proposal, and there was a really beautiful ring, and there is talk and conversation and planning about dates and guests and vows…and with all this wonderful reality, I suddenly find myself no longer pretending…