Project Reverb prompt: “Cry it out | What moment in 2013 brought tears to your eyes? Are you usually a crier? Or did tearing up take you by surprise?”
Duh. One of my dogs died this year, so yeah, I cried. But I’ve already told you about that, a few different times. The other time that comes to mind is when I was in California. It was my first trip there this fall, the first day I was there. I had made plans to meet Sherry for a ride on the ferry and dinner in San Fransisco. I thought I’d make it to my hotel with at least an hour to unpack and get settled in before I had to leave and meet her, but the way it actually worked out, I was late. My plane landed late, it took a long time to get my rental car, traffic was terrible, so all I had time for was to check in to my hotel, throw my bag in my room and get right back in my car and go find Sherry. It turned out alright, we didn’t miss the ferry and had a wonderful dinner.
I was pretty wrecked by the time I headed back by myself on the last ferry of the night. Sherry dropped me off at the station and I got on. It was a smaller one than we’d rode over on, but I thought that made sense because it was the last one of the night. I was tired, my nervous system fried from a day of travel and the rush to meet Sherry, and I was worried about getting my rental car out of the parking garage. Even though I knew it was totally irrational, I wasn’t sure where to validate my parking stub (parking was free if you did) and was worried if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to get out of the garage, or if I did, it would be for a ridiculously huge fee. I imagined myself stuck sleeping in my rental car in a parking garage in Oakland less than five miles away from my hotel.
As we waited to leave, another ferry pulled up. It was the same ferry we’d come over on earlier. This was my first time ever on the ferry, so I panicked and thought I’d gotten on the wrong one. Worse than having to sleep in a parking garage was the idea I might be on the Alameda ferry, so be stuck halfway between San Fransisco and my hotel with no car to sleep in.
I went over to try and talk to the two men running the ferry, but they were standing on the dock and not paying attention, so I had to unhook the chain they’d put up to block the entryway. As I did, they turned and saw me, and as I was saying “I think I’m on the wrong ferry,” they rushed towards me saying “whoa, whoa, whoa!” as if I was attempting to jump overboard or something. In that moment, I realized they thought I was drunk. It stung, in particular because I stopped drinking altogether almost two years ago.
As they ushered me back in, the other passengers started laughing. I was scared and alone, the employees were treating me poorly, and everyone else was laughing at me. It made me feel so incredibly sad, so alone. Instead of kindness, there was judgement, misunderstanding. I wasn’t safe and no one here was going to help me. All I wanted to do was go home, away from these hateful people. I sat down, pulled out my phone to pretend to be checking my email or something, and cried.
Yes, I’m a crier. I’m highly sensitive, empathic. I cry if something is beautiful, I cry if something is brutal. I used to view this as a problem, a liability, a flaw, to be so porous, so easily touched, so raw. Then I started to practice, and in all my practices the effort was towards being open, feeling deeply, developing compassion, being exactly what I was naturally.
As far as I can recall, none of the adults in my life ever once remembered to say, “Some people have a thick skin and you don’t. Your heart is really open and that is going to cause pain, but that is an appropriate response to this world. The cost is high, but the blessing of being compassionate is beyond your wildest dreams. However, you’re not going to feel that a lot in seventh grade. Just hang on.” ~Anne Lamott
I’ve come to realize that all those years when I tried to change, numb and avoid how I felt, armor up, that I was wrong because there were people trying, working hard at attempting to be as open as I’d always been. It was a gift, not a sign of weakness or brokenness. And as I practice more, I return to this state, and I cry easily. It doesn’t surprise me. It totally makes sense, this tenderness. It does, however, mean I get easily overwhelmed, that I suffer, and that part kind of sucks.
I don’t know if you have noticed this about your meditation practice, but one thing that many people report is a kind of softening—to your own experience, perhaps, but also to the world around you. There is a sense of permeability, of walking down the street and receiving input in a more direct way than before…To be a warrior in this world, this kind of opening is necessary. However, one thing I have noticed in my own practice is that the more I cultivate this combination of strength and softness (aka compassion), the more I, well, sob. When you open up, everything can come in—not just what you desire and respect and long for, but also what you dread, reject, and find absolutely unworkable. The more you practice, the more joy you feel—and the more sadness. ~Susan Piver