Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Dear Sentimental Schmuck


Dear Sentimental Schmuck,

Is that you, there, in the mirror right in front of me?  What's that I see in your eyes, again?

I was told that when I was little--even before I could remember--that I would get sad and cry over sentimental cartoons.  The first time I do remember crying over a movie was in the theater for Dead Poets Society.  I was maybe sixteen at the time, and the final powerful moment in that movie had such an impact on me that I just started sobbing uncontrollably when all the boys got up and stood on their desks.  It was a very defining moment for me, since it all just happened naturally and I felt as if I was on the verge of being an adult--now that I have grownup feelings and can cry over a movie and all.  It felt like a triumph--a sort of loss of innocence--that I just 'grew up' right there in that theater. 

Well, the tears have not stopped since.

Over the years, I've cried over countless movies.  When I was pregnant and the hormones were raging, I'd cry over silly commercials.  I cried at the births of my kiddos, their many milestones, during more movies, watching TV shows, reading books, articles, and even blogs. 

If you want to see me turn on the water works, just watch me watch an episode of Grey's Anatomy.  That show gets me every time.  Even when I know it's cliche and predictable and completely fictional.  Somehow the script and the actors just tug at my heartstrings.  I've mentioned before how some classical music and folk music can just conjure up tears in my eyes.  I can even add a list of modern pop music from artists such as Adele and Joshua James.  Even if I'm not feeling sentimental at the moment, you can still be sure that all the hair on my body will do a standing ovation when I hear certain touching songs.

So while it makes perfect sense and is socially accepted to cry watching movies or listening to music, it's another story when there's personal interactions involved--when crying feels embarrassing to me.  During a parent-teacher conference for Dear Daughter when she was in second grade, I had such an embarrassing moment. 

It was the first conference of the year, and I didn't know her teacher very well yet.  She was kind, smiling, and very complimentary of DD.  She showed me her work in a folder, and asked me to read her writing sample to see what they were working on.  The story DD wrote was about family, and while I don't remember the details, I remember reading it and my eyes started to tingle and were starting to well up.  The teacher continued to say all kinds of really wonderful things about DD, and I had myself a Mommy Moment right there in that classroom.  I felt so proud of DD that I realized I wasn't going to be able to force stop my eyes from becoming pink or glistening.  I also couldn't really avoid eye contact with the teacher since I didn't want to be rude.  Several times, I wanted to just explain I was feeling overwhelmed from being proud of DD, but I never found the right time to insert that sentiment while the teacher kept on talking about her progress.

I knew she was looking at me and my then-red-and-moist eyes, wondering why I was teary and just kept nodding.  Finally, after enduring those awkward moments, I decided to just forget it and not explain why I was being so sentimental over my kid's work so that I didn't have to face the actual overflow of tears from my eyes down my cheeks.  I pushed the tears back as hard as I could, blinked away any remaining wetness, and hoped that the white of my eyes were, in fact, white again.

Soon, the teacher was coming to the end of her report, and asked me if I had any issues, concerns, or questions.  I had come to the conference with only one issue to discuss, and that was to let the teacher know about DD's personality for her to keep in mind.  So I took a deep breath and said, "I just want to let you know that DD is a highly sensitive child," at which point I realized that my eyes were still moist and probably not white.  The teacher looked at me, cocked her head, and said, "Oh, so what sorts of things is she sensitive about?"

Wait.  Let me take my foot out of my mouth and then I'll answer your question.

I quickly explained that she can get teary over certain things, such as panicking over unfamiliar situations, or when she doesn't know how to do something new, such as when she's learning a new violin piece.  This short discussion basically lead to my understanding that DD holds herself up really well in school, and probably lets her guard down more at home, specifically with me.  Now feeling even more frustrated with myself and my uncontrollable misty eyes, I blurted out, "Well, she probably just takes after me."

And let me just shove my foot back into my mouth again.

I did live through that experience, and was able to face the same teacher throughout that year effortlessly and tearless-ly, fortunately.  But I've learned that as the kiddos get bigger, and I have more Mommy Moments, the tears are only going to come more often, more unexpectedly, and with more volume.

It has gotten so bad that when I see someone else' teary eyes looking back at me, I start to walk the uncontrollable path to tears myself.  It's almost like a reflex.  And I've come to realize the reason why: our eyes really are the windows to our souls.  Our eyes tell our stories, our feelings, our emotions, our wants and dislikes, our dreams and fears.  If the person whose eyes I'm looking at is a Kindred Spirit, our eyes communicate--for those split seconds without words--and tell each other 'why'.  My welling up with tears upon feeling someone else' emotions becomes more than a natural process; it is a silent declaration of acceptance.  It means, I understand.

While I don't believe that crying is a sign of weakness, I don't like to cry in front of people I don't know well.  Because people who know me will understand my tears.  People who don't--may not.  Tears are the Gatekeepers of Vulnerability, and so of course we would only want to feel vulnerable in a safe place.  And that is why I easily feel embarrassed if my tears precede my consciousness.

Just the other day, I hugged a young lady goodbye and wished her good luck in college. When I turned to leave, I felt that ever so slight tinge of souring wetness in my eyes.  I had to look down and leave the crowd before anyone caught sight of it.  Sometimes it's just not the right time or right place, you know?  But later, after I was done feeling embarrassed, it dawned on me why I felt so emotional by that goodbye.  It is because that event is in my own future, when my own DD will one day leave to go off to college, and I will be staying behind and wishing her good luck.  I know it is still quite a few years away, but it's there, and it's inevitable.  And I felt it.

Suffice it to say, life experiences enrich our emotions and nurture our souls.  The older we get, the more we feel, the more we relate to one another, and the more vulnerable we become.  This certainly explains why we equate immaturity with insensitivity.  When we gain enough life experience and years behind us, we finally begin to feel as a part of this world--this Humanity United--instead of against the world, or the world being against us.  We are then At Peace.

So, Dear Sentimental Schmuck-in-the-mirror, yes, I admit it: you are a true reflection of me.  Sometimes so much so that I'm more than a little embarrassed.  And at this rate, when I'm old, wrinkly, and gray, I'll be sobbing away like a baby at everything.  But maybe by then I won't be embarrassed, since I'll hold the trump card of Age and Wisdom.  And you know what?  I really cannot wait to reach the point where I won't have a care in the world even when tears stream down my cheeks.  Because I know that Vulnerability won't stand a chance against the Peace I'll have within me by then.

Sincerely,
Me

21 comments:

  1. Sandra, I could have written the same post. I will add that I can't keep my tears in when I talk to people who are undergoing cancer treatment. I know it is not the right response, but I can't help it. Recently I avoided saying goodbye to a woman with terminal cancer whom I barely knew but meant a lot to the master gardener organization. I knew I would turn into a crying mess so instead of hugging her and celebrating her I cried in the background. I had cried in front of my adviser, I felt so stupid, I couldn't stop. I cried in front of my pastry chef boss when I gave notice, I hated it. It is not sentimental, it is frustration, getting emotional.

    My mom is the same, I got her faucet genes.

    I know that crying is healthier than keeping it in.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree it's healthier to cry than keep it in. I do cry a lot--I just don't like doing it in front of people I don't know well. I really hope one day to feel less conscientious about this.

      I do sympathize with your crying in moments you mentioned above. While I don't think it's inappropriate, people react to crying differently. I would have done the same--stayed in the background to avoid a waterfall.

      And you're right: it's not always being sentimental. Many times it's just getting emotional over certain things. I know people who cry when they get angry or frustrated, and sometimes I do that, too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Laura. I don't feel so alone. =)

      Delete
  2. What about Love Story, Steel Magnolia, or Tears of Endearment. I cried and cried watching those movies.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I tried so hard to think about movies where I cried and cried and couldn't stop--since I know there are many, many of them. But for some reason, my mind was a blank. I was too young when I watched the movies you mentioned. I'm like that when it comes to movies--I watch it, enjoy it, forget it fast. So if any of them come to mind later, I'll have to tell you.

      Delete
  3. I never thought I was that sentimental until I got pregnant for the first time. Ever since then, I cry at the drop of a hat. It is a little embarrassing sometimes, but I've gotten used to it, and now it just makes me laugh.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe I'm not quite where you are just yet, Asianmommy, but I'm getting there! Pregnancy really does a number on our emotional scale, doesn't it? =)

      Delete
  4. Well, it's very good to know I have a sister in "tears", so to speak. I cry at everything and like you sometimes have to work very hard to suppress the flow of hot, salty liquid down my face!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Here I am exposing my vulnerability about crying, and you gals really make me feel comforted about not being alone in this! Thank you! And Susi, I used to think that blinking helped, but it takes mad skills to blink just at the right amount of tears to push it back instead of squeezing it down the cheeks! Ha!

      Delete
  5. Aw, Sandra, I'm right there with ya. So often, even now. Books, movies, CDs. I even got teary eyed for Sound of Music the other day (the breakup of the engagement of all things!), and couldn't stop crying for the Les Mis CD. DD was completely mystified both times. She did not inherit my sentimental/empathic genes. =) The first book I remember crying over was Charlotte's Web. And then when Matthew died in Anne of Green Gables. Buckets.

    IKWYM about the going off to college thing. Especially now that DD is 8, I often get these flash-forward moments. Seeing her as a teen, in college, dating, getting married. Sniffle. =)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. *Wide eyes* Susanna! I'm so glad to see you here! Oh, Les Mis gets me, every.single.time. Tears and chills. Yes to the books you mentioned, and one other I remember vividly is Flowers for Algernon.

      DD also doesn't 'get' my tears. But I think that they are just not quite there yet. And boy, do I have those flash-forward moments, too! The table next to ours at dinner today were two young ladies talking about weddings, and my mind did NOT go back to my wedding memories, but to DD's future one. What will we mommies do? I'm so glad you understand!

      Delete
  6. Oh, I cry at everything, too. Movies, TV shows, books, commercials...I cry when I'm happy, sad, mad or anything in between. It really is embarrassing. I even cried in a job interview (internally for a position in the company I already worked at.) The guy had to get a box of tissues because I was about to use my shirt sleeve. (He was a jerk and I cried out of frustration...but still horribly embarrassing. I wanted to quit and never go back!) I've discovered that red cheeks go well with tears :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I LOVE that we're all being vulnerable together here *and* getting a laugh out of it! It's nice to be able to look back and make something not-so-nice sorta funny, right? I agree that red cheeks go well with tears because they match the hue of our teary eyes. Thanks for sharing, Janna!

      Delete
  7. Sandra, my favorite movie of all times, Dead Poets Society. I don't cry like I did the first time but come close every time.

    I'm right there with you with leaving for college. I remember ... almost 9 years ago when my first DS was born, it was just both of us in the hospital room. I'm holding him, can't take my eyes off of him, and thinking in 18 years, he will be going off to college, just started crying my eyes out. Still get the lump in my throat and tightness in my chest when I think of the coming day but I'm not going to hold back tears, it will be a well-deserved cry, don't you think?

    My favorite quote from DPS - "I sound my barbaric yawp over the the rooftops of the world." walt whitman

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tran, DPS was my very first favorite movie. My next one was Shawshank Redemption, and I stopped keeping track after that.

      Isn't it amazing how we look so far ahead to anticipate the inevitable? How touching that you thought of college on THE DAY your DS was born?! I didn't go there until recently, though it's still not any easier.

      You seriously just sent chills down my spine when I read your WW quote. And right back atcha, O Captain! My Captain!

      Delete
  8. For a long time, I was too embarrassed to cry in public over anything at all. I was jealous of people like you who were so able to express their emotions. I just wanted to let it out. Recently, because of hard times I think, I've been finding my tears more often. From the middle of the night to the middle of exercise classes. I think it's beautiful and necessary to cry and everyone should embrace their sentimental side! Let it all go, sister. Thank you for sharing your soft side with the rest of the world.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Funny you mention in the middle of exercise class. I used to watch my Grey's Anatomy while I workout on my elliptical machine (you know, as motivation), but I ended up crying like a baby while TRYING TO RUN. I realized it takes a lot of coordination to cry and run at the same time! It was hysterical. So I stopped running.

      One of the things that will nudge you to the Tearful Side is having children. That'll always do it. =) Thank so much for stopping by and reading, Lucy!

      Delete
  9. I love this line " life experiences enrich our emotions and nurture our souls". It's so very true. And while I know that us women can sometimes be overly emotional and sensitive, I think it's a great thing to cry, because it reassures me that it's okay to be real and have feelings. :)
    I'm also ashamed to say I've never seen "Dead Poets Society", although it's been recommended to me many times. "Mr. Holland's Opus" gets me every time!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. While I won't push hard for you to watch Field of Dreams, I would *highly recommend* that you watch DPS!

      You're right: how can we deny ourselves of our real feelings? Crying from a variety of emotions is a natural release good for our soul. Thank you for your comment, Cassie!

      Delete
  10. I actually read this post yesterday, but have been thinking about what 'kind' of emotional person I am...because for me, it has always been so different.
    There have been times in my life when I couldn't hold it in.
    Other times, I couldn't let it out, or I wouldn't, or I shouldn't. I guess it all depends on my current "situation"..

    A few years ago, I took my oldest son and his friend to see "The Bridge to Tarebithia" (not sure on that spelling) and about halfway through the tears began to flow and I could only breath out of my mouth and snot was flowing out of my nose because I was trying so hard to keep it in...until it was over, at which point, I just started bawling. Sobbing.
    My eyes ached the next morning.

    Lately, I have been an extremist: either extremely happy or extremely sad. No real in between. Lately.

    This was a great post, Sandra. I love your honestly and self reflection. I could continue, but it is 4:52 am and I should sleep :}

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Kim! Yes, you do need to sleep! (Funny thing is that I saw this reply just after you wrote it because my possessed phone started restarting itself in a loop and the light woke me up--so annoying).

      I have not seen that movie, but I've done that, too. The tears and snot and all. I know that you've been going through some hard times recently, which would explain the extreme feelings... But I know you will get through them, as you've been through EVEN MORE. But remember that crying is a good and natural thing and part of Us. It's Emotions Overflowing, and sometimes we just need it.

      Thank you for writing me! I love your comments. Love.

      Delete
  11. If you're still subscribed to the comments of this post from Letters of Muse, please unsubscribe (you can do it right from this email notification). I don't know why this post is being targeted by spammers, but I'd hate for you to be annoyed by all the emails. Cuz I know I'm annoyed!

    Thanks, Sandra

    ReplyDelete