I’m not a fan of vulnerability or feeling raw. I shouldn’t say that I’m not a fan, I meant that I don’t do those things well. I work so hard to put on this facade that I’m this strong, tough girl and that I don’t need anyone, that I don’t do crying. It’s so obvious when I am angry or upset regardless of how hard I try to hide it and carry on. The implosion is bad enough, but the explosion … The explosion is often so violent and nerve wracking that I am not always sure what to do with myself.
Where does it come from? I know exactly where it comes from. It comes from being a child who was always so berated and put down and told not to cry – ever. It stems from being punished as a child countless times, then being punished again for crying. It originates from having a mother that was always stressed out because my father was in the Navy and for nine months out of the year for at least 18 out of the 25 years my father was in the Navy she was basically a single mother raising four children on her own.
As an adult, I can see now that my mother had no outlet. She had no out. She was tired and frustrated and she couldn’t deal with the energy and issues that I had. As the oldest I was expected to help, and to behave. I didn’t have the kind of mother that one could go to and just bullshit with or talk to about their problems about. I was expected to keep my mouth shut, obey the rules, no crying, no emotional outbursts, no drama. I can remember crying, only to be beaten and berated for crying, then slapped to give me something to cry about. She didn’t need my emotional drama. But I needed a mother.
Those experiences taught me quickly to keep my mouth shut. I learned that crying gets you nothing and it also gets you no where even faster. I can remember being told, “You’re so ugly when you cry.” When I needed to be held, I felt unworthy. When you’re four years old, that says a lot. What your four year old ear hears, what your four year old brain, and consequently your adult brain translates it to is: You’re not beautiful enough to be held; Figure it out for yourself; Shut the fuck up; Stop crying, it’s not going to get you anywhere; You’re bothering me. To be teased and called a crybaby.
So you stop crying. You keep your tears held in in public. You cry your tears in the shower, or into your pillow late at night. You put on this brave face, this brave facade and tell everyone that you’re okay, that you don’t need help. You build a wall around you that is hard to penetrate. You lie to yourself to the point where you don’t really know what the truth is anymore. You don’t trust easily. You don’t dare let your guard down. You’re jaded and cynical of those that can cry so easily. You laugh when you hear that crying is a display of strength because all you’ve known is that it is a source of weakness.
That broken child turned into a broken woman. That’s all there is to it. I don’t care to show my weaknesses, my vulnerability, my “soft” side. I cannot because it’s uncomfortable. It makes me feel weak. It makes me feel unloveable. The rawness is so viscerally painful that at times is unbearable.
My husband knows that I am not as strong as I let people believe I am. He knows, but he also knows to leave it alone. I only share this side of me with him, and only on the rarest of occasions. So with him, I am also not 100%. I’ve been “strong” for so long that for me to display my vulnerability is unlike me, so it’s hard for him to get close to me because it’s scary.
I’m learning. I’m working hard to let people in. I know that in life we are not meant to go at it alone. I know that, yet I am not able to let people in to help me. I get so frustrated when I’m angry at times that what ends up happening is that I cry, and that’s soooooo NOT what I want to happen.
Vulnerability and the ability to cry is a sign of strength. Completely opposite of what I learned as a child. Where I learned that crying was a display of weakness as a child, I know now that crying actually has the ability to heal. Being vulnerable was to leave yourself open to attack by those that were supposed to love you. Where I learned that I did not have a safe container to house myself in, or soft spot to land as a child, I am learning to fix that container, and that people are willing to provide you with a soft space to land that is safe.
I would tell my four year old self that it’s okay. Cry if you need to, but don’t hold it in. It’s okay, I’m here and you’re gonna be okay. I would tell my four year old self that you’re strong, that crying does not signify any weakness, that it means you’re human and you’re real. I would tell my four year old self that beauty is found in tears, that a hard, straight line on ones lips should never be found on the face of a four year old. A four year old should not ever look hardened, downtrodden, unhappy. Just be. Tears, tantrums, and all. Just be. Cry. Let it out and just cry. Strong girl stand down and let those tears flow. And I would hold that four year old as she did.
To be lachrymose is to be able to let your tears flow easily. For me, it will take some time. It will take a lot of time. So have patience with me as I learn. Just have patience and let me figure this whole thing out.