So here’s what my day looked like: I got up, ate a really healthy breakfast consisting of dark chocolate and yogurt, turned the shower on and turned it off immediately because ain’t nobody got time for that, packed up my homework into my bag and tried to leave the house three times before realizing I had misplaced my phone, again (I found it hiding under my duvet, in the bathroom sink, and on the stair railing, FYI).
Basically, I was confused.
This was nothing new. I was at the height of U of T craziness and had no time to plan anything. I just kept trying to stay ahead enough to allow myself one guilt-free hour of Netflix each night, which in fact, never turned out to feel guilt-free.
These periods have a type of buzz, an undercurrent of negative emotion and tension that tends to set up shop in your facial expressions (like clenching your teeth way too hard even while looking at cute pictures of kittens) or in your body (like drifting into a 15-minute massage place for a rub before I realized that I shouldn’t be there, because that $12 should be going towards all the caffeine I consume). It feels like there’s a hummingbird in your chest freaking out at 1000 wing-flaps per minute. I’d freak out if I were trapped in someone’s chest, too, hummingbird.
So here’s how that day ended up: I got home; I ate leftover injera; I put on the orca documentary Blackfish. And then I cried. I’m talking waterworks. I’m talking the gasping, get-a-drink-of-water-because-you’re-becoming-dehydrated-from-water-loss kind of crying.
To most this would seem like the inevitable result of a day that started off eating dark chocolate and unsweetened yogurt simultaneously without being grossed out, or even just watching poor Tilikum the orca struggle through captivity. But let me give you a brief history of my relationship with crying: I don’t.
Throughout my life I have been in equally stressful situations and known a good cry would give me the relief I needed. Sometimes I’d even try to sit and force tears out to no avail. So I began to tell myself a really toxic narrative, that maybe the reason I could never allow myself to release negative emotion because I had been blessed with a strong character trait by the Strong Character Gods.
Crying is really terrifying for a person who loves to erroneously define strength by repressing weakness. I have always felt a little bit of self-doubt in the rare moments I did let it out. But for a reason unknown to me, this time I let myself feel it without self-judgment. In less than a minute of crying, I learned something that has changed me forever: the beauty of crying by yourself, for yourself is that you can’t hide, bullshit, or suppress your emotions. While crying, you’re just you.
And then an even weirder thing happened. I started to laugh-cry, and then just to laugh. Why? Because crying makes you hyper-aware, and I had the surreal experience of feeling my values, personality, and life change in an instant. It felt so strange I just had to laugh.
This change has made me a stronger person. I cry quite frequently (always alone, always loud enough to jar the neighbours) and each time that undercurrent of emotion, whose diet consists of three servings of the human soul per day, is forced to go take its twisted vampire-wannabe tendencies elsewhere. And even better, that experience taught me to keep my eyes open for all the other small moments which challenge my perception of life and reorganize my relationship with myself. I could shed a tear just for that.