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Erin Joy Henry

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Crying Saved My Life

Posted: 05/23/2012 10:31 am

I'm such a cry baby these days. Did you see the movie A League of Their Own? Remember when Jimmy Dugan screamed at Evelyn, "there's no crying in baseball!?" I love that movie. Every woman needs to see it at least 20 times. I took Jimmy Dugan's thinking to a whole new level throughout my teens and twenties. I didn't allow myself to cry about anything. Crying was for the weak girls who couldn't be alone and needed boys to carry their bags for them. Crying was for the girls who sat out from P.E. because they had their periods and were too scared to participate in the game of life.

Or so I thought. But now I'm dealing with the consequences of my "no crying allowed" mentality over the last few decades. What nobody told me was that tears buried alive never die. As I am now officially in my thirties, I'm learning that the old tears I pushed down while I was busy acting like a tough girl all these years will not stay submerged any longer. I'm finding this to be quite inconvenient, as I'm not a big fan of crying in the presence of others. Especially not in places like the Mexican restaurant where I had a tearful outburst over my tostada last week while the little mariachi band was innocently strumming away nearby, just hoping for a nice tip from my date and I. My poor date. When I went to the restroom in an attempt to pull myself together, he was sure I had run out the back door to escape from any onlookers that may have noticed my emotional outburst. I thought about running out actually, but it wasn't because of the strangers. It was because I actually really cared about him and letting him see me cry felt way too intimate for me.

I never used to do intimacy either. I had a hard time even saying the word. Intimacy was for losers. Seriously. Romantic intimacy was the worst one of all for me. I rarely even dated men that lived in my own city, and more often than not they lived at least a few thousand miles away. The thought of having a boyfriend around that saw me on a day to day basis horrified me. I was sure he would either be disgusted when he found out that I was a feminine creature who had closet emotions or he would smother me to death with his neediness. My friend told me one day that I date like a dude, and not in a good way.

I also managed to choose a career that supported suppressed emotions, a perpetual friendly looking face and my "no crying allowed" mentality. My career as a model has paid my bills for a very long time and crying on a model shoot may be scorned just as mush as crying in baseball, so no matter what was going on with me, it has been my job to put on a happy face when on the clock. After all, Joy is my middle name.

The problem was, much to my dismay, this way of being stopped working for me. When last year, tears started slipping out during yoga classes and when watching tv commercials selling cat food, I knew I had to take a deeper look at what this was all about. For a while I thought it was hormone related, but I can't even blame these random bursts of tears on hormones any longer, as the people closest to me have noticed they occur at any time of the month these days. Oh yeah, and I blush now, too. Great.

This all began a few years ago, and my tear attacks have progressively gotten worse. In my late twenties, I opened the door to a higher vision of what my life could look like if I could bring myself to feel more and accept myself for who I really was, as I had a sneaking suspicion that I wasn't fully living the life of who that person was.

The more I grew spiritually, the more I recognized I had been numbing feelings of joy, sadness, hunger, fear, exhaustion, happiness, vulnerability and intimacy for far too long. It had made me cold and bitter. I had numbed all those feelings to get ahead in New York City, to fit in with crowds that were never me in the first place, to be skinny, to make boys like me, to not burden anyone with my problems and to act like I was strong. And on the outside it seemed to be working, until the crying started.

Of course I slammed the door to the higher vision time and time again, because learning how to feel all of those things again sounded like a painful process. It terrified me and seemed like so much work to change my life and begin standing forward in who I truly was. It was such a stark difference from the life I had been leading up until that point.

But there was no turning back for me. I knew what I had to do. I had several relapses and back pedals, but I began to move forward and my body began to take ownership of the soul of a woman who was proud of who she was and knew strength didn't come from hiding behind closed doors afraid to feel. I began honoring the part of me that was unapologetic for her feelings, voice and emotions, because those were what made me a unique contribution to the world. I stepped into my vision and found a life of happiness for me was made of the simplest things. It was joy garnered from love, nature, peace, quiet, family and laughter shared with my best friends while drinking cheap sake and joking about penises like we have since 7th grade. For me, a big house in the Hamptons, a career with notoriety, worrying what other people think of me or always putting on a beautiful face are not what are going to fulfill my life purpose. Thank God I found out sooner rather than later.

Here's what I've learned and why I keep leaving my house every day: Crying does not make me weak. Accepting this is part of me and being compassionate with it makes me strong. The more I dare to peel away years of emotional oppression and look inside myself, the more I am probably going to cry and laugh and live in the possibility that my life can be bigger, better, fuller, higher. The layer I'm crying off is all of that old stuff that was held in for too long. And I think I've almost shed it.

I've stepped into the room on the other side of the door and the process was almost as painful as I thought it would be, but not quite. Bring it on. I'm not scared anymore, but I might cry about it.

 

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