Our bodies are not built for repeated, high-powered stress and tension – and, if faced with ongoing strain, the foundations will develop cracks and the whole edifice will start to crumble and fall into the vast ocean below.
In the Western world, we pride ourselves, far too often, on our ability to control our emotions, to keep a stiff upper lip, to hold back the rawness of what is going on inside. We insist that we are fine when we are nothing of the kind. Strength is seen as the ability to withstand or deny pain, weeping indistinguishable from weakness.
‘Cheer up!’ we say to one another. ‘Don’t cry!’
But now I would like to share a beautiful piece of writing put on one of my posts by my friend, Morgana:
A thoughtful and prescient gift from a lovely lady – and its sentiments are, in my view, far more compassionate and healthy than the endless round of fake cheer and heart-hardened turning of back upon other people’s grief.
I have been completely open about my tidal wave of necessary tears over the weekend – and, if my retelling of the reasons was somewhat hazy, this is not due to lack of honesty so much as the fact that there are areas I cannot, at present, go safely.
I let the tears fall when and where they wished to – within certain limits (which I will not go into), and this had a physical and beneficial effect upon the levels of pain (until, that is, I wrenched my back yesterday morning). Something about the immediacy of crying, and the muscular moves involved, drains some of the toxicity from an over-burdened system.
But it is not just weeping, is it? Often we do not laugh enough either, or, if we do, we hold back, feeling, in some way, that it is better to titter quietly than to release a great, loud belly-laugh. As if the quantity of joyous noise were embarrassing, a sin, too much, socially unacceptable. We allow those who are inhibited themselves to inhibit our own free expression of humanity’s healing emotions and physical responses.
I started yesterday still crying in little jags, but able to smile too – and then, at midday, my phone ba-dunged and a message came in from one of my closest friends: Short and funny, it developed into a witty exchange (as it often does with this person) which had me barking out loud with window-shattering laughter. And, friends, that felt so damn good, as healing, in a very different way, as the sobbing which came before.
Thank you to the lovely friend who made me laugh (and is so often there for me via text and in reality). Thank you also to all the delightful people who have left messages of care and love on my posts, and in private emails/texts. And thank you to the wonderful friend who left such a life-affirming list of Ali words on a post last week. All have made a genuine difference to me, and have helped me to cope -but also to feel that I don’t have to pretend that I am fine when I am weeping, or put on a stone face when my heart feels bruised and life is scary.
Going back to those who find it necessary to tell others to cheer up and stop crying, I think there is a big difference between a compassionate act designed to distract a very distressed friend and the somewhat more selfish need to dam the flow of that person’s grief because it makes you feel uneasy or triggers emotions you do not wish to confront.
Sometimes the biggest gift you can present another person with is the willingness to be with him or her, without judging or intervening, when the emotions are unbearably visceral and uncontrollable. Sometimes tacit permission to release the flood waters is the deepest sign of true friendship and love.