I violated one of my cardinal rules last night. I cried in public.
Oh don’t worry, I didn’t do the sobbing mess of a puddle kind of tears that run mascara down my cheeks and make everyone rush for the kleenex, or possibly the Atavan. But I did cry. Or at least my eyes welled up and a couple of drops trickled down my cheeks.
It is primordial, this cardinal rule of not letting anyone see I care. It dates back to childhood days when as the youngest of four, my siblings would tease me endlessly about being ‘such a baby’. My siblings liked to tease me. I chattered a lot and asked questions that no one could answer, not that I really expected an answer, I just liked the wonderings. I believed in magic and fairy tales and was, or so they told me, ‘a spoiled brat’. In fact, ‘the brat’ became my nickname until well into my twenties when my mother suggested I might want to quit signing my letters home, “The Brat.”
I didn’t want anyone to know it bothered me. I didn’t want them to see that their words stung. And so I smiled and pretended it was okay. They kept telling me to ‘grow up’, ‘stop being so childish’, to get a life and I wanted desperately to fit in so I created rules for myself that would, I thought, make it possible for me to be part of the crowd. I thought my rules would keep me safe.
Crying was not acceptable and so, along with my rule of not crying in public I created an even bigger, inviolable rule, “Don’t let them see you care.”
Over the years I have learned I don’t need to play by my self-imposed rules. Where once I thought they kept my heart safe, I have learned these rules only keep my heart from beating freely. Challenge is, while my rules no longer serve and protect me, the ‘don’t cry in public’ is a tough one to boot out. When public tears threaten, my critter puffs himself up in fear-based indignation screaming at the top of his lungs that I must “Stop it!” And if that doesn’t work, he convinces me to dive for cover in humor.
The public tears came at Easter dinner last night. Our dear friends Kerry and Howard had invited us to join them for their annual feast and along with C.C.’s daughter, son and his girlfriend, we spent the evening enveloped in their warm hospitality.
Kerry is curious. She wants to know what makes people’s hearts beat freely, what stirs their souls and awakens their dreams. After dinner, she always asks her guests to answer a question. Last night’s was, “What is one significant blessing you’ve experienced since last Easter dinner.”
When TC, C.C’s son shared, I felt the tears start. And they just kept threatening to flow.
Such love. Such appreciation, gratitude, beauty, vulnerability.
It was all there at the dinner table and I was in awe and humbled by the heartfelt sharing of everyone.
And then, C.C. shared.
He was sitting right beside me and I felt his love embrace me. I felt myself wrapped up in caring and I just wanted to cry.
Instead, when it was my turn next, I said, “C.C. He’s my greatest blessing since last Easter. End of story.”
And I smiled.
And then I remembered, I am safe. I am okay. I am loved.
And I took a breath.
“Actually, the greatest blessing is learning to trust in love. To know that ‘disagreement does not equal rejection’ is true. That C.C. and I can disagree, argue, fight even, and it’s not the end of the world. It isn’t all over, in fact, it is our capacity to move through our disagreements that strengthens and deepens our love.”
And a tear fell.
They do that when confronted by truth. They fall. Gently. Peacefully. Joyfully.
Tears know the language of our hearts. Tears know the words our hearts cannot speak. Tears know our truth.
Once upon a time, I hid my tears because I didn’t want anyone to know I cared. I didn’t want them to know that I didn’t understand what they were saying or why it hurt my heart. I didn’t believe it was okay for my heart to hurt, or that I had the right to speak up when it did so I hid my confusion behind my smile and laughter.
Today I know, my heart only hurts when I try to pretend I don’t care.
Today, I want people to know I care, deeply. And so, I let my tears fall because I know my tears are perfectly okay to express the joy and gratitude that flows like an endless river of love streaming from my heart.
Today I know, when I am moved to tears by the beauty of the hearts beating all around me, it is the greatest blessing of all.