Friday, April 3, 2009


Note: This was written last night at around 10:30pm.

I just had a good cry. There was a time, not too long ago, when I wouldn't or couldn't cry and call it good. That's not to say I haven't had good cries before. I've cried for joy and gratitude, but when I've cried out of pain or sorrow, no, it was never, ever, what you would call good.

I had a long and hard day. It started with a bang, literally, when my new alarm clock woke me with the loudest alarm I've ever heard. I know I jumped off the bed. Luckily, I didn't hit the floor. I was tempted to sleep for ten more minutes, but the idea of hitting the snooze button on that thing was more than I could bare. Now, that's an alarm clock that really gets one out of bed. But, that kind of masochist I am not, so it's going back to it's place on a store shelf.

The test I had at the hospital, the one I jokingly mentioned in an earlier post, was really rather stressful. For nearly two hours, I was zapped with electricity to determine how fast nerve impulses traveled in the lower half of my body. At first, every time I was zapped, my whole body would twitch, but I finally let myself breathe into it and relax. It didn't really hurt, but it was shocking, quite literally. I told myself that nothing bad was happening, for it wasn't, and chatted with the doctor. He excused himself for thinking out loud ("It helps me process"), so I encouraged him to speak louder, since I am studying medical transcription. As it turns out, my peroneal nerve is not conducting properly. A few exams ago, I spelled the word "peroneal" wrong (perineal), which is a common mistake. I'll never make it again.

I had other things to do today, and I won't go into every detail, but by 1:30 I felt wrung out and ready to drop. I hate catch phrases, I really do, but today was a good day to listen to something I learned in a twelve-step meeting a long time ago. HALT. This means pay attention to when you're hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. I think I should change it to SHALT, because sick should be on that list, but SHALT sounds rather encouraging.

Perhaps I should make my own acronym. How about SCHRUPIP (sick, crazy, hungry, resentful, upset, pissed off, and in pain)? It's almost impossible to say and if one tries, sounds rather like pronouncing the word "stupid" with a mouth full of marbles. I think I'll keep this one.

But I did cry tonight because I was Overwhelmed, Overtired, in Pain, and Sad, which leaps to OOPS. That makes a lot of sense. If I'm all of the above, "oops" is bound to follow, as I'm likely to do or say something I'd rather wished I hadn't. I could be as simple as continuing to go, go, go, and become even more overtired (which I did do yesterday) and injuring myself 'cause I'm being sloppy. Or, more usually, I'll get angry over something tiny, and blow-up, which leads to lots of crying and hurt feelings. That, thank goodness, hasn't happened in ages. I do believe I've learned my lesson.

So, back to good cries. We're pretty much told not to cry in this society. Women who cry are overemotional. Men who cry are wusses. It's okay to cry at weddings, funerals, and while watching sappy movies. Crying for joy is sometimes okay, but if you do it frequently, you are certainly suspect. Crying in public is completely out of the question, and people who are prone to doing so tend to stay in their homes for fear of looking like crazy people.

When I spent a few months living at the Kripalu Center, there was a lot of crying going on. Emotional displays were considered normal, and it was a freeing (and eye opening) experience. There were some days that I tired of the lack of stoicism, and the constant sharing of feelings. I can be a total ass (in my head, most of the time.) I have a macho streak, and I could play with that when I was a tattooist, saying to people I knew who were having trouble with the pain, "Suck it up, you wuss!" Maybe I've got a touch of dominatrix in me. That is certainly a possibility.

A touch of machismo or domination aside, I do wish showing our emotions wasn't such a taboo in this society. If you're not bubbly and chipper if you're a woman, or steady-as-he-goes if you're a man (and you're not queer) you are in a bit of trouble. Stuffing one's feelings is pretty much mandatory. No wonder so many people have chronic health problems, and secret mental health ones.

Crying - Roy Orbison (duet with k.d. lang)

Painting note: Henry Fuseli, "Loneliness at Daybreak", 1794-96.


Anonymous said...

Over-emotional-ness comes from having to hide your emotions or stuff them. I've always had a hard time fitting in with the cheery and the bubbly women, it's a sign of mental unrest to me. Not that I'm that emotionally balanced, I just lean on the gloomy side. People in Northern and Eastern Europe appear to be reserved and emotionally closed off at fist. It's hard to get them to smile right off. I don't know if it's for the lack of joy or they just haven't been infected with fake cheerfulness yet?

Julie H. Rose said...

I'm not quick to smile, but when I do smile, it's HUGE (and genuine). Bubbly cheerleader types give me the creeps.

There are some genuinely happy people out there who smile a lot (like the Dalai Lama, of course). That's the kind of happiness I appreciate!

Fake cheefulness? No thank you! I think it's more common in the southern U.S. than up here. Us "Yankees" tend to be more dour. Maybe it's the cold?

Anonymous said...

You're right, some people are just genuinely happy and it shines through. I feel like that on my best days.
That's a good observation, about the south. Natives here are bound by a certain code of behaviour that this cheerfullness is a part of.
It's hard to me to break into this because I don't know a lot of people who were born and razed here closely.

BitterGrace said...

Okay, as a native Southerner, I have to chime in here. Yes, we do smile more, no doubt about it. We are actually taught to do it as kids. Nika has it exactly right, it's a code of behavior. It's not deceptive, it's just a courtesy, sort of like saying "Nice to meet you" when you're introduced to a complete stranger.

I'm a pretty depressive sort myself, to say the least, and there have been times I've found this ritual smiling oppressive. But most of the time, I think it's okay. We're all affected by the emotions of the people around us, and it's a kindness to avoid burdening others with facial expressions that convey our unhappiness. They have plenty of their own unhappiness to contend with.

That said, part of the ritual is that you are supposed to know when to stop smiling. Bubbly cheerleaders give me the creeps, too.

Sorry to rattle on. What I really wanted to say was that I love the word play in this post. You are a great juggler of words, Julie. And the painting is wonderful.

Julie H. Rose said...

The difference between norms in the North and South is interesting. A good friend of mine, raised in Virginia, finally left Maine to return to the South. He missed the social niceties.

People up here dismiss most of them as phony. There's some worth in them.

I have never thought of not smiling as imposing one's bad mood on anyone else, but hey, I was raised in New York, where everyone is always acting out with strangers. That, I must say, is something that I find distasteful and even stressful.

And Maria, I rather thought this was a boring post. I was almost shocked at your enjoyment of it. I wasn't even aware that I was employing any wordplay!

jmcleod76 said...

I'm late to the discussion here ... Libra that I am, and always looking for the Middle Way, I see it both ways.

I do try to smile at people and be friendly even when I'm feeling down, because I definitely believe that kindness and courtesy - as well as their opposites - are contagious. I would hate infect people with grouchiness, so I give everyone I encounter a smile. And, you know, even when I'm feeling bad, it's genuine. I mean those people goodwill.

However, I have never been what you'd call "bubbly." I'm actually a pretty happy person these days, but it's a very quiet, restrained kind of happiness. Saccharine is bad for your health and tastes like shit.

Be kind. Be polite. Don't be fake.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree, Jamie, you nailed it:
"Be kind. Be polite. Don't be fake"
These are the guiding principles I'd want to put behind my demeanor, no matter how I choose to express it.

Maria, you're right on as well when you say:
"We're all affected by the emotions of the people around us, and it's a kindness to avoid burdening others with facial expressions that convey our unhappiness." I wouldn't want to project fake happiness, but good will and a kind attitude are never
out of place. I guess the thing that we're struggling with is that sometimes we are unhappy. When I feel depressed, I usually avoid people, that's all there's to it.