Friday, May 9, 2008

Friday's Child - Embracing Tears

This was one of the tougher posts to write. It's a difficult subject. But I've learned the general rule is the more difficult something is to say, then the more important it is to say it.

From September 2007
Embracing Tears

It’s interesting how close that word sounds to sorority or sisterhood as my sister has been the primary cause of sorrow in my life. Certainly in my young life anyway.
When I was 10 I made the decision not to cry.
It wasn’t getting me anywhere. I would be hurting and crying alone in the middle of the living room after my sister had hit me for whatever reason came to her mind
No one stopped it. No one intervened. When that happens the recipient of violence draws but one conclusion: I deserved it. If not, then in a loving family it would be stopped.
From this I concluded, logically I thought, that it must be that I was not hurt. Therefore I would not cry.
I have no emotion, I declared. Just like Mr. Spock. I still wanted to cry. I fought down the feeling. At no point was my family to know I hurt inside.
I learned control easily. I did not cry. I steeled my stomach. My shoulders hunched and my jaws clenched. I laughed, though. It was my safety valve.
I still do it sometimes. Old habits and learned responses.

I have no emotion.

This is, of course, a lie. I’ve always had them. I simply never allowed them. Denial helps.
I ignored the pain. I buried it deeply in my psyche’s backyard and tried to forget the path to it.

I lived a life apart from emotional comfort and comforting. I wanted it. I’ve learned over the years to express love and to hug friends. We weren’t huggers in my family. I never knew why.
All I knew of human touch ended in sharp talons down my arms or a pounding fist.
I was hugged perhaps once a year and from visiting relatives. I relived it each night until I’d wrung every drop of feeling from it. Eventually all that remained was the memory of a feeling. This memory, this essence of a feeling, is what I lived on until the next hug.
I was unable to respond to hugs. I was terrified. What if the hugger could sense I was not used to it? If I was not being hugged, then I reasoned that it must follow logically that I was unlovable.
Who would hug the unlovable? I was afraid the hug would stop mid-embrace and the hugger would recoil from the realization.
Better to stand cold and not move lest it be taken from me.
I did not embrace and I would not cry.
By 17 I knew I was wrong about not showing emotion. I had to learn it. I had to learn to cry.

I cried easily when I was very young. I was a crier then and today I believe inside that I am still a crier. Occasionally a tear or two will escape the barrier.
Do I feel? Yes, and I am happy for it. I’m proud to be sensitive enough to want to cry and frustrated that I can’t let go with a great, wracking sob.
My approaching menopause is helping. I feel the tingle of tears more often and the odd rivulet falls down a cheek. This happens for the slenderest of reasons and usually at unfortunate times, like when I’m driving.

I had another deeper reason for not wanting to show emotion. I wanted to make it abundantly clear to everyone, me especially, that I was not like my sister. She’s violent and a bundle of emotions. They’re scattered and unpredictable now due to her illness, but she was always on the edge of screaming or crying or some such.
It was okay for me for a while, but it’s been more than 30 years since I started trying to undo the damage I did to myself by declaring I did not feel.
I can hug now. A friend taught me.

I am still hesitant and I don’t like to offer as the rebuke stabs quite deep. I know it’s just a simple rejection meant at that moment and not a wholesale rejection of me. It means at that moment the person did not wish to be hugged.
And I’m grateful that my husband is a hugger. Between him and my best friend I’m gaining on all the embraces I missed growing up.
Hugs and tears. They’re intertwined for me and they’re my goals for this lifetime. I will call my life a success the day I am sobbing in the arms of someone who loves me.


Hilary said...

Leah, I have to admit to almost never reading your Friday posts. I feel like I'm imposing on very private matters. I'm not sure of that logic because you're opening your heart with words that are meant to be read, and yet it's always felt like I'd be invading your privacy. Therefore I don't know anything more than the vaguest gist of your story.

I felt compelled to read this one for some reason, and having done so, I also felt the strong urge to reach out with a warm hug, if only through the blogosphere. Please use as needed.

Leah J. Utas said...

Hilary, what an interesting take on it. I'm happy for the opportunity to know this sort of thing. It'll help put me in the minds of readers. These Friday posts are not an easy read.

I appreciate your feedback and I'm glad you read this one. Thank you for the warm blogosphere hug.

the Bag Lady said...

dfLeah - you're dang right these aren't easy to read, and they are harder to comment upon!
I didn't realize, when we were growing up, just how difficult things were for you. I just thought you were a tough little nut 'cause you were a country girl! I always felt like I had to keep up with you so I wouldn't look like a sissy!
And now, after all these years, I find out the real reason you were so tough.
What a dumb-ass I was.

Leah J. Utas said...

I wouldn't call you a dumb-ass, and you're hardly a sissy, df Bag Lady.
Thanks for reading and commenting. I know these are not easy and I know it's for a variety of reasons.

WeightingGame said...

That last line is just beautiful. Thank you for sharing this raw, emotional story with us. I got goosebumps.

Leah J. Utas said...

Weightingame, thank you for stopping by and for your kind words.
It's good to get feedback and to know that my writing, and my life, is having an impact.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

df Leah,

Hugs and tears are beautiful goals. I am confident that you will reach them soon. A supportive husband and supportive friends go a long way toward solving our "inside stuff."

I am sorry for all that you have been through and I am extremely grateful that you are will to share your story with us.


Reb said...

I agree, these are hard to read, even the second time. Like Sis, I had no idea about any of this.

I am very glad you have learned to hug and have high hopes for the tears to come. Virtual hugs Cousin!

Leah J. Utas said...

dfTerrie - Thank you. I am grateful that you are reading it.

Reb - I made sure no one had any idea about it. Thanks for the virtual hugs.

Anonymous said...

Leah, your post really moved me.

My heart goes out to you -- there have been times in my life, both as an adult and as a child, when I didn't feel free to feel. And it's an area in which I hope to learn and grow as long as I live.

Thank you for sharing -- and your last line made my eyes misty.

Leah J. Utas said...

Why Thomma Lyn, thank you for your kind words, and for sharing.
Life is for growth and I am sure you'll do well. It's difficult, though.
I'm grateful that you've read my words and that they moved you, and I'm grateful you told me.

Dawn said...

I'm sure your words will help someone who is also struggling with a similar issue, Leah. Consider yourself hugged from New Zealand. I also grew up in a family of non-huggers and understand how difficult it is to learn as an adult.

Crabby McSlacker said...

Such a sad choice you had to make!

It's very inspiring to read how you are patiently healing from those wounds and allowing yourself to feel again.

Virtual hugs from the Crab too!

Leah J. Utas said...

Dawn, thank you for the hug from New Zealand. I am hoping these words will help someone. I need to make some good out of the experience. Yes, it is difficult to learn, but it is rewarding.

Crabby, thank you for calling it inspiring. Gives me energy to continue. I appreciate the virtual crab hugs, too.

Frank Baron said...

I can relate to closing the door on emotions. I did so for years too. And yeah, menopause will help. At least I'm blaming my male menopause for the fact I lost it 30 seconds into The Lion King. And now even soft-focus commercials oozing sappy, commercialized sentiment can get me misty. I curse myself when it happens but am grudgingly coming to terms with being sensitive as sh*t. ;)

I'm very pleased to see you're working through your pain and learning that you are indeed huggable. My immediate family wasn't physically demonstrative but luckily I had a grandmother and great-grandmother who were terrific huggers.

This was terrifically well written Leah. Thanks for putting yourself out there.

Leah J. Utas said...

Frank, I appreciate your comment and I appreciate the assurance menopause will help.
And thanks so much for your kind mention that it was well written. It means a lot, Frank.