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
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.
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