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Oh, for crying out loud!

Oftentimes we’re asked to assess parts of our physical bodies—to rate and rank that which we like and that which we abhor about ourselves.

Crack open any health, fashion or beauty magazine and you’ll likely come across a quiz that will ultimately help you “understand” yourself a bit better by the end of it. You hate your chunky thighs, but love your thick hair. You’ve got flawless skin, but detest your wide, flat feet. Your eyes are strikingly green, but folks will never notice until they stop gawking at your red, pudgy nose.

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We’ve all got bits like this. Things that work for us and things that we wish we could bring back to some almighty maker with receipt in hand to ask for a refund.

Still in the process of raising two teens, I’m often thinking about how to communicate a healthy kind of “self appreciation” that balances awareness and mindfulness without obsession. Occasionally I hear one of my kids pass judgment on one of their bodily features that would make Simon Cowell announce they were being a bit harsh. I’m left with no other choice than to put a spin on the part getting hammered. I give them a few encouraging words that might make them see that attribute from a more positive perspective.

If I hear, My fingers are too short, I announce my envy at the speed at which they race across a keyboard. A comment like, Why won’t my hair cooperate? receives a reply such as Likely your hair is a reflection of your personality, which is somewhat wild and untamed and determined to show a little of that covetable rebellious teenage attitude we adults sorely miss. Or the complaint, What the heck is going on with my toenails? I point a finger at the phone and say, Take it up with your grandfather. Those are definitely his genetics. But hey, he’s super funny isn’t he?

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Yet there’s one physical feature I’ve noticed about myself lately, which I can’t quite seem to engineer an optimistic response to. And it’s a very tiny thing.

My tear ducts.

They’re unruly.

No. I mean they’re a little more enthusiastic than I’d like.

See? I just tried to steer that disapproval into a slightly upbeat description.

Nope. Didn’t work. I still feel like those puppies are determined to wreak havoc with my appearance at every opportunity—appropriate or not.

Yes, you’re watching a sad movie, reading a tragic novel or viewing the 6 o’clock news—many of us will tear up. But I could be in line at the bank and hear two people in front of me talk of one of their mothers who is struggling with the recovery from a hip fracture and I am right there with them, feeling the helplessness of knowing someone you love is in pain. Stepping up to the teller yields the response, “Umm, here’s ten, twenty, forty and the tissue is on the house.”

I’m at the grocery store, sifting through fruits and vegetables and I hear a lyrical piece of Musak. I stop what I’m doing and pause to listen to the heartrending chord progression that makes my breath catch and sends tears down my cheeks. I suddenly see the produce guy standing in front of me, staring. “Wow, lady. You really are sensitive to onions aren’t you?”

I once wandered the isles at the local drug store and found myself parked in front of the makeup display. After a minute, I noticed a young woman dressed from head to toe in camouflage combat fatigues standing next to me, and the insignia for the U.S. Army on her chest. My mind flooded with gratitude. All I could do was turn to her and say thank you.

She looked at me. Looked back at the makeup. And then handed me a wand of waterproof mascara and said, “You’re welcome?”

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Somewhere inside, I know that having ‘hairtrigger happy to respond’ tear ducts should not bring about the element of discomfiture (read occasional mortification) that it does. But when your kids stop wanting to hang out with you because the last time you all went to the local café together you started leaking over the happy fact that they still had their cream of tomato soup on the menu, one must pause and question whether or not you should be let out of the house. You begin to doubt whether even a well-respected PR team could spin this into likeable quirk.

Maybe I possess a huge heart filled with gratitude and I should continue attempting to relish it. Maybe I’ve created a new level of hyper-developed sensitivity that comes with trying to conjure up believable emotion within the characters I write about. Maybe I suffer out of control hormones and should see my GP for medication or shock therapy.

Whatever it is, I’m determined to keep trying to embrace it. Yes, I’ve ruined more pictures by suddenly realizing I’m with a bunch of folks I love, and immediately tear up as soon as someone says, “Cheese!” But this is no reason not to love my selfie.

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That would be a crying shame.

~Shelley

 

**Gotta Have a Gott**

In January, Rob and I announced that his sketches will be available toward the end of the year in the form of a 2015 calendar! And our readers would get to be the judges and voters for which doodles they’d like to see selected for each month. We’ll reveal the winners one by one, and come November, If you’ve Gotta have a GOTT, you can place your order. Click here to see the cartoons in competition and to cast your vote.

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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70 thoughts on “Oh, for crying out loud!

  1. Right with you here Shelley. And there I was thinking it was my age!
    I cry at films, books, and thinking of my Dad and how much I miss him. I cry at a particular piece of music in What War May Bring, and the scene where Amy comes over the rise in her goose plane with the Canada geese in Fly Away Home. Hubby gives me a cuddle for no reason, and I feel myself well up as I realise how much he loves me, and I get a lump in my throat over the dog when she does something cute. (I did not cry at Lassie though, so does that make me hard?)
    Embrace it, enjoy it, and go with flow. :-)

    • I bet Eric Knight is probably reeling with failure in his grave over the fact that he somehow missed out on connecting with one of Lassie’s audience, but no, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say you’ve got nothing to fear as far as being dispassionate. On the contrary, your depth of feeling spans volumes!
      And now I have to hunt down What War May Bring. I LOVE music that moves me to tears. ;)

      • It’s a French/German/English Film by Claude Lelouch from 2011. The piece that moves me is played on the accordia by the German officer and piano by the French lawyer simultaneously. The end finale in the studio is pretty brill too.
        Thank you for the lovely compliment regarding feelings. When the first Lassie films came out, I enjoyed them but was quite young so perhaps my sense of sentiment hadn’t developed properly then towards dogs (The Incredible Journey and Greyfriars Bobby always have me reaching for the tissues).

    • Oh, I was going to say it’s that lovely Jean Poole we have.
      Love y’all, sis.
      And PS – THAT’S me too

  2. I’m glad you’re embracing the fact that you are an empathetic, compassionate soul, Shelley! Nothing to be ashamed of there. I think it shows how deeply you feel emotions. I’ve also found myself very uncomfortable about crying, but that’s because I normally shed tears only when I’m grieving, seriously stressed, or mad as hell. (Crying when in that last emotional state is particularly taxing; when I’m furious and trying to keep my cool in order to make a point or simply stand up for myself, it’s hard to be taken seriously when I begin to cry. And I have tried EVERY trick in the book to keep from crying; nothing works. It really doesn’t. Resistance is futile.) And I also love, love, love the beginning of your post. It’s hard to ignore all the pressure from society and mainstream media to look a certain way. Now when I read or see something telling me my hair should look this way, or my skin should look that way, I ask myself, “Just what are these people trying to sell me?” Because mega bucks depend on us being unhappy with ourselves. But I digress. Fantastic post, as always, Shelley!

    • Actually, Miranda, your last point is truly spot on. Yes, I poke a lot of fun at myself and my quirks, but ultimately, the buried message is one of self-acceptance. I love that you saw that. It’s difficult enough to raise ourselves in this particular era let alone raise healthy children because of the pressures EVERYWHERE around us. It’s always an uphill battle trying to amend the media messages, but I refuse to give up. I shall persevere.
      Of course the fits of crying and bursting into tears bits will just have to accompany all those acts of resistance in other areas.
      And I understand entirely when you speak of your frustrating experiences in asking to be taken seriously while you’re sniffling or snuffling your way through meetings or important conversations. Oh, how I wish I had more control in those moments.
      If you find something that works – LET ME KNOW!

  3. Oh I could sit all day and read your articles. For some reason your voice and the tempo of everything is so enjoyable for me:) I’m only 37, but I cry at everything too. Well, maybe you’ve got me beat about the Tomato soup still being on the menu, but I can definitely relate to feeling embarrassed sometimes. I think sensitivity can be such a wonderful thing to have even though sometimes it’s exhausting. Very nice post:))

    • You are so, so kind to offer such lovely sentiments. I never really thought about the exhausting act of crying, but you’re right. This might be why I’m chronically tired!
      And as far as the tomato soup bit goes, that part will likely hit at about 40. Relish the years. ;)

  4. Wow, I feel so spoiled! All of the cartoons are in color! :) Also, the spiral staircase picture (not a part of the post, in case other readers are here) is absolutely gorgeous. Love the symmetry.

    It sounds to me like you’re just a wonderfully empathetic person whom can express every range of emotion with tears. They’re not ugly, or unwanted (though maybe waterproof makeup is a good idea… :P ) Sometimes I worry that I don’t cry -enough-…. and I think people judge me for that, just as much as they judge you for crying “too much”. But I can’t cry; not easily. It takes a cataclysmic event to get these tear ducts to release even two minutes of tears. And when I do cry, I don’t get the same cathartic release my girlfriend does–I feel worse! :P So, not sure what’s going on with me there (except I think it actually probably has to do with psychology and the varying stress responses people adopt throughout their lifetimes).

    • Thank you for spotting all of Rob’s extra efforts today, Alex. I am wholly smitten with the first cartoon in particular. I’ve got it posted above my computer so I can remind myself just how bad things could get and so that I can be grateful I’ve not reached that spot just yet.
      And thank you for seeing my spiral staircase! I’m often moved by architecture, but knowing I’m simply a human drawn to patterns does not somehow convey the beauty of it all. I find it breathtaking.
      I love the point you bring out about varying stress responses, and find the psychology behind it to be incredibly absorbing, if not immensely complicated. But, I must add, I was NEVER one for loosely leaking in all manner of circumstances until fairly recently. I was much more the type of individual who bottled it all up to store for a rainy day when no one would see it falling. Something shifted. And I’m listening to the wisdom of my body–unpleasant, embarrassing, and unwanted as it is.
      And lastly, no worries, I still think you can be a wonderfully empathetic person without all the leakage. :D

      • Rob does amazing artwork! It’s super expressive. I love how his comics totally encapsulate the image you create in your blog posts.

        Oh, I totally agree re: architecture. I used to live in Berkeley, and the BART station, while somewhat run down, had an amazing view I only happened to see one day when I looked up: https://flic.kr/p/e6eegK

        Thanks for the support regarding my disparagingly miniscule tear supply, haha. XD

        • It does feel oddly familiar, doesn’t it? Sort of like walking quickly by a storefront window and whipping around to catch sight of yourself and saying, “Wha? Whoa! Ugh …”

    • Maybe you’re on a steady diet of stoic vitamins? As the grass is always greener, I do envy some folk’s ability to be unflappable, as I find in many situations those are people with some extra strength to pass around and it feels good to be near them. Don’t worry, I’ll shed enough tears for both of us. ;)

  5. Oh, yes, I can relate. There’s that awkward moment when I’m speaking of something/someone I love and suddenly tear up, causing the throat to close and my voice to croak. People look at me with concern, unsure whether to pat me kindly or just ignore. Oh, well…feelings are fine, right?

  6. I’m in tears just reading your article. I actually woke up crying as I had a dream about when the three of you use to duck tape me down to the floor and make me sing the song “Alice, was in the bath tub…”. Aug, the horrific memories and the years of therapy. Or, maybe it was just gas, who knows.

    Pull up your big girl undies and deal with it. Neither rain, sleet, snow nor hail will stop the USPS from delivering mail, so wipe off those tears, pull up those boot straps and kick the horse in the you know what, “Hidie hoo!”

    Ok, seriously, I’m crying now too. (Can someone say “bi-polar?”)

    The smell of double smoked apple wood bacon on a Sunday morning (currently being made) and fried duck eggs with toasted almonds and coconut reminds me of our Sunday’s after church; lazily lounging on the rust coloured carpet reading the funnies pages from the newspaper whilst drooling over the smells of a farmers breakfast being made from Ma in the kitchen and Pa sitting in his flax golden chair. (Ok, cue the tear ducks now please).

    Much love and respect,

    Stoshu :)

    • Okay, so you’re saying this is a genetic thing? And we get to blame the rents? I’m all for it.
      And I’m going to guess that it’s probably high time you get a dose of being duck-taped to the floor and made to sing for your release. A little regressive therapy would probably cleanse your dark and tortured soul. <3

  7. My eyes cried this morning & had lump in throat while watching a segment on CBS Sunday Morning about a little boy whose father was killed in Afghanastan. He found a $20 bill on the ground in a parking lot and then inside the restaurant he saw a soldier in uniform and gave it to him with a hand written note about paying it forward. The soldier posted the story and then people started sending $20′s to the boy to repay him and it has now grown to six-figure amounts, now being given to an organization that helps children who have lost parents in combat.

    So count me in. I cry at the drop of a feather too!

  8. I love this! You are an exact replica of my mother in law–who I actually love! :-) There is nothing wrong with a tender heart. In fact, this world could use quite a few more of you in it.

  9. I was listening to Les Miserable with my kids in the car, occasionally turning it down so I could explain what was happening. When I got to Fontine dying (*spoiler!!*), I started weeping uncontrollably. I guess I had never thought of the significance of what she did for her child until I was a mother myself.

    And thanks, Rob, for the awesome pictures. “a Tear Duck” *smh* Classic.

    • Oh, yeah, that story and soundtrack are skillfully adept at throwing me for a loop too.

      And I’m so glad you like Rob’s work. There’s a bit of magic in his markers for sure! :P

    • You’re very welcome. Whatever you do, don’t feed tear ducks with bits of stale bread. They much prefer old movies, books and songs by Red Sovine or Tom Waits (“Martha” always works for me) :)

  10. Love your blog! I, too, am a big cry baby. I could always tear up at the drop of a hat but a few years ago I went on an antidepressant that basically put a stop to all teary-eyed moments. When I stopped taking it recently I discovered that I was just as big a waterworks as I ever was. Still working on ways to control it.

    • How bout that? A link to the tear ducts as well as neurotransmitters. Go figure.
      Somehow I doubt any physician would write me a prescription simply to avoid the rainy results that come from the joy of seeing my tomato soup still available.
      It seems it is the new me.
      And many thanks for the lovely comment. Daymaker! :P

  11. First off, thanks for stopping by my blog!! :) Glad to discover yours. I have a problem with my tear ducts too, although yours sounds a little more extreme than mine! I think a positive spin on it would be to say that you are an extremely empathetic person that feels deeply and is emotionally honest. How’s that?? :)

  12. Is it a new thing, just recent? Or an always had this issue kind of thing? If it’s new, you might consider telling your doctor, in case it’s hormone-related. My hormones were crazy during each pregnancy, and I would cry a lot. Or if you’ve always cried in sympathy, then you keep on keeping on. Nothing wrong with a few tears.

    • I think it’s more a caught off guard and swept up in the moment kind of thing, Brenda. But I thank you for your suggestion. I usually keep a running tab of topics to speak to my GP about each year. And as she’s gotten used to knowing how thorough I am with my line of questioning, she usually books me a two patient spot. But I get a discount – kind of a K-Mart blue light special sort of a thing because I bring cookies. :P

    • That’s so funny you should mention that. A bunch of folks in my yoga class were all having a good gripe after class one day by mostly realizing how much we desperately depend upon the class to get us through the rougher parts of our week, and we all agreed that maybe instead of a laughing yoga class, we should have ourselves a crying yoga class – it might be cathartic. You’d fit right in! :’(

  13. Beautiful..specially the cartoons :D they are so colorful..ow and my tear ducts are dysfunctional too ;) they seem to get bit over reactive during movies, especially inspiring sports themed ones.

    • I would imagine your last statement would find us a bucketload of fellas finally admitting that they’re part of that crowd. Heck, it doesn’t have to be a movie – just watching their team win or lose is enough to have some of them spring a leak. :P

  14. For such a cynical and snarky bitch, I have massively hyperactive tear ducts too. I really need to work on that, lest anyone think I’m anything but a cold-hearted tyrant. :-)

    • I can’t imagine folks getting that impression–especially if they spend thirty seconds on your blog and read what you have to say.
      And my guess–having spent more than the recommended thirty seconds on your blog–is that your tear ducts aren’t actually leaking tears, they’re sweating. :P

  15. I used to cry easily when sad, angry, disappointed, tired…and on and on. I think of myself as a sensitive person and hated being told I was “overly sensitive” whatever that means. I completely unraveled during my son’s IEP meeting several years ago, and had to retreat to a closet for composure. I was so sad, frustrated and angry at our inability to get the help we needed.

    Then, somewhere along the way, I started crying less. I don’t know why? I don’t think anything changed. I think I just found a way to compartmentalize a bit more, for bad or good I don’t know.

    Our society looks down on women crying in certain settings, and I’ve felt that judgment myself. Even my own mom would say “you need to toughen up!”

    I think creative people are more in touch with that part of themselves, and thus allow themselves to feel. Though you don’t say, I’ll bet you laugh easily, too.

    Thanks for this thought-provoking piece.

    • You brought up some really good points, Alys. I want to believe that so many of our tears tend to come from places of true emotion rather than weakness – and for that we need not apologize. I’m totally okay with that kind of depth.

      And if you find yourself in a place with more strength occasionally, then I’d run with it and not question the savings on tissues. Things bubble up when they’re ready to surface. Fingers crossed there’s just a handy closet close by when we need it.

      Cheers, Alys. ;)

      • Things do bubble up when ready…and I’ve been completely caught off guard at times when something unexpected brings me to tears. I can still remember the first time I cried at the end of a book. I was in high school, finishing “All Quiet on the Western Front.” I was so shocked that I was crying. It was a powerful book with a simple ending. I unraveled.

        Great comments throughout this thread.

  16. Me I’m just a blubber whale Shelly. I blubber and wail when I feel a person’s pain, or music catches me on a bad day. I also have tiny hands, which is why it takes so long write in this box. Thanks for the email, look forward to hearing from you again.

    Talia

  17. You may be a bit more sensitive than me. I’m always embarrassed because every time I see someone on TV cry, I cry too! I just tell people: it’s because I’m empathetic. And I guess when considering all the traits on could have, empathy isn’t a bad one. Neither is yours! Embrace it as it shows your heart and that is a beautiful thing… (Love Rob’s sketches in this one too!)

  18. Well, if your children can outdo Simon Cowell when it comes to degrading someone, they’ll probably land on their feet eventually…In fact, those are the kind of people I’d stick to in the event of a nuclear holocaust…I hope that last remark didn’t make you cry:P
    Actually, I describe myself as a cynic, but most of my cynism is basically a defense mechanism coming from a guy who died when he saw Titanic the fourth time (because Celine Dion starting singing at the end, my inner cynic would say, but between you and me: I was really sad to see that diamond being thrown into the water)
    Seriously, though…I wouldn’t think a tear is awkward, wrong or unattractive as long as it’s authentic…and you seem pretty authentic to me, which makes me appreciate any of your tears more than I would any of Simon Cowell’s compliments;)

    Sorry btw, haven’t had time to do much reading lately. My dad and his wife visited from Canada, which took up a lot of my time. Anyway, they’re gone now…I miss them, but I realize I have also missed your humor and your use of the word ‘abhor’, so thank you!

    • Good heavens, Lennard, I’m so glad your blessed island hasn’t yet succumbed to the rising tides of global warming. I think about you out there in your hammock–taken by surprise in the midst of a peaceful afternoon kip. Whew.
      And I too have found myself with a mind-boggling backlog of my favorite bloggers. I MUST catch up. Sadly, my jam-up has not been due to something fabulous like a visit of family members one actually adores, but rather more mundane things like taxes, accounting and industrial waste management.

      Okay that last one is really code for something else, but it’ll take way too long to explain.

      I’m also trying to sort out why all my faucets are spitting and every pipe in my house is gurgling in some weird watery chorus. I swear I feel like I’M living inside the Titanic as it’s slowly submerging.

      Anyway, so glad to see your words. :D

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