Tag Archive | crying

The Do’s and Don’ts of Crying in Public

Sometimes I cry, and sometimes I’m in public when the urge strikes.  I’ve learned a lot from crying out in the big wide world, and because I’m a giver, I made a primer.

crying-at-work-001_0

These are my tips for the fine art of losing your shit in front of strangers.  Pass them along.

1. Do walk a few blocks away from your office. The only thing worse than avoiding strangers who might try to console you on the sidewalk is running into your co-workers who will be full of questions. It will be awkward if you have to lie and say, “Gram’s in hospice” or “I’m pregnant” because you don’t want them to know that the boss who just offered them the corner office by the good copier just offered you a free subscription to Monster.com.

2. Do bring your phone. You don’t have to call anyone. You don’t even need a charged battery. You really just need a phone case. When the urge to keen strikes, hold the phone case up to your ear and wail like it’s the day the music died. Strangers who see you weeping into a cell phone (case) will give you wide berth on the sidewalk. This prop is especially useful for people who like to scream when they cry. It’s much better to scream into your phone (case), “But what’s it all for? I gave them the best years of my life!” than to risk having shop owners trying to eject you from the premises.

3. Do get your brows waxed. This is good for when you’re on the verge of a big cry, but can’t get it out. Head over to a local nail salon. As a non-English-speaking Vietnamese woman named Tammi plucks your brows, the pain will trigger a flood of tears. Tammi will feel terrible, but explain, “It’s not your fault. It’s just that I gave them the best years of my life, and also? You’re tweezing the skin off my forehead.” Later if you have to explain why you are sobbing on the corner of LaSalle and Lake Street, you can point to your eyebrows. “Just got plucked. Hurts like a mother fucker.”

4. Do lean. The best public crying posture is to face a brick building, raise your arms above your head as if you are being frisked by an officer of the law, and let your salty tears drench the dirty city sidewalk. This stance allows you to avoid eye contact and also stretch your deltoids.

5. Do bring Kleenex. Humanity is generally a caring lot. People are going to offer you crumb-dusted tissues pulled from the bottom of their NPR tote bags. Unless you want to blow your nose into a tissue of unknown provenance, you should have your own. If you see someone reaching into her in her bag, or God forbid, into his trouser pocket to hand you a hanky, then wave your travel-size package of tissues and assure them, “I’m good. Thanks.”

6. Don’t compete with panhandlers. If you are public crying in a large urban city, be respectful of the people who are working and living on the streets. Don’t encroach on a homeless person’s turf or the turf of those who are advocating for the poor. This gets tricky during the holidays, a prime season for taking emotions to the streets, because you can’t ever cry in front of Target because SALVATION ARMY.

7. Don’t cry in an Ann Taylor Loft dressing room. You don’t want a twenty-something shop girl stopping by every three seconds to check on you, asking if you want to open an Ann Taylor Loft credit card in order to save extra 10% today. A better retail option for losing your shit is H&M because the music is so loud no one would hear you even if you were bludgeoned to death with a spiked bat.

8. Don’t duck into the foyer of a capital assessment management office building. The security guards tend to be skittish about full-grown women convulsing in spasms of grief. They tend to want to keep the business of mentally falling into shambles far away from the business of making billions of dollars for capital asset managers.

9. Don’t wander over by your therapist’s building, hoping you’ll catch him coming or going. If you “happen” to bump into him, he may charge you for his time, or, if he’s the nervous sort, he may file charges against you. Better to wander anonymously. Perhaps stroll by the local movie house so if you spot someone (say, Tom from accounting who was recently promoted to VP, Business Development), you can tell him you just saw a double feature, Terms of Endearment and Steele Magnolias.

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Cravings: Before and After Pregnancy

 

photo (40)

 

The moment I heard I was pregnant, I zeroed in on the Do’s and Don’t’s list provided by my doctor’s office. I memorized all the foods I wasn’t supposed to eat and bid farewell to sushi, lunchmeat, fancy cheeses and caffeine. Oh and that giant slab of swordfish I typically ate on Tuesdays for lunch. Buh-bye.   I also studied the list of activities that I was supposed to curtail for the following nine months—the rigorous exercise, super-hot showers, heavy lifting. I was ready and willing to do absolutely anything to ensure a healthy environment for my baby.

I’m a good mama!

The first two trimesters were easy. While I missed long runs and hard spinning classes, I had my eyes on the prize who was going to be sleeping in that new bedroom we had just decorated. The food part wasn’t that hard either—my cravings for mac and cheese and Twix bars kept me too busy to miss nigiri and sliced turkey. I also had a near-spiritual experience with a jumbo-sized bag of Frito’s, so I wasn’t complaining.

One week into that third trimester, though, it hit me. A craving for raw fish and an overwhelming desire to stand for hours in the hottest shower possible.  I wanted it like Gwyneth P. wants free-range brussel sprouts cooked on 1,000-count Egyptian sheets.  As the weeks peeled by at a pace slower than the service at a Cheesecake Factory on a Friday night, I could almost taste the salmon roe I’d begged my husband to bring me in the hospital. At 39 weeks, I finalized his marching orders: as soon as we have an Apgar score, fetch me sushi from our favorite place, frozen yogurt from Costco, and a giant bottle of Gatorade 2 (grape).

But the birth was about a zillion times more intense than I’d planned. There was the last-minute C-section and the challenges of breast-feeding that I never expected. While I was overjoyed to have my baby in my arms, the only other thing I was craving was privacy so I could cry alone. A big, fat, ugly cry.

I’ll be a great mama soon as I can get this cry out.

I was too scared to ask for it. What kind of a new mother just wants to be alone to cry?

I could hardly remember that woman who thought her biggest obstacle in the hospital would be having to say no if someone asked for a bite of her yogurt or a piece of her sushi. That woman was gone and in her place was a terrified woman who was so afraid of her incision and her baby’s poor latch to even care what her next meal was.

When, by chance, I finally found myself alone in my hospital room, I started to release the tears like hostages from a hijacked airplane. Then a nurse walked in and told me that she saw “the cry thing” all the time with older mothers.  “You’re so used to being in control– running companies or lawsuits or non-profit corporations that you don’t know what to do when your baby won’t wake up to nurse.”

Wow.  Maybe I am an okay mother.  (Did she just call me old?)

After the wise old (if she can say it, I can too) nurse gave me my meds, I cried some more.  It felt better than gorging myself on dragon rolls during a spin class. I needed to cry for the joy and fear I felt too tired to process, and for the changes to my life that seemed to be suddenly etched on my abdomen. I didn’t need sushi or sweet treats; Gatorade 2 couldn’t begin to scratch the itch deep within me. I’d changed so much that I didn’t know what I needed or craved or desperately wanted, but the cry was a very good start.

 

I Contact: Looking The World In The Eye

I gave myself an assignment, which is just as self-indulgent and Oprah-esque as it sounds.  In my defense, my therapist was out of town for almost month, so my self-improvement muscles were aching from neglect.  I decided to work on my vulnerability, but I wanted to do it without too much effort because LAZY.

This is hard.

This is hard.

The assignment, like all well-crafted ones, was simple: make eye contact with people I pass on the running path.

Behold the ingenuity of this idea:

First, I didn’t make the assignment overbroad. I didn’t have to make eye contact with everyone all the time.  I could still avert my eyes on public transportation or when my daughter demanded to know who chewed all of her gum.  Second, I chose a time when I would be less resistant, as exercise wears down my defenses because I am busy working through the Krebs cycle and pushing through the physical discomfort of pounding the pavement.   Third, if I didn’t like the feeling of making eye contact, well, I’d just have to run faster so it would be over sooner.

See that? Narrowly tailored and heart healthy.

I’m not good at eye contact.  I’d guess I am in the bottom quartile of eye contactors for my age group in this country.  Looking into other people’s eyes makes me feel googly inside, which is my mature way of saying it scares me,  Because I am scared of people.  I’m not scared they will steal my soul, but I’m afraid they may look inside and see I don’t have one.  Or I don’t have one worth stealing.  Making eye contact also makes me feel overstimulated– like downing eight Red Bulls with an espresso chaser.   On those rare occasions that I do make eye contact with strangers, I usually find that they smile at me.  And that makes me cry.  I figured if I was running my blazing, 40-year-old-lady speed down the running path, I wouldn’t have enough extra juice to also cry.

I was wrong.

The first person I passed after accepting my assignment was a youngish woman wearing a neon green sports bra and those not-shoe five-toe things.  She was cranking at about a 7-minute per mile pace.  She’ll never have time to look at me, I assumed as I flashed her my pearly whites.  When she smiled back, I felt the familiar swell within me.  It felt like standing on the deck of a listing boat, and it was my body’s way of saying, “here come the tears.”

I fought back.  I swallowed hard. Two more runners were headed my way. Male.  Hard core with fancy running watches and taut thighs.  Naturally, I prayed that they would be too full of Gatorade to offer me any milk of human kindness.

Nope.  They both looked right at me, which pierced my already taxed heart, and they didn’t even smile.   But they both looked me in the eye before they passed, and that was enough to reach that part of me that fears being seen and making human connection.  That same part of me embraces self-check-out lanes at the grocery store.

In a four-mile run, I made eye contact with 11 runners.  Thank god the bikers whizzed by too fast to meet my eyes. .

I hate this assignment.

I don’t make eye contact for a reason.  Mainly, it fucks up an internal monologue in my head that says that the world is hostile and indifferent, but those instant-but-fleeting connections with strangers destabilize that.  Those smiles say something different, something non-threatening and life-affirming. Something that suggests the world is more kind, tender, and embracing than I’d ever imagined.  Those moments of eye contact prove  that other people can see me.  And when we make eye contact, they connect with me.

And sometimes that scares me.

I Swear I’m Not Hysterically Crying Because I’m Stressed

I’m handling the move just fine.  Really. I’m fine.  What’s there to be stressed about? Those 30 cardboard boxes on my dining room table? Why would that be stressful? They are all broken down.

Proof I'm not stressed: Stressed people don't post pictures of cutie pie cats.  Image credit: http://www.desura.com/groups/cat-lovers/images/stress-cat

Proof I’m not stressed: Stressed people don’t post pictures of cutie pie cats. Image credit: http://www.desura.com/groups/cat-lovers/images/stress-cat

Oh, that thing about how Costco is no longer a mile away, but now is like 4.5 miles away down a long, dark road? Why would that be stressful? Just because my happy place remains just out of reach for the foreseeable future and my will to live has evaporated like so much chimera.

Nope. Not stressed.

The dry cleaners doesn’t have candy for my kids so I had to deal with their tandem tantrums upon depositing my dry cleaning yesterday.  That wasn’t stressful.  Who doesn’t want to introduce themselves to the neighborhood by having their children break the sound barrier down one of the most famous streets in all of Chicago? (Michigan Avenue)

It’s not remotely stressful to not know where that box with my workout clothes is.  Who needs to work out when she is SO CLEARLY not stressed?  And the fact that Jeff and I have traded off unpacking the kitchen, which has resulted in both of us instituting systems that as of yet appear to be incompatible? What’s the big deal? He thinks that oven mitts go where I am positive the sixteen spatulas he insisted we keep should go.  That’s not stressful; it’s a marital challenge.  Like Biggest Loser for couples, except I am pretty sure I am gaining weight, but not from stress eating.

Because I am not stressed.

Maybe you heard that I spent 20 minutes crying in therapy because the stupid fucking sellers of our new house didn’t leave us a mail key and I am fixated on an out-of-print writing book I ordered and a sizable check that is currently lost in the bowels of the postal system of this great country.  It wasn’t stressful at all when the management company told us we had to hire a locksmith to get into our mailroom.  Those tears weren’t stress.  They were tears of pity for the sellers who have wreaked havoc on our lives since we first spotted this home and entwined our lives with their for the span of time it took to buy their house.  Bless their hearts.

Ahem.

So, yeah, totally not stressed.  There is not an emergency stash of chocolate Clif Bars (because they are “healthy” and also: Chocolate) in my bathroom closet just in case I need a fix as I wade through this decidedly not stressful time of my life.  (And I certainly haven’t eaten more than half the box in my first 4 days here. (They come 12 to a pack.)).

I’ve been rolling with the little moguls that life has put in my path.  Laid back, I’d call myself.  Sadie slathered her arms and legs with Desitin and then walked all over our new floors.  That’s cool, honey, I’m so happy you did that experiment. What did you learn?  I’m psyched about Simon’s new hobby, which I believe is best referred to as “pediatric kleptomania.”  Now I’ve got a mini van full of toys that don’t belong to us and a kitchen decorated with white footprints that smell like ass cream from the fucking devil.

It’s all part of the magical, colorful tapestry that is my life.  And it’s not stressful so if you see me losing my ever-living shit in the near future, please know I am not stressed.  I’m just crying tears of wonder and joy that all this is mine.  Mine all mine.

Crawl

http://www.do2learn.com/games/safetygames/printouts/firesafety/crawl.htm

Hoping for forward momentum (Image credit) http://www.do2learn.com/games/safetygames/printouts

I’m fine; everything is fine. He’s reading ESPN highlights on his phone.  I sit up and look over his shoulder.  Sergio and Tiger are embroiled in a controversy, and Sergio is pissed at Tiger.  Stand in line, Sergio, I think to myself.

I decide not to tell him.  He doesn’t need to know.

Shit. Those five words in that order mean one thing: I better open my mouth and start talking.  Even though I’d rather just make fun of golf tournaments or one of our kids and go to sleep.

“So. . . ” I say.

He’s still scrolling through the Sergio-Tiger article.

I clear my throat. Go!Go!Go! I scream at myself.  I roll onto my back and let it unfurl. “I did something stupid that I feel ashamed about, but I learned my lesson and won’t do it again.”

Now I have his attention.

He rolls towards me and waits for the story between the shame caveats that bookend most of the shit that comes out of my mouth at bedtime.  He’s waiting.

“It didn’t cost any money,” I say, telling both the truth and a joke.  “Yet .” I add, trying too hard to be funny.   I know I am going to end up crying.

He’s waiting– laughing– but waiting.

We both are.

So I tell him.  I divulge all the details that I’ll never tell anyone else.  I explain how I had a good idea that rotted in my palm, but I refused to give it up.  “Naturally, I pressed ahead and then waited in anguish for the inevitable results.  I deserved exactly what I got, but still.  The rejection felt like a sucker punch,” I say, unable to meet his eyes.

I want him to respond to me in paragraphs.  If there was a menu, I’d order a pep talk entrée with a side of (fried) insightful discoveries about my self-destructive ways.  I want him to do work that I don’t want to do myself.

“I feel sad that you do this to yourself,” he said.

Now I am crying.  I want him to keep talking but he doesn’t.  He knows I need space. Silence.  Room to flail.

I search for the words to explain my thinking.  Not just the rote mechanics of this latest gambit– I want to explain the big why.  “My mind is like fucking Fox News with a never-ending crawl at the bottom of the screen.  My crawl never ever stops. Never. It’s a constant commentary.  Who’s better, me or her? Is she smarter than I am? Is she skinnier? Is he more successful? Am I the better mother/sister/wife/runner/writer/friend/patient? Who’s better? WHO IS BETTER?” 

How can I explain that those questions drove the latest shenanigans? “I was trying to keep my footing; I was trying to be the answer to my question who is better. But I need a new question.  This who’s better is killing me,” I say, staring at the shadow on the ceiling.

“What if you didn’t ask a question at all?” He suggests. “Then, you won’t have to answer it and you won’t have to work so hard to be the best.”

His brain is not like mine.  He doesn’t have a crawl.

“Impossible.” I’m crying harder. 

What if I could be free of it?  A me who is more creative, joyful, vulnerable and connected flashes through my mind. I want to meet her.

In the dark I believe she’s out there waiting for me.

I want to run to her, but all I can do is crawl.

New Orientation: A Competition Junkie Discovers The Pleasure of Love & Connection

June 2012

“Why are you crying?”

“It’s Friday.”

“So?”

“So? What do you mean ‘so’? It’s Friday. Hello? Results come out on Friday.”

“Is this about Yeah Write?”

“What do you think?”

“I assume you didn’t do well on the grid?”

“Grid? It’s not just a grid. It’s a writing contest. I lost. I suck.  I can’t do this. Everyone hates me.”

“Maybe you should take a week off. Get some perspective.”

“I have perspective. The perspective is that I am not very good at this.”

“If you say so. Can I just point out that you get really upset on Fridays? I’m wondering if it’s worth it.”

“Next week I will do better.”

“Is that code for ‘next week I’ll win’? Because you might not and then you’ll be crying again. And we’ll be having this conversation.”

“And?”

“So, maybe if you take a week off you will be less upset next Friday.”

“I’m fine.”

“Want a tissue? Your nose is running from all the crying.”

“No. I don’t want a tissue. I’m not crying. I just have something in my eye.”

* * *

One week later–

“Why are you crying?”

“Don’t ask me questions that you know the answer to or that you don’t want the answer to.”

“Yeah Write?”

“No.”

“Liar.”

“I”m not lying. I am just upset because Justin and Selena broke up.”

“Right. You are sitting in the dark listening to Otis Redding and crying about the Biebs?”

“Yes. Can you turn off the light please?”

“Sure– You know, you could take a week off and–”

“Shut up! I am not taking a week off. I don’t quit.  Sitting on the dock of the bay…”

“Crying really enhances your singing voice.”

“Get. Out.”

* * *

Six weeks later–

“Why is your face all splotchy?”

“No reason.”

“Oh Jesus. It’s Friday.”

“No, I’m fine.  I just came from therapy. We worked it all out.”

“Worked out what?”

“What’s wrong with me?”

“You did that in an hour?”

“Hour and a half.”

“Great. So will you be taking some time off of– ”

“No. Running away isn’t the answer. I know what I need to do.”

“Should I even ask?”

“If you want to.”

“What do you have in mind?”

“I have to let go of making everything about winning.  I can’t live like that. There’s a better way.”

“Really? It’s good to hear you say that. You know, you don’t have to try to be the valedictorian of everything.”

“It’s a compulsion. Winning feels like the only way to be ok.”

“Ok?”

“You know, the only way people will love me.”

“Now you know otherwise?”

“I plan to find out.”

“Good.”

* * *

Months later–

“You never cry on Fridays anymore.”

“I know! It’s a miracle.”

“What happened?”

“I found that better way.”

“And?”

“I’m not trying to win anymore. It’s not the point.”

“What is the point?”

“Love.”

“Love? Are you talking about Yeah Write?”

“Yep.  Connecting with people I love, whose writing I love and putting love letters up every Tuesday.”

“Really?”

“Yes. Love. It’s about love.”

“Took you long enough.”

“No shit.”

When Your Kid Misses You While You Are At Work

I want to work AND pick up this munchkin

I want to work AND pick up this munchkin

At 3:10PM I see that my nanny is calling me on my cell phone. I’m at work so she and Simon should be picking Sadie up from school.  I don’t panic. (Yes, I do.)

“Hi, Sabrina. Is everyone OK?”

“Yes, Christie, everyone is fine, but do you have a moment to talk to Sadie? She’s missing you.”

“Of course.”

Sadie tells me that she told her teacher how much she misses me and that she wants me to pick her up from school.  (At least, I am pretty sure what’s what she said as she held the phone almost inside her mouth to talk to me.)

“I’m glad you can tell your teacher and me and Sabrina how much you miss me.  What did your teacher say?”

“Mommy, I didn’t let her talk because I wanted to keep talking. I told her over and over and I did not want my nanny to pick me up. I wanted you to pick me up.”

I still don’t panic. (Yes, I do.) Teachable moment.  I feel sad that she’s having a hard time and grateful she can articulate her feelings.  And I wish I could be in two places at once and that money grew on trees and that I understood how to balance my life.

“Sadie, I would love to pick you up.  I miss you very much.  On Thursday, I can take you to school and pick you up.  I can’t wait.”

There are a few more rounds of “I. Don’t. Want. My. Nan. Nee. Picking. Me. Up.”  I let her vent and say it as many times as she needs to.  I promise her I will see her very soon.  We discuss the snack I will bring her on Thursday when I pick her up– “No Goldfish or Wheat Thins.  Cold Water with ice and dried raspberries.”  I start to sing her The Greatest Love of All and she hangs up on me.  Accidentally, I’m sure.

Later I email her teacher and let her know that I am aware that Sadie is unhappy at dismissal time because she wants me to pick her up.  Within 16 minutes, the teacher emails me back:

I know it’s probably hard for you to hear her disappointment, but I think this can be a great growing experience for Sadie.  While we always would like to remove disappointment from children, it is inevitable, and I think sometimes, just helping them learn how to cope with the disappointment is almost more valuable.

And now I commence to sob heartily into my pillow because (1) teachers got so incredibly loving and aware since I was Sadie’s age (no offense, Ms. Durlan), (2) because I can’t fix her disappointment or be two places at once, (3) because I feel responsible for her distress, (4) because I’m not sure if the job is worth the toll it is taking on her (or me), and (5) because there is something about my kids being surrounded by loving adults (like me, Jeff, and their teachers) who love them and will honor their feelings and help them face whatever life (or I) throw at them.  It makes me cry.

There are tears of joy, gratitude, fear, indecision, regret, anxiety, sorrow, humility, confusion, hope, and terror.  It’s going to be a long cry.