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"Better Out Than In, Why We Shouldn't Suppress the Sobs"

Tears have been flowing out of me lately like snowmelt on a sunny day as it drips off the roof to make huge fat puddles. My wonderful granny used to go about with a stash of Kleenex up her sleeve, now I know why. You never know when you might need one.

You are possibly wondering why I’m sharing this soggy, snot-filled tale about my inner workings. I’m sharing this because I think there are many of us who’ve suppressed our feelings for too long and to cry for no obvious reason is deemed irrational. When I was growing up and had an emotional “wobble,” dad would adopt a slightly horrified face and say, “Oh darling, let me go and find your mother.”

It’s not that he didn’t care, he cared hugely. Dad was an exceptionally emotional man who could cry watching the BBC news. He felt life and people’s struggles deeply, but he didn’t know how to sit in sorrow because he always wanted to fix things.

We live in a society where feelings are so often masked. I grew up in Scotland, where the stiff upper lip is so hard it seems to have overdosed on Viagra. In the US, my home for the last few decades, an emotional soul is sent to the therapist “to be fixed.” There is a pill or a book out there to ease your woes. As for menopause, take drugs or struggle quietly.

In the last year my marriage ended, and life has been a tumultuous ride to say the least. I met someone and started a relationship with a South African whose background is in philosophy. Add to the mix I’m a menopausal woman, who for the first time in their life can’t just “fix things.”

My three children are navigating a new ‘normal.’ I’m scrambling to educate my inexcusable lack of knowledge about finance. I’m juggling guilt and the South African who captured my heart is undecided about his future plans.

Open the floodgates. There isn’t a pill, or a book, or a quick fix for any of this. There is only time. A dear friend told me “You’re going to be more than okay, just right now you have to sit in the mud for a bit.” She was right. She has remarkable stamina for coping with the mud flats of life that slow us down, and she knows the only way through is to keep going.

Why do we hide our tears? Why do we struggle to sit with someone while they are sad and think we have to fix everything. Powerful emotions make people uncomfortable.

I’ve learned there’s no cup of tea strong enough to help the healing. Pills can take away the emotions of a rollercoaster, but they can’t stop the ride. Therapists have suggestions and books to back them up, but we can’t have answers if we haven’t sat down to work out the questions.

It takes sitting in discomfort to find clarity. It takes being vulnerable to be open to change. Crying is a natural release with the unfortunate side effect of transforming your face into a mutated puffer fish, but the inner healing outweighs the public visual.

It’s taken me almost 50 years to accept painful emotions have a place in life. My southern hemispheric philosopher says its part of what makes us human.

When someone dies or life throws a nasty curve ball, we get a pass to sob openly. It’s almost expected or there’s something wrong with you if you don’t show emotion. But to cry because the car won’t start, you burned dinner, your child had a hard day, you love so much it hurts and you simply feel so intensely about something that your tears flow, should be okay too.

It's good to let feelings show and I want my kids to avoid my old knack for emotional restraint. They are seeing my puffer fish face more than ever and understanding that life can be hard. I’m not hiding it and I don’t think any of us should.

Since I started this blog, friends (of a certain age!), have told me they've never cried so much in their life as they do just now. The trigger is anything from being wished a good day by a doting partner, to a random song on the radio. Inexplicable causes to stoke several hours worth of intense sobbing.

So, if I am around any of you when you experience a ‘wobble,’ I’m going to sit there without throwing out my opinions of an exit strategy. Instead, I will put my hand up my sleeve and offer you a Kleenex.


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