illustration by James of foolishfire.com
In the not so distant past, I found myself alone on a bench in the middle of Old Quebec City crying my heart out to The Titanic soundtrack, and I was super proud of myself.
I was on a romantic birthday getaway with my boyfriend. The romantic, birthday, getaway, and boyfriend parts of that day were all wonderful, but earlier that day I had received news that ultimately led me to believe that I would not be able to return to work in September. With my hopes and dreams of the previous months all bundled up in the possibility that my employer would accept and implement my requested accommodations, I was a little more than disappointed to hear this might not happen. Problem was, I went straight from that unpleasant phone call to hopping on a plane for a fun birthday trip, and it didn’t even occur to me that my suitcase, along with two spiffy outfits and too many pairs of shoes, contained a torrent of unprocessed emotion that would spill out at the drop of a hat.
My hat was a veggie burger, ordered because I never did pay attention in French class, and neglected to notice that burger de jardin does not imply fresh, juicy ground beef. So what? Well, according to the National Headache Foundation’s Low Tyramine Diet for Migraine, lentils and tofu are OUT. So as I finished swallowing my first two bites of veggie burger, realized that it was not cow, and that my whole plan for a pain-free weekend was GOING OUT THE WINDOW, I began to lose my cool.
“Just get another burger,” my dinner date suggested logically.
“I don’t want another burger.”
“Here, switch and eat mine,” he offered.
And uh-oh, I started to cry.
“I need to go. Take your time and I’ll meet you in the park across the street.”
“Huh? I just ordered another beer…”
Once the waterworks began, they were unstoppable. Maybe it was the spectacular street performance nearby, or perhaps they assumed I was moved to tears by the soaring saxophone rendition of My Heart Will Go On playing from a touristy storefront, but thankfully nobody looked at me sideways. Little did I know that simultaneously, my handsome dinner date was turning red under the gaze of the patrons of an entire restaurant who assumed that he had just been the jerk of the century (I did run out crying after all) but was staying behind to finish his beer before seeking repentance.
As he approached the bench mere minutes later, I was finally ready to verbalize, and my disappointment over the recent bad news tumbled out to an instrumental version of Disney’s The Little Mermaid theme. His story of the restaurant glares was immediately funny (to me) and then we carried on with our fabulous weekend.
So why am I proud that I allowed myself to cry like a baby in public on what was supposed to be, and what was, a special evening in an impossibly beautiful city?
Well, because if I hadn’t, I probably would’ve spent most of my energy that evening holding it in, and I’ve done enough holding it in in my life to know that it makes me snippy and ugly and tense, and now, it can contribute to pain attacks that end in tears anyway, and those kind of tears are a lot less manageable that the ones on park benches with Celine Dion’s peripheral support. Instead of letting the fear-of-what-others-might-think rule my actions, I cried in public, and it was awesome.
As a friend of mine, Martha Blacker, posted in a recent status update:
“Being emotional and vulnerable is not a sign of weakness. For those who struggle with this idea, and I mean this with all due respect and compassion, it’s time to step out of your comfort zone.”