Monday, October 29, 2007
Frost and Tears
Ever heard of the saying "the frost is on the pumpkin?" It's from a poem by James Whitcomb Riley and definitely describes the world I woke up to today. Chilly, crisp air, frost covering everything, and it's all exhilarating and beautiful in some strange way.
I suppose I could view the cold morning negatively and fret over the upcoming heating bills, but why depress myself over things I can't control?
Then there are the things that are a little more under my control. On Sunday I had a breakdown moment, complete with tears. Instead of viewing this negatively -- my new medication is making me over-emotional, too prone to tears, and it's embarrassing and I feel out of control -- I realize how good this actually is for me.
I have always been a person who tries not to cry because I've always viewed it as a sign of weakness. I suppose this was ingrained early, as illustrated by the story I'm about to tell you. When I was about 4 years old my uncle hid my Christmas presents and informed me that I was bad and Santa didn't bring me anything. I got angry, telling him I knew he had hid the presents, and I wanted him to put them back under the tree. This went on for some time -- the uncle trying to convince me I didn't get anything, my defiant anger -- until my uncle turned to my mother in frustration and said, "I can't get her to cry!"
Yes, I've got some screwed up family. But since that time I don't like people playing mind games with me. I still have issues about my coping skills when I get hurt by others. Usually I suppress my feelings, withdrawing from the person emotionally if I'm not able to completely eliminate the person from my life. In fact, I'm doing this right now with some people who have hurt me! I'm not saying it's the healthiest thing in the world to do, but I just know confronting these people would not change their behavior or the situation and would only cause World War III. So I have to protect myself the best way I can.
Once in a while I will get angry, but normally it's only when I'm defending someone very close to me -- my mother, my sister, my daughter, my best friend. It's rare that I get that angry in my own defense -- only when it's come to the point that I don't care anymore if the relationship is ended by my blow-up. (Okay, I found this image while searching for crying pictures, and while it does kind of illustrate anger, the darn thing makes me LOL! What a ridiculously staged photo-- I love it!)
It's taken me a long time to realize that my expression of anger is not an absolute death-sentence for a relationship; I'll never forget the time I flipped out on a friend for letting me down on something that really mattered to me. I totally expected this person to never speak to me again, but the next day I received flowers from this friend in apology!
For a long time withdrawing and anger have been the only two accepted methods for me. Crying to me was a sign of defeat -- the other person "won" by breaking me down to tears. I felt it gave the other person the upper hand and power over me. But lately I've been discovering a lot of positives in this crying business. For one thing, it definitely releases the emotions I tend to hold inside, which many times can lead to depression and/or compulsive eating if I don't address them. And if I let myself cry over something that has hurt me, it enables me to let go of those feelings so they don't fester inside and grow into something much bigger and more powerful than they should be.
I've also realized in the last couple weeks, my tears have actually helped in getting my point across. I suppose I have the same problem that many people do: we think the people around us are mind readers and can tell when we're upset and when things really bother or hurt us, even though we don't tell them. We expect them to read our body language or tell by what we don't say or do to figure it out. Unfortunately, most people just aren't that intuitive or have those psychic powers.
And sometimes, even when we do tell someone what's on our minds, if we do it too calmly with little or no emotion behind it, they don't take it seriously. I've mentioned Lori's 2x4 over the head method before, but it's so true: with some people it takes a major effort to get their attention. I can be so emotionally suppressed and withdrawn, especially with my old mind set that emotion= weakness, that my feelings don't get across and subsequently I don't wind up getting what I actually need.
For my husband, I think I've finally found my 2x4: tears. I don't want it to sound like I'm deliberately shedding crocodile tears to manipulate him and get my way, because I would never play those kind of games. Two times in the past week, the second yesterday afternoon, I wound up crying during serious discussions with him, and it was something I deliberately didn't want to do, but I wasn't able to hold them back. What I've realized, however, is that this definitely gets his attention, and not only is he better able to understand what I'm feeling and thinking, but he winds up being more insightful and expresses himself better, too. Perhaps the reason for this is because if I go to him angry, his natural instinct is to get defensive and self-protective. But if I'm crying, it's obvious that I'm not out to attack him, and his natural response is to open up to me and try to make me feel better.
And guess what? For some time I've been addressing the same issues over and over with him with no luck. But now that I'm showing him the emotions behind these issues, when he can actually see how much of an emotional toll it's taking out of me, it's like he's finally really hearing me.
So while this crying thing is a little scary, I'm quickly realizing how much it's benefiting me. It just goes to show that I need to look for the positives in all things, even if they appear like a negative at first glance. Maybe even this weight regain I've had may have some purpose I'm not yet aware of.
Someone sent me this prayer in one of those e-mails that you're supposed to forward on to other people. While I'm not ultra-Christian, the message in this prayer definitely struck me today and helped me know that I should not regret what I've been through and where it's brought me -- I am exactly where I am meant to be:
"May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content knowing you are a child of God. Let His presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us."