Big boys do cry

I was tempting fate. . .

. . .to have proclaimed that in 2020 I had been more anxious but no less happy. It certainly couldn’t go on like that for much longer.

And so it was that since the turn of the year, there have been more tears in my eyes than I’ve ever known. A lot of despair and a lot of sadness. But, in my calmer and more peaceful moments, I’m beginning to wonder whether on some level this is not such a terrible state to be in.

In some sense it feels rather amazing – it’s like I’ve gone in deep beyond last year’s anxiety, beyond the mind’s “protective” play, and uncovered a little boy that once upon a time knew how to feel incredibly deeply.

And now that I’m in this sad life space, I think I might just prefer the struggle with sadness to the usual anxious one. Each time the tears come there is normally some sort of release, and the next day things don’t seem quite as sore as they did. It feels like a healthy response to the current predicament. The frantic mind, on the other hand, never wants to quieten down and is all too eager to find a way to escape – though never can quite escape itself.

The interplay between mind and emotions

I’ve long considered the interplay between my mind and my emotions. I used to cry pretty good, like a baby some might say. However, at some point that ability to cry disappeared. A natural growing up process. . .perhaps, but I’m sure it was driven more by survival than anything.

At best, my tears as a younger being were simply ignored; at worst, however, they were outright ridiculed or even punished. Rare was it that there would be warm open arms for me to nestle up to and find some solace within. No one wanted to witness how I felt, for fear, I suppose, with them being human and all, that it risked them feeling something of what I felt too.

Of course, that I didn’t cry didn’t mean I didn’t have the normal everyday feelings – sadness, distress, joy even – that get associated with tears. I instead found another way of dealing with what I was feeling. A way that left me far less exposed to the ridicule or punishment.

Without distractions we have to face our pain

And so, I retreated, at first with the full force of my tears and frustration on display, to a small corner someplace on my own and began figuring out how to push those emotions way out of sight – from others and myself. I’d busy my mind with things so that I’d not have to feel those difficult feelings. So that I wouldn’t have to be exposed, or expose others, to really painful emotions that we had no way of managing.

Though, in the process, I’m sure I lost connection to other feelings of the moment – the “good” ones, like the joy and wonder – too. And so it was that I came to know myself as mainly a mind always eager to be busy and barely able to rest for many seconds. And to a large extent that’s how I’ve made my way in this world. Probably not as sad as I could be, but I am sure I am not as happy for it either.

I’ve stopped reading the news. That’s helped. I’ve dropped my use of social media too. They only seem to make things worse – designed as they are to keep me watching and scrolling, a sense of escape. And then, what with a solid meditation practice each morning since the turn of the year, and at long last having a home in which there genuinely are arms to nestle up within, these emotions have been coming thick and fast. Like a colourful rainbow.

Something happening to us

It’s OK to feel. It’s one of the best bits about being a human. It’s sad, and I write that with tears in my eyes, that we so often consider it a psychological abnormality to be visibly sad and distressed. Why is it we tell ourselves and others that there must be something innately wrong within when the situation we face outside is difficult? “I can do it, so why can’t they”, we might too quickly say to push the suffering of others away.

Even in “normal” times, whatever that was, we’d blame and judge rather than see someone’s struggle as a reflection of the society in which we all live and have our hand in creating. A society that jostles too much and could hardly be considered to be caring and compassionate – far too quick to ignore, ridicule, or punish.

As Krishnamurti once said: “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

Perhaps there is something better ahead for us all. Amongst those tears I still get my rays of hope.

Thank you.

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