Go Ahead and Cry

How was your weekend? Mine was great!

Saturday morning I was power-praise walking through my neighborhood. It’s my favorite exercise. I gear up in work-out clothes, strap on wrist and/or ankle weights and stride evenly along the sidewalks, exercising my body while soaking in inspiration from surrounding forestry, neighbors’ flower gardens, and children playing in front the Cul-de-sac in front of their homes. This Saturday morning inspiration came from a small boy who fell off his bike.

I was walking, thinking about better managing my emotions so they don’t swell up inside leaving me vulnerable to crying or breaking down at the most inopportune times.

I walked past honeysuckle, enjoyed the sweet fragrance, but was reminded of my mean maternal grandmother who had called me a crybaby when I was about eight because I cried when I fell and skinned my knee. When I was about 13 and complained about the cold draft from the window she wouldn’t close, she’d called me a “heifer.” My paternal Grandmother, as loving and well-intentioned as she was, had warned me against feeling sad when my grandfather died. She had told me to use what was in my head, not what was in my heart to get on with life. As a young journalist I had been compelled to be “objective” and dispassionate. Just the facts. Deal with only the facts.

But being whole, healthy and vibrant now depending on me acknowledging and accepting all aspects of myself – emotions, included.

I walked on, enjoying the warmth of the sun pouring through clear blue sky, and the tweeting and chirping of birds. I noticed a tiny yellow bird and felt delightful. I remembered that I had a chart of emotions at home. It was a chart I bought to use teaching English to immigrants last year. I would use the chart to help them express their feelings in English. I would ask them to point to the picture on the chart expressing the emotions they were feeling that day then write why they were feeling that way. This turned out to be a good ice-breaker at the beginning of the semester  and a good warm-up activity. I decided to use this chart addressing my own emotions each day until acknowledging and accepting them – without judgment or penalty – became easy, natural.

I was strolling when I heard a boy’s happy squeals, “Dad look! A butterfly!” I looked across the street to where he was. Next thing I knew the boy was flat on the ground, his legs tangled around the metal bike frame. I ran to him, “Ooops. Are you ok?” He was too startled to cry – at first. I began helping him untangle as his father quickly set his bike on its stand, removed his helmet and rushed to his son’s rescue. He picked up his small child, while another child riding with them looked on. (It all happened very fast).

He clutched the boy to his chest and allowed him to cry on his shoulder. The boy buried his head at his father’s neck, seemingly more embarrassed than anything, and cried.

“What hurts?” his father asked. “Tell me where it hurts.”

I remembered when parents beat a child then scolded them for crying – and believed they were doing the right thing – disciplining and toughing their offspring for the harsh cruel world they would have to face. I remembered fathers teaching their sons, “men don’t cry!” I remembered being happy when Michael Baisden came out with a book titled “Men Cry in the Dark,” and Bishop T.D. Jakes’ message: “I want everyone to forget about stereotypes and know that real mean have emotions, cry…”

I’d spent years hiding, denying and analyzing my emotions rather than simply accepting them as part of my human experience.

I resumed my praise walk, thanking God for showing me such compassion when – and where – I least expected it.

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