Today, I am sharing a post by one of my favorite seminary peeps, Matt Schroeder. He is a deep and compassionate soul and a great writer. Enjoy!
The Comfort Of Crying
I’ve never been good at crying. I try to shut it off as soon as possible. I come up with every reason why I’m not allowed to. I always hide from my feelings in one way or another. As a result, I cry maybe once or twice a year. Now? I’ve cried three times in as many days. I’m not talking about dignified crying with a modicum of sniffling and occasional dabbing of the eyes. I’m talking uncontrollable sobbing that leaves me with a headache and maybe some dehydration. I cry for reasons so large I can’t ignore them. I’m mourning people I’ve never met and now never will. I’m angry at our leaders for causing so many preventable deaths by choosing profit and comfort over protection and safety. I’m upset with myself for wanting to say something, anything, to comfort others and coming up with nothing. But I can be honest with you about where I am.
I should acknowledge that I’m more privileged than most right now. I still have a roof over my head. I have my basic needs met. Many of my friendships were already long distance so I’m used to using the internet to keep in touch. Online classes have been fine overall and are actually better for me since I don’t spend four hours a day commuting. The friends I usually see regularly have been great about keeping in touch too. But the anxiety I feel any time I have to leave my apartment dwarfs everything. I’m constantly worried that I didn’t wash my hands thoroughly enough or that I touched something contaminated while trying to get back in. Taking the dog out feels more like a potentially life-threatening burden than a pleasant excuse to go outside. I often come back to sad news about more deaths or another government dysfunction making things worse. If someone were to ask me how I’m feeling on any given day now I’d respond with one word: Heavy.
Typically when I feel this way, I either get caught in the past regretting mistakes that led to this feeling or get stuck in the future berating myself for all the things I’m not doing in the present to make said future happen. I can’t do that this time. No one could have predicted this. Last month might as well be last year. No one knows when this will end. All we know is, this is our life now. So I’m stuck looking straight ahead at the giant scary shadow monster that is all the feelings I usually push away. Nowhere in my head to run anymore. In the moments when this monster wraps itself around me and I feel the full weight of everything hit me, I do the only thing I can: Cry.
But that’s not what I’m supposed to do. I was told by society, as many of us were, that men don’t cry in anything but the most extreme circumstances. When I would cry as a child, adults rushed to stop me as soon as possible. Their first response more often than not was “calm down” or “don’t cry, focus on this” or in the case of one person, “ I’ll give you something to cry about.” So I eventually saw crying as some sort of failure. I saw it as the moment when I lost control of myself despite my best effort, and I needed to get myself under control as soon as possible. That’s what everyone around me taught me, in different ways. I don’t blame them. They were trying to spare me unpleasant feelings as best they could. At the end of the day though, I never learned how to cry. I never learned how to let myself be in that moment without rushing to fix it. I never learned how to go through my sadness instead of around it.
But now that our new normal is here, I’m finally learning. I’m learning that I can stop running away and let my feelings tear through me sometimes and still be ok. I used to think I’d never stop crying if I started. Now I cry until I’m ready to stop, and I’m always better for it. Crying is comforting in its own way now. I’ve accepted that the person coming out of all this grief won’t be the same person who went in, and that’s okay. I’ve realized that my negative feelings aren’t a big scary monster, just a side of myself I’m still getting used to accepting. Crying isn’t failing. It’s just kneeling before we stand up again.
Thank you Matt for giving us permission to cry. And please keep writing!
For future nuggets of grace, you can follow Matt’s blog here: Quietly Questing Blog by Matt Schroeder
John 11:35 ~ Jesus wept.