It was Easter morning, the day of the resurrection. A day of celebration, a time to shout hallelujah and echo, “Christ is risen, indeed.” It was a day of pastels and smiles and eggs and ruffles. It was, supposedly, a happy day.
But as I stood in church, mouthing the words to a song full of rejoicing and praise, tears slid down my cheeks. Well-versed in the methods of covert crying, I casually reached one hand up to swipe away the irritating wetness that would reveal my neuroses the second the lights came up and we were instructed to greet those around us.
As if that part of the service wasn’t awkward enough.
Finally, I couldn’t conceal my crazy any longer and whispered to my husband that I’d be right back. He noticed my watery state and asked what was wrong, but I just told him I needed to go to the bathroom.
That’s exactly what I did, where I glared at my flushed face in the mirror, thinking as loudly as one can without spitting out the words: “Pull yourself together, man! This is ridiculous! Get. A. Grip!” I also remembered, too late, that the bathroom I’d hidden in had those annoying hand dryers and no paper towels. But it’s not like it was the first time I had used toilet paper to mop up my face.
I was hit with the perfect storm of tear-inducing situations that morning, catching me off-guard as both the situations and my reaction were unexpected. Learning that a family I loved was moving, hearing that a friend’s daughter was scary sick, and realizing that someone I assumed would be joining us for church was, in fact, not was enough to send me spiraling out of control that morning.
Sometimes I’m a little emotional.
Well, “sometimes” might be an understatement.
It would be more accurate if I said that sometimes I go for hours without shedding a tear.
Because I cry a lot.
And I react strongly.
And often, those things take me by surprise.
Because they’re over the top or incongruent with reality OR SOMETHING.
I remember one afternoon at my first real job after college. I loved what I did so much that I was truly astonished I got paid for it, but I was kept from complete job satisfaction by a manager who I did not get along with. To put it politely.
After sitting next to that manager in a meeting with our boss and arguing over the most outlandish things, letting myself get worked up to the point of tears and shouting, my boss pulled me aside. On that particular day, despite my emotional reactions, I thought maybe she had finally seen things my way. After all I had proved my manager wrong by literally pulling out a dictionary.
[You guys. Let me be the first to point out here how DELIGHTFUL I was back then. Just lovely, really. I proved a point with a dictionary. For the love.]
Anyway, my boss told me that I’m like the girl in that song. THE GIRL IN THAT SONG. Yes, that’s how she started the conversation and it took quite a long time and several of my co-workers for us to figure out to WHAT GIRL in WHAT SONG she was referring.
Finally and mysteriously (because, seriously, I do not know how we ever came up with the right answer), we realized that she was talking about Paula Cole’s song, I Don’t Want to Wait. I KNOW. Clearly my boss should have just said, “Dawson’s Creek,” and we would have moved on much more quickly. But she didn’t, and that was fun.
Her point – and yes, we did finally get to it – was that I was too sensitive. I was, like the character in that song, walking around with shrapnel in my skin. And any little thing could set me off.
As ridiculous as the getting to that point was, her words have stuck with me. In hindsight I really was overly sensitive to my manager and so easily offended I can only cringe when I remember it now. And I don’t want to be like that.
But as I’ve grown and learned and experienced more of life, I’ve found that sometimes I go too far the other direction. I wear an armor of apathy or bitterness or cynicism that, supposedly, protects my sensitive skin from being cut by that shrapnel again. I stuff and bury and hide and try to forget.
I try to forget how things have hurt in the past, and I try to forget how it feels when they hurt now. But, really, all I end up doing is forgetting who I am.
I am sensitive and I have a lot of emotions. Strong emotions and deep emotions, so deep that it would probably scare you a little if I opened up for real. My reactions are strong and sudden and they are everything I am – but I try really hard to keep them under wraps in case they are just too much for you to handle.
Too wet or loud or ugly.
You guys, I am so grateful to be 36 years old and not 23. Being in my twenties was more confusing and caused me more angst than being in my teens – and, at times, I let everyone know about it. I talked and talked and talked, and I cried and cried and cried. I yelled and I gossiped and I complained and I analyzed – and then I analyzed again. I’m glad I’m not like that anymore.
But I’m not so far removed from that angsty, emotional, analytic girl that I don’t find myself crying at awkward times, as surprised as those around me by the tears rushing down my cheeks. I might have matured (thank the Lord) since those shrapnel-skin days, but I’m still easily moved.
And that’s okay. I’m not sorry that I have All The Feelings, that I feel deeply, that my tear ducts are a bit overactive. My counselor says it’s a gift, so I’m going to agree with him. I’m full of feelings, and I’m not sorry about it.
Proving my point with a dictionary [oh my gosh, more than once. MORE THAN ONCE!]? That I am sorry for. But crying when my friends are hurting, when someone hurts me, when I’m surprised or angered or just plain sad? I’m not sorry for that.
Have you ever been embarrassed by your emotions?
This post is part of the 31 Days Writing Challenge. To read all the posts in this series, click here. And to learn more about this challenge or to find more series to read, visit Write31Days.com. Apple photos courtesy of my brother, James.
Love your writing, Mary. I *break tears* as say in our house pretty often as well. It *is* a gift . . . to feel what others are feeling. I’m enjoying your series!
Thanks so much, Lisa!
OH my gosh. I am the ripe old age of almost 26 (give me less than a week) and I cannot tell you the number of times I have felt these exact feelings – that I have to temper my feelings and reactions because I’m too much for people to handle, that I feel too deeply or care too much. I’m still learning not to have the shrapnel-skin, but this has been such an encouragement. Thank you:)
I’m so glad this was an encouragement to you!
Well, this post was certainly a breath of fresh air and encouragement for me. Boy, Mary, can I relate to you – and you said it so perfectly! Thanks for being out there – a kindred soul – dictionary and all :)
Hi Dawn! I’m so glad this was an encouragement to you. Thank you for spending time with me here!
Thanks so much for sharing this! I am a very emotional person too and I react impulsively making me wish sometimes that my temperament is milder and the the too much angst type. Thank you for this well written piece. I feel not so alone anymore and I feel ok about myself after reading this!
Good! You SHOULD feel okay about yourself, Evaughn! :) Reacting impulsively has gotten me more than once. I’m trying to remember now to stop and breathe first. Sometimes it works… ;)
So any suggestions for a 50+ year old crybaby? I’m STILL SO embarrassed when I lose control and cry, sometimes even I don’t understand why! As if that weren’t bad enough, why do my eyes turn bright red bloodshot? Why does my nose turn red like Rudolph? And my skin blotchy? Why can’t I just cry like Demi Moore in Ghost?! I wouldn’t hate it as much and I could hide it so much easier.
I’ve heard people say they bite their tongue to keep from crying. Nothing has worked for me. If I’m going to cry – there is absolutely nothing I, or anyone else, can do about it. As a matter of fact, the more I don’t want to cry, the worse I will cry (sob)! Doesn’t matter if I’m at home alone, at church or at work (that’s the worst!).
So if I could just accept myself and all the emotions I feel so deeply, and not be so totally embarrassed when I do lose it, that would be awesome :-)
I’m afraid I don’t have any solutions, though I wish I did! For me, when the tears come, I just walk away (to the bathroom or just around the corner) if I can. But if I can’t, in some cases, I just carry on like my eyes aren’t leaking because – WHAT CAN I DO? :) I can’t stop the tears but I certainly don’t need everyone in a given situation to stop and pat my back over it. Oh, and I’m never without kleenex. ;)
You and I could be twins! I turned 50 this year. and yes I cry at the drop of a hat. Even more so I can get angry, upset at the least little thing!! Every Sunday our church does communion and it usually brings tears to think and be reminded of ALL the agony Jesus went through!! I have gotten up set more than once at my last job! We have to admit that God made us this way and crying is a release of emotions and a way to heal!
Oh yeah, church ALWAYS makes me cry! I don’t think we’re alone in that one, though. :)
Glad to know I am not alone, as I too am emotional or what they call “super sensitive”. I cry over everything and it has taken me a long time ( I am 38) to really and truly be okay with it. I still cringe at the times when I was younger and was told to “stop crying” and to “get a thick skin”. I just want to say I absolutely loved your post! Have a good weekend :)
Thanks, Mackenzie. Yes, yes, I’ve been called overly sensitive, too. And I’m just now to the point where I refuse to apologize for it! Glad to know I have another kindred crier out there!
What refreshing words. I will be 45 this week, and only in the last few years am I realizing that I am JUST RIGHT even though highly sensitive. I was a “too much” child, and had one myself. But God gave me that gift to love deeply, embrace deeply, empathize deeply and write deeply. And when people read the words of a sensitive soul? They are suddenly “just right” ♥
I love this, Christa – that God gifted you to do all those beautiful things deeply. Amen!