Last weekend I got into a bit of a social media fight over a slightly political statement I made. Not one part of that sentence is normal for me, so it caused a whole lot of stress to bubble up inside. I also missed about half a night’s sleep, thanks to a birthday girl working hard to get a respiratory infection while simultaneously coming down from a birthday high. So when the next day brought incredibly bad news from two dear friends, my frayed edges disintegrated completely.
All it took was a simple question (“What’s going on?”) from my husband for me to start crying. And by “crying,” I mean the kind where I can’t talk and just gesture wildly at my face, hoping he’ll get the hint that I NEED A MINUTE.
Thankfully, because he’s known me a good long while and observed this kind of face and gesturing more than a few times before, he realized quickly that I didn’t just need a minute. I needed to just cry and snot all over myself — and then take a nap.
And that situation there? Didn’t even faze me, not one bit. My friends’ situations certainly continued to worry and upset me. But my reaction and subsequent breakdown? Totally a normal thing for me — and not awkward or embarrassing at all, really. See, I’m overly sensitive. I’m a cryer. Tears are my superpower and my spiritual gift and my love language. If “Big Bawl Baby” was a personality type, I’d be that, too. And since exhaustion and injustice are my Achilles heels, adding them to the mix guaranteed a meltdown that day.
Those things used to bother me. I remember a friend saying, when we were in high school, that she knew my crying “tell.” The second she saw my lips start quivering, she knew I was trying to hold back the tears. And back then, I held back a lot of tears. Because first of all, HORMONES and CRAZY EMOTIONAL TEENAGER. But also because I was embarrassed by my quick trigger, my thin skin, my overabundance of tears. So I tried to hold them back.
Over the years I’ve gradually grown out of my crying shame. Thanks to my friend Emily, I’ve learned to pay attention to my tears and realized that they have meaning. And thanks to my counselor, I’ve learned that my tears are simply evidence of a big, soft heart that should be cherished (I promise, those are his words, not mine — but aren’t they lovely words?!). And somewhere along the way, as I’ve slowly become more comfortable with who I am and who I’m not, I stopped feeling embarrassed by or guilty for my tendency to cry at Every. Little. Thing.
I hadn’t thought much about that development until I saw PITCH PERFECT 3 with some friends a couple weeks ago.
If you’re wanting a thorough movie review, I don’t have that for you. Not this time. Here’s what I can tell you:
Was it a good movie? No.
Well-written or well-acted? No.
Did we need this movie? No.
Did I enjoy this movie? Absolutely.
Oh – and did I cry during this movie? Yep. More than once.
I didn’t think much about that at first, though I did roll my eyes at myself a tiny bit. I mean, really, this movie — while very funny and full of fantastic harmonies and mashups — is SILLY. Super silly. So to get all emotional about it? Is also a little silly. But I wasn’t embarrassed or anything. Until my friend Hilary leaned over as the movie came to a close and whispered, “Are you crying?”
“No,” I said, deadpan as tears dripped down my face. “Of course not.”
She turned to look at me fully then, and we both burst into laughter. “Of COURSE I’m crying!” I sputtered. “It’s like you don’t know me at all!”
Turns out she suspected I’d be crying and was looking for some solidarity. Because she’d also gotten a little choked up and one of our other friends was teasing her. Later, as we shared the largest table of appetizers Chili’s had ever seen (because if you’re going to have a girls night out, you might as well hit all the cliches, right?), that friend tried to mock me as well.
And I was having none of it. Because I own my tears. I’m cool being a crybaby. I don’t get embarrassed when I cry at a stupid movie!
Protesting too much, you say? Maybe. Probably. WHATEVER THIS IS MY VERSION OF THE STORY LEAVE ME ALONE.
As we swapped plates and passed around nachos and pickles and fries that night, we caught up. It had been quite a while since we’d all been together, and each one of us has a lot going on pretty much all the time. So we told stories and interrupted with questions and unsolicited advice and corrections to the stories BECAUSE DON’T YOU LEAVE OUT THAT PART, and we laughed a lot.
But you know what else happened? A few tears. Yeah, they did. Both during the course of conversations that turned serious on a dime and when my friend demanded I explain what on earth made me cry while we watched PITCH PERFECT 3.
I tried to tell her, waving my hand at the table, saying, “It’s like this, don’t you get it?” Surprisingly, that didn’t explain it one bit. So I told her —
We never know when it’s the last time. We never know when we won’t have another girls night out, another movie night, another happy hour. We never know until it’s gone, and then we can’t fully appreciate that last time we had together. We might not even be able to remember it.
Cue the choking up at Chili’s here. And the rolling eyes and teasing laughs. Still —
We never know when it’s the last time. Except when we do. Because sometimes we do know, like the Bellas during their last performance, that this is the last time. And then HOW ON GOD’S GREEN EARTH do you manage to keep it together enough to sing in perfect harmony?!
[Side note: The last time I saw my friends Jon and Stephanie before they left for missions in an undisclosed part of Asia, I volunteered to sing a special goodbye song at church. You guys? I KILLED IT in rehearsal. I don’t want to brag (hold on because I’m totally getting ready to brag), but the music minister said — AND I QUOTE — “Wow!” after hearing me practice. But during the service? When my friends were there looking at me with their sweet, THIS IS THE LAST TIME faces? I started crying and could not stop. And as it turns out, I would not make it as a Bella (news flash!) because I cannot sing while crying.]
I digress. My point is that sometimes we do know when it’s the last time — like graduation day or moving day, like the last episode or performance or turning in your final paper or project before you change jobs. And those times are sad. And they make me cry. Because while seasons are good and change is inevitable and I’m a grown-up with fairly decent reasoning skills, I simply hate saying goodbye to the people and the experiences I love.
And, apparently, I hate watching pretend people do it, too. Or, I love it but it makes me cry. It’s a love-hate-cry sort of thing.
Last times, finales, goodbyes — they do me in. If I had another heel, I’d add them to my list of Achilles’ heels. But since I don’t, I’ll just say that sometimes even the silliest movies can move me. To tears, I mean. They can move me to tears.
So when the gang stood around reminiscing about the good ol’ days of college and regretting the frustration most of us feel in our twenties, I nodded and sniffled a bit. Because I remember clearly just how angsty I was about FIGURING THINGS OUT for several years post-college, and I miss a whole lot of things about college even now.
And when Fat Amy ignored Aubrey’s feelings about her dad, and I thought about how many times I’ve overlooked someone in favor of my own mess (or how many times it’s been done to me), I got a little choked up. Because friendship is hard and even these beautiful singing clowns get that.
And later, when I watched Rebel Wilson finally get a non-comedic moment right as she gritted her teeth and threatened, “Say your prayers because Fat Amy is coming for you,” I totally laugh-sobbed. Because there is nothing — NOTHING! — that gets me riled up faster than someone messing with my friends or family. And DANG if she didn’t come for those bad guys in a majestically CGI-assisted way! (Not really a spoiler, guys. You’ve seen the trailer. And movies. You can figure out what’s probably going to happen at some point in this one.)
So when the Bellas join arms and voices for their very last performance, all my sniffling and choking up and weird laugh-sobbing got the best of me. As the girls exchanged bittersweet grins and sang their hearts out, I let the tears run down my face. I couldn’t help it. It was the last time. The finale. The goodbye.
And I loved it. And it totally made me cry. And I don’t care who knows it.
What was the last movie (or TV show or book or song) that made you cry?
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