There are things that make me cry. Commercials about farmers. Dogs that die in books. Onions.
I don’t like it.
I come from a house where my mom is a notorious cryer. Every Christmas, we get together on Christmas Eve and my mom pulls out the old “Littlest Angel” book to read out loud. Every year she reads it. Every year she bursts out into tears when the littlest angel presents his box of childhood treasures to the Christ child. Every year, I cry along with her.
My dad cries, too. I remember once when I was growing up, on the last leg of a 14-hour road trip, my family ended up parked in front of our house on the street. It was dark, probably late, and my dad was reading the last few pages of “Robin Hood.” I won’t spoil it for you, but it’s pretty crappy, considering how gangsta RH was. Anyhoos, we sat there, listening to my dad read those last few pages, barely audible because the tears were streaming down his face and catching in his throat. It was a moment that I treasure.
These were the experiences that shaped my view of crying. I never thought a man crying was weird, or a weakness. It was what dads did, assuming they were watching a movie where the hero gets killed in combat or his dog dies. Moms? Even more teary and tolerated. I learned early and often that it was okay to cry when the diaper commercials started talking about how, all too soon, little babies were going to grow up to become professional athletes and astronauts.
Now, I am 34 years old. I have a daughter. I have a husband. I have a dog. And, I have become a person who doesn’t like to cry.
Like throwing up, crying is something that I now do only if I can’t think of a way to suppress it. I hold it in, bury it down, lie about it. Abigail says, “Mom, are you okay?” I say, “Yeah, baby. I think I accidentally poked myself in the eye.” She says, “You do that a lot. Maybe you should see a doctor.”
She doesn’t know the half of it.
It’s been 6 years since we had our daughter. It took us 3 years to get pregnant with her. After all the heartache over not being able to have kids, we were blessed with Abigail. “Just watch,” they all said. “Now that you have one, you’ll be surprised at how quickly the next one comes.”
That was 6 years ago.
I have to wonder what is wrong with me. I have to wonder what is wrong with us. Is it physical? Emotional? Spiritual? Is there a way to cut down on the caffeine, stress, exercise so that we can be ready to have another baby? What am I doing wrong? How can I fix the mistakes that I’m obviously making so that we can grow our family?
This is one of the key reasons why I don’t cry very much anymore. It’s been years since I put up the emotional wall. Indifference is better than feeling the sting every, every month. Counting them up…70…71…72 months of hope, faith and failure. I can’t bear the roller coaster, so I just shut my eyes and put my hands over my ears. It’s better not to feel anything than to feel crushed and broken every time those spots of blood re-appear. Reminding. Always reminding of what I am trying so hard to forget.
Recently, I followed inspiration and my mother’s advice. I invited my friends, neighbors – hell, even people I met on the street – to pray for my family. I was sure that, with all the extra help and support, we would have a miracle happen. Finally! We would have another child in our family. Abigail prayed the strongest, asking that if God couldn’t send a baby, maybe Santa could. We fasted and waited, hoping that this was the missing element that we had be omitting for so long. I even thought it might be a great lesson, something that I would share for years to come. “We asked everyone we knew to fast and pray for us, and a week later we were pregnant! Also, 3 people got baptized because of the miracle! And now, our son is the prophet!”
Instead, I found myself at church this morning, dry-eyed, purse stocked with feminine products and rage. I asked for so little. There are women who are cursing God because they have just found out they are going to have a baby. They are, even now, thinking of ways to eliminate this child from their lives. And here I was, singing in church, giving away my talents, my energy, my soul…And still, I must beg and plead for another child to be put in our lives. Who’s in charge of this universe, anyway?
A friend came to talk with me after the meeting was over, to tell me how much she enjoyed the song I had sung. She asked innocuously, “How are you doing?”
I said, smiling, “I am so angry.”
If you have ever had someone do this to you, you know that the first response is to imagine that they are “kind of” angry, but mostly just frustrated. Most people respond by smiling back and making a joke. My friend didn’t have a chance.
“I’m so angry. I am so angry.” I just said it, over and over. Clenching my fists. My fingernails digging moons into my palms. Smiling. Smiling and seething until all the rage fell out of my eyes, spattering my glasses and digging trenches in my makeup.
Oh, to howl! How I wish I could howl, to rage against the machina deus. But, that is not what I believe. And, that is the reason why I believe. Because, when you believe there is always someone bigger and smarter than you, it makes you less afraid of the future.
I sobbed. I mourned, right there in the quiet chapel, my friend quietly holding my face.
It hurts to admit defeat. But still, crying itself is not the enemy. In fact, it is a healing tool that often takes the sting out of being human. It connects you with the things you don’t want to face. For me, it helped me see that, despite my age, a tantrum is just a tantrum. Afterwards, not much was changed, but I was tired and more willing to think things through logically and impassively.
I can’t give you a happy ending to this story. I don’t know the ending. What I do know is that I am not the smartest guy in the room, so I can’t possibly be the smartest guy in the universe. I will continue to assume that God knows what is best for me and my family, and that his timing is perfect. When it all falls into place, I will be grateful and happy.
Until then, I’ve decided that crying is a good exercise in faith. After all, when the tears are gone, peace takes their place. It’s God’s way of reminding us that he’s still here, carefully crafting our journey so that we get to where we need to be, when we need to be there. The tears are just the mile markers, helping us remember that life is about feeling every moment, no matter how painful it might be.