This week's blog is brought to you by my amazing, powerful, gentle, wise husband, Doug Wilson. As we continue to walk through the cancer jungle together, we do our best to allow ourselves to feel emotions as they come. This brings us even closer to each other and it makes room for use to feel together - not only painful emotions but also the good stuff, like love, relief and ease.
~ Jimmy Dugan in A League of Their Own
That’s a lie, Jimmy. I’ve seen crying in baseball. I guarantee you that when Juan Uribe got hit in the ‘nads by that 106-mph foul ball off the bat of Mike Trout, he cried. Ralph Branca sobbed on the steps of the Dodgers clubhouse after delivering the never-to-be forgotten home run pitch to Bobby Thompson that ended the Dodgers pennant win hopes.
It’s okay to cry. People cry all the time. And they cry for different reasons, like when after stubbing a toe in the middle of the night on that stupid freakin’ footstool you’ve been telling yourself for months you were going to move out of the middle of the living room. And of course, while the tears stream down your cheeks as you hobble the rest of the way to the kitchen to get that glass of water you were after, you quickly forget about the footstool and make your way back to bed, leaving the vile culprit where it sits, laughing at your pain and pitiful tears. Ha, ha, ha, Barefoot-Man has fallen for my trap once again. Will he never learn?
Crying is okay. Crying is good. We all seem to know it’s okay to cry when you win something you’ve worked long and hard to achieve, like a gold medal in the Olympics, the Super Bowl, a Soap-Box Derby, a Junior High Spelling Bee, the first time you defeat your wife at Boggle after 3,257 attempts (she is a wickedly good Boggle player; the faint of heart need not apply for a game. Trust me on this.)
It’s okay to cry, whenever you feel like it. Whether you cry alone or in a crowd. It’s okay. I’m not talking about the single tear down the cheek from being stood up for that blind date, the tear that gets mingled in with the raindrops on your walk home so no one sees it.
I’m not talking about the pinched lone drop that escapes from your eye when you bash your shin while moving the sofa.
Those are both fine times and ways to cry. But what I’m really talking about is the whole body rattle crying, lying on your back with fat teardrops rolling into your ears, snot dripping from your nose down your cheeks to your mouth, wailing out racking sobs of misery when you find out that you have cancer. Or worse yet, that the one you love more than anything in this world has cancer. And it can’t be healed.
It’s okay to cry like that.
Because, sometimes crying is the only thing you can do. And it’s okay. It’s okay because it doesn’t define you. Crying doesn’t define you any more than having the cancer defines you.
Which is not at all.
Unless you want it to.
Of course, you can choose to let crying define you. You can be "The Crier," if you want. You can define yourself as the one who cries at the drop of a hat and just let yourself go any time a thought sparks it in you. And that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with that. If you choose it.
Or you can choose to let cancer define you. You can be the sick guy, who’s dying from cancer. It’s okay if you grasp onto that and cling to it. It can gain you sympathy and respect for your “fight.” And defining yourself that way can even allow you to cry, without any regret or care about whether anyone sees you or not.
But, here’s the thing. You don’t have to define yourself as that sick-guy with incurable cancer in order to cry publicly. Like Jimmy Dugan, many folks believe you shouldn’t cry when you feel like it. You should hold it in until you’re alone. It’s ugly or weak to cry. Crying should be private. Other people shouldn’t have to see you sad. We’re supposed to be strong in for others.
Here's the thing: those are other people’s opinions of who we should be in the world, not mine. I’ll bet if you poll everyone in the room that is reading this with you, maybe your cat, dog and goldfish, they’d all say the same thing, We got you’re back dude, go ahead and cry. And cry ugly if you want to. Because it’s okay to cry.
Personally, I’m still a work in progress on this one. My wife has seen me cry in the worst of circumstances. She’s seen me scream my guts out with tears streaming down my face as they stitched up the tip of my penis with no anesthesia and she’s seen me cry when I couldn’t get my Imodium pill out of the blister pack.
As an aside, who the f*ck designed those stupid Imodium blister packs anyway? Is Imodium some sort of confidential military secret that requires a sixteen-step process and the grip strength of an octopus to get the f*cking package open? Don’t these people understand what we are going through when we actually need an Imodium?!?
Anyway, it’s really okay to cry at all of these times. And it’s okay to let that define you, as long as you want it to define you.
If you don’t want it to define you, don’t let it. Define yourself as the funny, happy-go-lucky guy that brings joy with him wherever he goes. Or define yourself as that compassionate loving mother that does everything for her family. Or define yourself as that brilliant scientist who can figure out anything, given the time and resources to do it.
Or, if you really feel like it, define yourself as a dick. A total jerk that has no love in his heart. The choice is yours.
Personally, I think the last definition will be lonely and sad. But, that choice is still yours to make.
And none of those definitions need to be altered in the least, just by our crying.
So, go ahead and cry. It’s okay. You don’t have to hide it and you don’t have to let it define you. Just know that all of us do it. And we may even do it with you, if you let us.
Just this morning, I went into the bathroom to cry because I was in pain and reminiscing about so many of the painful experiences I’ve had in the last 10 months. I cried in the bathroom, so my wife wouldn’t see me and I wouldn’t activate her sympathetic nervous system, pushing her to cry too. In fact, I cried in the shower, so I wouldn’t feel the tears coming down my own cheeks.
I didn’t need to do that. Annie would have been okay in sharing my burden. We would have held each other and wept and been closer for having done it together. It wouldn’t have defined either of us if I’d done it that way.
But, it didn’t define me to do it my way either. In this case, I just needed to be alone with my tears, so I took them when me into the bathroom, and that was okay too.
It was all okay, because I don’t define myself as a “crier.”
I define myself as the Happiness Guy: Kind, loving, sweet, caring and supportive. I define myself as a Viking Warrior: Strong, tough, capable and able to carry on the fight long after I should be exhausted beyond my own capacity to function. I define myself as the Artistic Scientist: By merging creative art with my scientific understanding of the universe, I can build anything, if I have enough time and resources.
There are no limitations to what is possible except the limitations we place on what is possible.
None of these definitions of myself, Happiness Guy, Viking Warrior, Artistic Scientist, include cry-baby. And that’s okay. Because I’m not a cry-baby. I’m just a man who isn’t afraid to cry.
So, go ahead and cry if you need to. Go ahead and cry if you want to. Go ahead and cry if you just want some sympathy.
And go ahead and define yourself as a crier, if you want to.
Just don’t let any event or anyone, define you. You get to decide how you walk in this world. Events or other people’s opinions don't get to do that.
You get to choose who you will be in the world. So, choose someone you love.