In my family of origin I was known as “the emotional one.” My mother served this up as an explanation hinging on an apology to my sisters who were infinitely more stoic in their demeanor. My memory is faulty, but I am willing to assume that my mother was genuinely distressed for me when I cried. I know, however, that my sisters were decidedly unmoved. I do remember occasions when one or the other would say, with exasperation or disdain, “Why is she crying, now?” Empathy was in short supply and hugging it out unheard of.
After I cast my vote for HRC, I got in my car and felt the familiar restriction in my throat that presages extreme emotion—and tears. Immediately a familiar tug-of-war began in my mind. One part of me wanted to give in to the tears, let them happen without question for whatever catharsis might be looming, the other part of me began to analyze why I was having such strong emotions and questioned whether any of the possibilities justified my response.
At this point you’re probably thinking this post is about the election, and while it does relate obliquely, that’s more happenstance than intention. I really wanted to muse about feelings, and how not to judge them.
The weekend before the election, I attended a seminar on visiting the sick and Jewish mourning customs. In small groups we shared why we were interested in the subject. When it was my turn to speak, I could barely choke out the words for the pain in my throat. Crying and gasping, I stuttered my reason for attending. I was horrified at my inability to control myself and apologized repeatedly as we rejoined the class.
When we left, a woman who witnessed my distress, with whom I am only casually acquainted, asked if she could give me a hug. I don’t have the words to explain how I felt as she hugged me, but in that moment I was deeply appreciative that she wanted to express that she cared about my pain.
Strong, negative emotions can be difficult to witness. In our society we’re expected to bury anger, despair and sadness to spare others from discomfort. That is something that I don’t seem to be able to do, but like others who are exposed to my tears, I am made uncomfortable by them. My desire is not to learn to restrain myself, but to become comfortable with my responses; to acknowledge that they are an integral part of who I am, and that without them I would be, somehow, less than.
Maybe this is about the election. People are in pain, sad, and scared. At least fifty percent of the country could use a good, strong hug; affirmation that we care about their pain, even if there is nothing we can do to help. We need to be allowed to feel our feelings, otherwise how do we ever move on from anything?
We could use a great big collective hug right now.
There’s a hug around here somewhere.
The day after in public and at the office, I wanted to say something to everyone as our eyes met, but I didn’t know what. There needs to be a greeting like “My condolences.” I biked past a young black woman on a park bench and just burst out with, “I’m sorry!” She replied warmly, “That’s okay!” I wondered if she knew what I meant. Why she felt she had to make it okay for ME, a white woman, that I felt sorrow for her pain and increased vulnerability in our nation.
One note about the hugging. I have appreciate receiving and giving hugs to people I’m close to. But I’m not a hugger usually and when I’m very upset and someone tries to touch me I can lash out. Wondering how to negotiate that with others. When someone offers me a hug I don’t want, I completely appreciate their offer of comfort and struggle with how to acknowledge it fully without making them feel bad if I say I don’t want to be touched.
I think it’s perfectly okay to say, “I appreciate that, but I’m not a hugger.” Meanwhile, I’m sending you a virtual one.
Thank you Judy! I too am “the emotional one” trying to, instead of being embarrassed, appreciate the depth of my feelings and the reasons for them. Big hug!
What happened to me was so strange,since I have gone through a lot, but it has never felt like last Tuesday into Wednesday. May be I am coming of age!! As I witnessed the un expected, I threw up twice!!, Headache kicked in, I had a stomach upset and legs were warbling. I had worked overnight as relief as one of my staff called out sick. My other staff whom I worked with, is a well-known “R” to all of us.
But as I turned off the TV at midnight she jumped out of her room and asked me why I had turned off the TV!! Fast forward, in the morning the Van driver whom I have never had any conversation with a part from a the Hi’s, came out to me with wide smile and said”CONGRATULATIONS” I immediately responded, Of What?
Finally as my usual routine, I had to go to my other place I take as home because of the way I have been always treated. But when I reached, I could barely walk or talk, the mood in the house was somber, and everyone looked dejected. Thanks to the lady of the house that I respect so much who did her best to console me. I politely asked why the TV was on!! ( CNN) but my other workmate had it on. It was immediately turn off.
But as I was getting to do what I usually do upstairs I could barely walk, in actual sense I was crawling around!! She came upstairs and she patted on my back and finally gave me a hug Infront of her husband!! The husband finally said ” Don’t get worried so much,as soon as you know it, it will be four years gone”. From the hug and encouraging words, I managed to finish my chores. But every time I think about what happened I feel sick in the stomach. No listening to the radio in my old car and no watching any TV channels related to what is trending. I may be wrong but many people need counseling!!
You have a big heart, Isaac.