(Originally published on March 7, 2008…10:30 pm.)
I know how to keep my mouth shut.
In fact, I keep my mouth so tightly shut so much of the time, I’ve developed painful jaw tension. This is how I keep myself from lashing out; I clench my jaw, literally and figuratively biting my tongue.
(When I was in 5th grade, a boy named Ryan Hopkins stopped me nearly every day to say, “Is your face hurting you, Becky? It’s hurting me!” Yes, Ryan, my face hurts. Are you happy now? )
Anger, that I at least pretend to control. Sadness? Hooooo, nelly. Not a chance.
I’ve been sobbing publicly since… birth. It happened regularly through elementary school, and grew worse during my hilariously awkward adolescence.
The fact that I’m a blanket-y blank college student now makes no difference. None whatsoever. The waterworks rush onward.
I’ll be sitting in a lecture or rehearsal, minding my own business, fighting to maintain a calm, professional exterior, then WHOOOOOOSH! A tidal wave of tears washes my homework away. All heads spin in my direction as I try to act nonchalant, hoping no one notices my bleary eyes, drippy nose, and puffy red face.
This is humiliating. It makes witnesses feel fidgety and uncomfortable. It gives me the distinct impression that I’m an enormous loser, that I’ll never be able to handle reality or accomplish anything in life.
But! But but! These days, there is a bright side to the crying; I’m a music major, surrounded by musicians. Musicians understand this sort of thing.
My fellow students have not failed me; in the past week, even near-strangers have noticed my all-around hopelessness and come to the rescue.
I have received encouraging notes from long-lost friends, unsolicited hugs, gentle hair-stroking, and forehead kisses from observant classmates, along with some much-needed high-quality Listening.
For the first time, that thing Mom always said about ’squeaky wheels’ is making sense. If my body didn’t FORCE me to cry, no one would ever know I was hurting, and no one could ever help me. I sure wouldn’t TELL them what was wrong.
Thank you, body, for forcing me to face reality. And thank you, music students, for making reality almost bearable.
(Editor’s note: by the time I was 25 or 26, the waterworks ceased. I rarely cry now, let alone publicly. Hallelujah. If there are any young weepies in the audience, hang tight. If I can mellow with age, anyone can. )