“Life is way too short to hide in shameful silence over feeling emotions we don’t want others to know we have.” Alison Smela
I cry in public – a lot. I was reminded of that truth (for the umpteenth time) last Sunday night, while having dinner (alone) at the bar of a local Texas Roadhouse. In retrospect, I suppose I should’ve known better than to use the “space” between virtually inhaling half of the pail of peanuts and the entire basket of piping hot honey-buttered biscuits in front of me and the arrival of my actual dinner to pull up Rachel Macy Stafford’s latest blog post on my phone. I’ve certainly read enough of them to know that I seldom make it through the opening paragraph before tears begin streaming down my face – #RachelTears – which is why I generally wait until I’m alone and in a quiet place to read them. So, it was little surprise when, less than halfway through “Advice for Reaching Those in Cages (Seen and Unseen)”, there was a warm parade of them marching down both of my cheeks. What did surprise me, however, was how I reacted to them, how I tried to hide them from the other patrons at the bar and the servers who’d come to recognize me and grown accustomed to a much more cheerful disposition. After all, while a quick glance around the restaurant confirmed the obvious (i.e., that there weren’t many (okay any) other 57 year-old male patrons at Texas Roadhouse (or female patrons for that matter!) with tears streaming down their face), it was hardly the first time I’d ever cried in a restaurant or read something that touched my heart.
Truth is: I’ve cried in all kinds of places and for all kinds of reasons. I’ve cried for friends and loved ones who are hurting – and strangers for that matter. I’ve cried in the dugout of a little league baseball game over a first hit and on the field when one of my players, in tears himself, confided that his mom and dad were getting a divorce. I’ve cried in a BBQ dive in Iowa after reading words written by a friend who was convinced the world would be a better place if she disappeared from it and in a crowded Starbuck’s just outside Baltimore at a beautiful young woman’s inability to see the remarkableness of her spirit. I’ve cried (for hours) over chips and salsa in a Mexican cantina overlooking San Antonio’s Riverwalk and over Caesar salads with chicken at The Clubhouse in Chicago – in conversations I wished would never end, but which couldn’t have ended soon enough for the unfortunate servers who we ultimately scared away. I’ve cried at chorale performances and plays, horse barns, golf tournaments, awards ceremonies, conference presentations, book events, movies, concerts – and on too many commercial aircraft to recount. I’ve even cried in conference rooms and depositions packed with hardened trial attorneys and at the sight of a young couple in an upscale Dallas steakhouse consumed with each other. I’ve cried over injustices and, more recently, for the little boy in me who it seems never really cried enough, because he was afraid of tears, if not ashamed and embarrassed by them.
For a moment last Sunday night that shy little boy, the one who too often was ridiculed for wearing his heart on his sleeve, reappeared. He wanted to hide. He wanted to run away from his tears. Only this time, I recognized him – immediately – and I smiled to myself. You see, the grown up me is “glad” I cry, in private and in public. Somewhere along the way, I decided that I’d much rather feel, even though it sometimes means enduring prolonged periods of sadness, than not feel at all. I decided that I’d swallowed my emotions (all of them) long enough, boxed them up and tried to hide them on a shelf, pretended they weren’t there – hoped that if I just ignored them long enough they’d go away. I’d even thought about numbing them a time or two and, if I’m to be honest, on occasion I still do. In the process, however, I denied who I am, why I’m here – one of the central gifts I have to offer. I feel Life acutely and intensely. It’s a blessing and a curse. But, it’s the blessing piece that makes it worthwhile. The ability, borne of a needy heart, to spot a heart in need a mile away and the insatiable desire to offer it comfort. Perhaps Glennon Doyle Melton captured it best in this recent exchange with one of her many admiring followers who asked, “G, Why do you cry so often?” To which Glennon responded, “For the same reason I laugh so often. Because I’m paying attention!”
Who cries at Texas Roadhouse? I do and it occurs to me there’s no shame in that. In fact, I wouldn’t have it any other way.