I am a big fan of crying. An advocate even.
I mean I do, genuinely, give webinars and public talks around Aotearoa celebrating the virtues of crying and the chemical impact on the body and brain (Yay Science!). I encourage, celebrate and reward crying with my ethos, in my work and personal relationships.
Having a cry can be a largely positive and satisfying, self-regulating coping mechanism. Cortisol levels (stress hormone) literally leeks out of our eyeballs. Better out than in, is one of myall-time favourite kiwi sayings.
Better out than in.
I am an a criar. (Cryer?)
In middle school, Jordy Himmelfarb wrote in my yearbook that I was cool but in year 6 I cried so much I could have filled up his pool with my tears. That rich little Jewish kid was entirely right. Year 6 was a tough one. All of my friends had been places in the Enrichment class and I did not. I got rejected from the clique of friends, was forced to hang out with the non-academics and got picked on by my new classmates for being a good-two-shoes nerd. Winning combo.
2021 has turned out to be a similar clusterfuck.
COVID, a return to a career that I love (but is woefully underpaid and underfunded), single-mum parenting, custody share, impending divorce, nation-wide legal lockdown, and I didn’t even have a chance to buy chairs or a rubbish bin for my new house before being launched into teaching remotely and managing 3 kids’ home schooling schedules for half the week.
Cortisol levels were high today, my friends. Very high.
Shoutout to my co-parent for taking my girls out for an afternoon bike ride enabling me to walk to the beach solo and deal to my emotions. I could have stayed home and cried in bed or the shower like a normal person but, tbh, I needed the exercise and fresh air. There’s been a lot of risotto eaten in the latter part of lockdown at my house.
So off I went- strolling and storming past the Forbury Road Four Square with the queue of masked patreons. Feeling like crap and headed for the beach in this post-apocalytic, germy masked socially distances (isolated?) world.
Did I have the balls to cry while walking out in public? You bet your sweet ass that I do.
I can bawl like a motherflippin' boss with almost no shame. It’s a gift really. For me, but also for New Zealand. I am single-handedly trying to challenge the stoic farmer, rugby-hyped toxic masculinity of our society through role modelling. I justify crying for me by knowing that I cry for this whole shaken country.
All the educational research will tell you that if you want to teach a kid how to walk, then you must do more than talk. True about sustained silent reading, true about wellbeing interventions. We have to walk the road together. Teach theories all you want but to quote Rhianna, “me haffi work, work, work, work, work”.
So I did.
I, unabashedly, let tears steam down my blotchy red face as I made eye contact with any passer-bys who weren’t too freaked out to look at me. I cried and I cried with conviction.
Not too much. Largely, the world kept turning. Pedestrians keep walking. Dog-owners kept picking up or ignoring their dogs’ little bombs depending on their moral compass. The ocean kept crashing. Masked-up adolescent skateboards kept missing the landings on new tricks.
Nothing stopped. Except for a blue van.
The driver of the blue van waved me across the road, despite it being a roundabout rather than a zebra crossing. I smile and waved a thank you and aimed to carry on. And then he yelled at me.
Side note: What woman doesn’t love to be yelled at out a van window?
“Are you ok?” Muffled but I heard it. I turned, confused and as I removed my earphone, the driver of the blue van repeated himself, “Are you ok?”
“Yeah, I’m good. Thank you.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m fine. I’m just getting divorced. I’m fine.”
“Good. I’m sorry but it's going to be ok. I know you can’t see it right now in the middle of it… but this is going to be a good thing for you… Congratulations.” He brought his palms together at his heart centre.
“Thank you,” I repeated. “It matters, you saying this. Thank you.”
We smiled and went our separate ways.
What happens when we dare to cry in public? What happens when we stop closeting our sadness? What happens when we start feeling without shame?
People want to help. And even if they can’t, that wanting helps. The human overlap helps.
In 2020, as of June 30th it was documented that 654 people died by suicide in New Zealand. On our shores, on our watch. 27 deaths chalked up to COVID.
This is not mean to be a competition.
681 families hurting across Aotearoa from 2020, alone. And that doesn’t include the job loss, the death of dreams and all the hearts and minds that cracked under the weight of a global pandemic. It doesn’t include so many of us immigrants, new New Zealanders not able to see out family overseas. It doesn't include our everyday self-induced bruises. Why aren’t there more of us crying on the street?
I've seen more fistfights in public streets than tears shed.
What are we doing, people?
Crying in the shower? Hiding this loss and pain from our communities. How are we meant to teach our children healthy emotional hygiene if our most real and valid losses are denied? How do we teach each other how to grieve and how to move forward when no one is talking about it. How do we hold each other. How do we let ourselves be held.
Come on, New Zealand. Have a cry. Better out than in.
Peace out, homies. Peace in.