How to Survive in a “Suck it up, buttercup,” World

Step one? Know this: It's not OK to cry.

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I see you. You’re trying to balance everything — family, friends, work, chores. Your bank account. You care about politics. You want to make the world better. Most of the time, you do remarkably well. Now and then, you crack. 

I get it, and I’ve got a very important reminder for you: It’s not OK to cry. 

Now, if tears were flames, I burst into spontaneous combustion at least 10 times last Tuesday. There’s nothing horrible going on. It wasn’t a crisis. It was the sucker punch of life, the combination of countless hurts and frustrations and losses and irritations and worries and failures, those moments we push down and ignore so we can make it through the day. 

On Tuesday, I went to my mom’s retirement center. I gave flowers to the wonderful nurse who has taken such good care of mom, and is leaving to go back to school. I told mom who I was, something I do repeatedly these days.

Then I went out to the parking lot, got into my car, sat there and sobbed. And I continued to burst into tears — without warning — throughout the day. 

You know what happened? I woke up Wednesday and felt lighter. I felt happier. I felt like myself again. And that’s when I remembered … 

It’s not OK to cry. It’s essential. It’s life affirming. It’s cleansing. Crying is visceral proof that we are feeling, caring, emotional beings. Crying is human. 

And I rarely do it, because I’m pretty damn busy being strong and stoic, when I ought to just be. 

So if you, like far too many of my friends, are going through a tough month, here’s my advice: Find a sanctuary. Maybe it’s your home. Your car. A quiet stretch on a familiar path. Then, if you need to cry, let the waterfall flow. 

I find sanctuary in solitude. You may prefer to cry on someone’s shoulder. Either way, when hearts are heavy and eyes are full, we’re not alone. Ancient sages are right beside us, quietly whispering: This too shall pass

(A version of this post first appeared on the Creative Instigation blog.)

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