A Little Bit of Wonder is where I journal about the somewhat roundabout way that I have been working to establish a career and a strong sense of self--I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about "direction" and "identity." I have a Master's Degree in Literature, but I'm no longer working as an English Professor; I'm starting the next step in my life as I work to establish a career as a writer in the non-profit sector.

At my companion blog, Little Wonder's Recommended Reading, you will find reviews for both books and other blogs that I enjoy. The two blogs are inter-linked, so you can access my reviews and reading challenges from the sidebar on the left.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Curtains are Closed

I’ve always been an emotional kind of girl. Over-the-top emotional, you could say—a bit dramatic. Or, as my grandma used to put it, I’m just very sensitive.

I cry easily. And frequently.

Ask my dad – who didn’t know what to do with his teenage daughter when she would, in the midst of an only mildly upsetting conversation, suddenly burst out crying and manage to tell her bewildered father between sobs, “I know it’s silly to be crying about this, but I’m (hiccup) about to have (sniffle) my period and I can’t (gasp) seem to help it…” I was lucky if I could get all of that out before I trailed off into a low moan.

Or ask my husband how emotional I am, poor guy. My dad only had to deal with me for a few very turbulent teenage years, but for some reason, my wonderful spouse has signed up to live in the eye of the tornado – for another forty, fifty, even sixty years. Maybe he’s secretly masochistic.

I posted a few days ago, though, on the inescapable grief that I believe is now a part of my personality, my very identity—and this is a new level of emotion. The deep sorrow that I feel over the loss of my grandparents, the aching disbelief that Hank and Marge White have simply ceased to exist (at least as I knew them)—it is something that affects not just how I feel in the moment, but how I make decisions and how I think about myself.

I have had my heart broken once or twice, I suppose you could say—in the more traditional sense of the word. I have loved two different males (boys? men? something in between—guys?) that did not love me, and I thought the lonely ache of that would be enough to choke me, paralyze me.

But even then, my loving grandma (and my very giving mother) stepped in to reassure me, comfort me, and bolster me up. Grandma was steadfast and particularly vocal of her belief that if the gentleman in question was worthy of me, then he would come around—and if not, good riddance. She had some high expectations for those adolescents, if she thought that they were capable of seeing me the way that she saw me. It should go without saying that this kind of romanticized perspective would be nearly impossible for a teenage boy.

I’m not sure if all her loving comments were really all that comforting, but at least someone was around to hear me sob and wail and complain. I’m not only emotional—I love an audience. Or at least I used to.

This new, deeper grief has changed me, though—or maybe I changed before my grandparents passed away and I just haven’t realized it until now. Either way, I no longer want an audience. I don’t want to cry in front of anyone, even my friends. I don’t mind when I break down in front of my husband, but even so, I’d prefer to keep it to myself. I hold it tight in my chest, wait for the moments that I’m alone.

Before I got a job, I used to lie in bed for a while after my husband would leave for work, stare at the picture of my grandparents hanging on the wall, and despondently weep. But I knew that they would be upset to see me stay in bed all day, so I would get up and find things to enjoy—for them, if not for me. They would want me to be happy, to enjoy life.

Now I cry when I am in the bathroom, as I’m putting on makeup in the morning and thinking about how my grandma and I used to visit the Clinique counter together. I cry when I am in the car, driving the Saturn that used to belong to my grandfather. I named it “Henry” after him, and call it “Hank” and “Grandpa.” I talk to the car, imagining it is him, and let myself weep on the drive home from work. But I don’t cry very often when I am around people—even my family, who are all quite used to my emotional outbursts.

This sorrow is private, more private than anything that I’ve ever experienced before. (And yet, I’m blogging about it—a big step for me at this point in my life. It's taken me months to feel ready to address this subject on my blog.)

I know that this desire for privacy isn’t really a strange thing for many people—most people don’t share their deepest emotions with the general public. But I used to be a bit of an exhibitionist. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that I simply couldn’t contain my emotions – they’d come pouring out of me, no matter where I was or who I was with. I could be working the cash register at the campus coffee shop with tears pouring down my face.

(Yes, that actually happened a few times. I couldn’t seem to stop the saline, which made it hard to find the right button and punch in the amount for a latte or a raisin bran muffin. I probably gave several bewildered customers a discount or something.)

The fact that I’ve been so reserved, that I’ve kept my grief to myself, is a huge shift in my personality. And I wonder what it means. I’ve changed—but I don’t know how I feel about this new, more private personality. I think it’s partially connected to a larger change in how I relate to people; I’m much less friendly and open then I used to be. But that’s a subject for another post.

The fact remains that I was once a performer, up on the stage, often sharing my latest heartache with anyone who would listen (and that included friends, roommates, friends of friends, roommates of friends, classmates, fellow coffee shop workers, the delivery guy…). But now I’ve climbed down off the stage, or at least lowered the curtain. The exhibition is over, and all that’s left is a hollow ache inside.

I’m missing my favorite audience member—my grandma—and without my most ardent admirer, I think my career as a (live) performer has come to a close.

I’m still a writer, though—I guess some things never change.


~April~ said...

Hi Lauren! I'm a new follower... found you on 20SB.

I'm more of a cry-in-private person. I don't even like to cry in front of my husband. This is probably due to 2 reasons: 1) I am an ugly crier and am self-conscience about it, and 2) one of my best friends is super-emotional and I’ve trained myself to be the “strong” one. Holding it in too long though often leads to random bawling at cheesy commercials, so I try to get a good cry in every now and then. Usually by watching a sad movie when I’m alone at the house.

Anyway, I look forward to getting to know you better through your future posts! :)

XY said...

You make me think about why we cry, what we would cry about, and when it becomes private. I'm probably going to get a bit technical here, can't help it being a psychologist:) Also with a little introspection I now have a hypothesis, that we cry if crying can help relieve the pain somehow, but not if it's not enough to do that. Sounds weird that crying could relieve some of the pain? think it does, at least as a way of venting or expressing especially when there is an audience, better, supporting audience. However, when the grief is so deep and strong crying wouldn't help anymore and because no one would really feel/understand the same sorrow as you do it becomes private. Again, it is just a hypothesis. When I thought I was truly in love with someone and he left me I had no tears, there was just silence and deep sorrow in my chest for about two years. But what interests me more is how you became able to share this private feeling and change of feelings with others (including strangers).

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