notes for my daughter: weak & strong

All the hardest, coldest people you meet were once as soft as water. And that's the tragedy of living.

Dear Orla,
I have been strong and I have been weak, and I have learnt that these words do not mean what we think.

Before you were born, I cried easily; a confrontation with friends, a passing criticism at work. I once cried at an episode of Supermarket Sweep, because I was just so happy for them when they won.
I could no more contain these tears than I could hold back a sneeze; sobs so huge they could wrench my throat apart, tears that could & would soak an entire roll of toilet paper, or, in an emergency once, my hastily-removed knickers (it’s a long story).

After you came, something changed. I’m not sure if it was hormonal, an adjustment to the new parameters in my life, or just the healing experience of growing my real family with my own body, but now those tears are rare. I didn’t cry when Rory proposed; I don’t cry at sad books or films, or when I overheard rude comments about me outside half-open doors at work. I feel sad, I feel like I might cry, and then is passes.

What this has made me realise is, people’s emotions are not really an indicator of their strength. It is a fallacy and a joke to believe that suppressing our true feelings is in some way admirable; that faking the same state of consciousness at all times is the best representation of a healthy mind.

When, a week after a suicide attempt, a friend can laugh about her own averted funeral; when a cruel & selfish manager repeatedly organises leaving parties for herself and fails to understand why nobody attends; when everybody starts out soft and kind and smiling, & only some end up brittle and cruel, then ‘strong’ is not what we were told, and ‘weakness’ is something we ought to hold onto with all of our might.

Read more notes for my daughter, here.

  • Julia Williams

    Well. Last night I cried at the British Bake Off so I’m guessing having a baby hasn’t changed my tap like tears! Will be interested to see over the coming months if I do note any changes in myself though. Lovely as always xx

  • CaliMel

    Strangely I have had the opposite experience. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten more emotional. I used to never cry at movies at all, or sad books, or anything. I didn’t even cry at family funerals. Now I go to a funeral and ugly cry and turn into a sobbing mess watching movies where people die. I’ve almost burst into tears comforting a family at work whose family member passed away. It’s very very odd to switch from being so emotionally cold seeming to actually expressing it, and it’s like you say, uncontrollable. I didn’t cry at my proposal either. Or at my wedding. Which makes me feel like something is wrong with me since apparently everyone else cries when they do the vows part.

  • Marie Conan

    That’s interesting, for me it is the opposite. When I was younger I hardly ever cried. I think it’s because I didn’t want anyone to see me cry, and after a while I guess I forgot how to, and it became an unconscious habit of some sort. I sometimes cried on a book or a film (and animal documentaries!!), but never in public, never in front of my friends or my family. And what I find really strange is that those things that would make me (very privately) cry in fiction would not make me cry if it happened to me: funerals, goodbyes, reunions… not a tear, nothing! But it wasn’t “strength”, it was pride, and self-restraint, and it certainly wasn’t very healthy. At some point I was pretty sure I was really just cold and heartless… Now (I’m 27) it is beginning to change, I don’t know why. I still feel self-conscious when I cry in a cinema for instance, but I get more emotional in my “everyday life”, whether for trivial reasons or not. And I find that crying is actually ok, it offers release and closure, and letting your guard down also means that you open the door for someone to help or comfort you… so i’m learning to embrace those tears!

  • Sheona

    I’m just so funny 😉

    Sometimes I cry a lot. But usually it is meds related or exhaustion related. For years and years I willed myself to cry but couldn’t.

    I definitely like the idea that showing your emotions isn’t an indicator of your strength or weakness. I have issues trying to believe it of myself though X

  • Beautiful.

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