I cry a lot. If it’s a social norm that we all need to identify ourselves based on tear-secretion habit, I’m definitely a “crier”, same way as I am an occasional drinker, party hater and used-to-be smoker.
On a recent weekend, I cried on the taxi on my way home. I was a bit tipsy after a whole evening’s game-playing/drinking/laughing at my friend’s house-warming party with people that I knew from head to toe. I walked on the empty street for a few minutes after the party ended. I got on a taxi and looked out from the window, as the city in the midnight passed through my blurry gaze, a sudden rush of lowness crept on and my tears started to emerge. When the taxi arrived at my doorstep, I knew it wasn’t over. So I got off and walked along the waterfront nearby, facing the darkness glittering through the water surface, my favourite emo song playing in my ear, and started to cry as hard as I could.
I can’t remember how long it lasted, perhaps half hour or longer. I just let it flow, the fluid of my eyes, with my face wrinkled at its maximum and my upper body involuntarily twitching. Often when I was crying like that, I couldn’t help but be amazed at the same time, at how little control I had over my own behavior, how powerful sadness can be, and how inexhaustible my tears are. It was a good cry that evening, for I happened to be at a perfect place at a perfect hour to enjoy the luxury of crying in public open air without worrying being embarrassed. Even more, I received messages from someone I wanted to connect with most at that moment. On a scale from 1 to 5, it was a 4.9-rated cry in my extensive experience of crying.
The above behavior, which I wilfully exposed a bit on my instagram story (as I usually did), has generated concerns from some friends and stranger followers. Which, wasn’t my intention but also wasn’t surprising. As much as I appreciate that, I genuinely couldn’t respond with a better explanation than “I just like crying,” which, I know, could sound perfunctory and almost disappointing, in a way that my crying wasn’t driven by any dramatic event and failed to satisfy the sympathy-mixed curiosity. And this was not only to general acquaintance or strangers. My ex-boyfriend, for one, had tried to get to the bottom of my tears. There was once I cried unexplainably when we were both in an altered state and he was desperate to understand the reason behind my sadness that I just couldn’t give. I remember he had this dissatisfied/dubious look on his face. It was the kind of expression that pained me, for I couldn’t share more, and it wasn’t becoz I didn’t want to.
The myth of crying had stayed with me for many years. I first noticed it when I was in the second year of college. I was drinking with some uni-mates one night and it was probably the first time ever in my life that I “over-consumed” alcohol and entered an alcohol-driven emotionally-heightened state. At a moment when everyone was still laughing and high, I quietly started to cry, at first only to myself, wishing no one would notice. When someone saw that and it became a group-wide event, I just gave up and let it out. And inevitably, I quickly killed the night. That was the first time I met this incontrollable, inexplainable, and inexhaustible stream of sadness inside me.
There were of course, many times when I’d also cry for more specific reasons. Like the night when my first serious ex-boyfriend told me he was engaged, half year after our two-year relationship ended, and he said “I wanna personally tell you instead of you finding out from facebook or something.” Like that time when I couldn’t get out of bed in a tiny hotel room with no window in Toronto after being thrown out by someone who I flew all the way there to meet. Like when I first found out in primary school that my father was having an affair and I thought “this is it, my whole world is broken and I would end up like one of those miserable unloved kids“. But these aren’t the kind of cry I’m talking about, these disaster-driven emotion breakdowns. The kind of cry I’m talking about is something that doesn’t have a clear trigger, not from outside at least. It happens as if someone left the tab on, or there’s a leakage in my body somewhere. It happens as if the sadness creek inside me has accumulated to a point that it just has to empty out to keep it going. It happens as if there’s a little weeping girl living inside me and from time to time she just badly wants attention.
Throughout all these years, I’ve spent numerous nights with her. And our relationship wasn’t always as smooth as today. I used to resist and feel shamed of her, the incontrollable sobbing. As many people would, I had taken her as a sign of weakness. For many years, I thought I couldn’t help crying becoz I was a weak freak who couldn’t contain her emotions better. And I did feel weak when I was crying, among other things. I had felt helpless. I had felt there was no way out, and that my existence made no sense but only pain, endless pains. I had felt it was impossible to connect, no matter how much I wished for it. I had felt wronged, hurt, all alone, and simply sad. I guess these are pretty generic feelings shared by mankind when we cry. And I guess I was indeed a weak person, for a long time. Until the day I realized I’m not as weak as I thought. (It happened last year) And I’m actually stronger than many people in many ways. Ironically, if there was one witness to the process of my toughening up, it’d be my tears.
But the crying didn’t stop. She still showed up out of nowhere from time to time. I started to understand I didn’t cry becoz I was weak. I cry becoz I have this intrinsic sadness in me that needs a mechanism to be funnelled out. I start to take my sadness as part of me – an important part – which makes me who I am, and is core to my sensibility. I don’t confuse sadness with weakness anymore. And I start to recognize sadness as a source of my strength, even though it doesn’t seem that way sometimes. Most importantly, I have no shame for my sadness, no matter how unpopular it is in today’s world.
Today, when I cry, besides the unexplainable sorrow, the cathartic and liberating feeling, I actually am relived. I’m relived that I’m still connected, with the used-to-be weak version of me, and the latest version of me with a part that would be eternally soft and fragile. I’m relieved to know that they’re still there, despite how far I’ve gone, as a safety-net knitted through time.
Make no mistakes, I’m not writing to promote sadness in any ways, and I envy people who doesn’t have to deal with this much sadness in their lives. I’m writing, I guess, to self-certify a small finding – the best (or only) way to connect with ourselves is to accept the shadows that come with it.
Several years ago I happened to know of a random acquittance’s negative comment on me to my friend, that he thinks my instagram feed is awkward, which seems to be full of selfies of me being alone and sad. His original language is something like “who does she think she can impress with those selfies showing she’s all alone at home?” I was a bit offended hearing that years ago. It was hard to imagine someone in the “art community” would make such insensitive comment about people he barely knew, not to mention I use instagram primarily to document the trace of my being instead of a tool to make inflated impressions. Thinking back these days, I guess I can sort of understand why he’d think that. It can be uncomfortable to come across contents that one can’t makes sense of. He is probably one of those people who somehow never need to confront their solitude or sadness (which is indeed a shame for an “artist”). And it’s definitely too much to expect for people to resonate with the sad states that I captured through images, when even I myself can’t fully comprehend them.
To make sense of my very own sadness is perhaps a lifelong solo journey. After all, crying to me, as much as writing, is the most private act in all human’s behaviours. The most and least I can do to share, I’m afraid, is to instagram-story about it that would last 24 hours.