07 June, 2012

Closing the floodgates

I never used to cry much.  Crying wasn’t encouraged when we were kids.  Stiff upper lip and all that.  Emotion was not to be displayed.  So I didn’t cry when my first boyfriend cheated on me with a friend, I didn’t cry at my grandmother’s funeral, and I never cried when I first left home for a year in Bangkok.  (That year though I did learn to cry in the shower.  It’s very therapeutic, you know.)

So when I lost my first pregnancy, and I cried, it was a surprise to me.  In fact, the emotions that were released then were shocking to me.  I'd always felt a degree of control.  But suddenly control - of my body, my emotions - was gone.   Then came the stress of trying to conceive again, and a second ectopic pregnancy.  By now, the floodgates were well and truly open.  I like this analogy.  When we were children, we used to drive an hour or two up into the mountains, and along a series of lakes created by a hydropower scheme.  (My Dad loved to go fishing, and we used to go too sometimes on picnics.  My one and only fish – a brown trout – was caught in one of these lakes.  I didn’t like fishing, though I loved the natural environment.)  Anyway, one of these lakes had a large dam, with floodgates that were opened when the lake was full or in danger of overflowing.  The sheer volume of the water pouring out was always staggering, and I often wondered how they would ever close the floodgates against the magnificent power of the water.

I discovered personally that closing floodgates isn’t that easy.  I cry at everything.  I cry at pretty much anything remotely emotional.  I cry at great sporting victories or achievements, and medal ceremonies always get me, whether I know the winners or not, so I’m bracing myself for the coming Olympics.  I cry at anything remotely moving; happy moments and sad ones, newspaper articles and TV advertisements.  A while ago a friend was sharing that she and her husband were going to do something exciting with their about-to-be adult daughter.  My eyes filled with tears – happy tears, for her.  Fortunately, she understood and did the same!  I find it a bit debilitating.  I even struggle to tell stories that move me.  My husband and I joke about it now.  “Stop (talking/watching/reading), you’ll cry,” he’ll say.  “Too late!” is invariably my response.  And I would have liked to have said words at my father’s funeral.  But I wasn’t physically capable.  The tears would have come, my voice would have cracked, and I would have turned into an undignified mess. 

Initially I hoped that, as I healed from my losses and accepted my life without kids, the floodgates would close, and the tap would turn off.  But no, not really.  I feel as if I go through life now, skimming along the surface, knowing that there is a huge well, no, a lake of tears, suppressed but not controlled, just waiting to burst through.  Of course, hormones/age could have something to do with it.  Perhaps I can hope that in ten years time I won’t be so emotional!

On the plus side though, I have learned that tears are great mascara removers.  I wish I could bottle them.  I’d make a fortune.


  1. Love this post. I too cry so much more than I ever did before my losses. I think it is a combination of what we have been thru and our hormones/age, but I don't really want it to end either. I do, in a strange way, feel better after letting it out. I too grew up in a family where "stiff upper lip" was encouraged alot. I look back now and wondered why it was that way - couldn't my parents just let their emotions show alittle more and not bottled them up so much. I don't think my floodgates will ever close fully and I am really ok with that.

  2. I've always been emotional, but lately, I cry at the drop of a hat. Just thinking about a sad moment from a favourite movie can get the tears welling up. I think it's midlife hormones, myself. Or maybe just the fact that we're older & have experienced more of life & have more empathy for what others are going through?

    Anyway, pass the Kleenex. ; )

  3. I cry a lot more now too - but mostly about sentimental things. I cry less when I'm angry than I used to. I wonder what that means.

    Mascara remover - that's kind of hilarious. And it makes me want to see if my contact lens saline solution would work just as well.

  4. I nodded along to almost every word of this post!

  5. I also agreed with just about everything you said. I still can't cry in front of someone - even my husband - since I feel embarrassed for showing "weakness." But it seems the last couple of years, I'm tearing up more and more, making it harder and harder to hide the emotions.

    I think it's a good thing, but it does mean fighting against the programming.

  6. I'm emotional, too. Find myself weepy here and there. In past I could watch drama movies without a tear in my eye, same with romance novels, or photos of animals or kids- but now loud sobs and waterfall of tears at drop of hat!

    That was not "normal" for me, since like you, I grew up learning that emotions were not to be tolerated. If I cried, I was mocked a lot, "crybaby" Now ironically, when I don't show emotions, that tend to make relatives angry. Ah well. (shrug)

    I'm starting to get used to crying, and I'm using opportunities to cry, as working out my grief, instead of bottling it all in.

    So we all can cry together, just not too much to float the Jubilee boats! :)

  7. Ahhhhh...I used to do that, too - control my emotions, but I think after I reached my twenties, the floodgates became more open...especially now in my 30s. I find that I get touched more easily during PMS. If I read about a dog saving an owner, I'd cry buckets...it's one thing to cry in your own house, but it's kinda tricky to experience it in a public place.

    I work in a supermarket (mostly behind the till) and sometimes some kind customers gave me compliments that just made my eyes wet and it's tough to control yourself 'coz I can't really run to the bathroom right away and leave the til ha ha...It'd be nice to be able to control your emotions at crucial moments, but for the time being I think I'd rather just think/believe that others are humans, too, so they should/would understand when someone is being emotional (even though they may not understand why).

  8. I'm lucky I didn't tear up reading this!

  9. I am a crier. I cry over, over everything. I cry when I am happy, I cry when I am sad. I cry when I am angry. I cry when I am remembering a fond memory. I cry for other people. I cry all the time. It is kind of ridiculous. At my mom's surprise retirement party, she didn't cry, but I had to stop myself from crying. Sigh. I started wearing waterproof mascara from 16 on, because I realized the other kind was never going to work for me.

    So, I hear ya. Sometimes I wish I cried less, but I just don't think it is going to happen for me at this point. I say embrace it!

  10. Thank you for saying this - it was lovely

  11. Wonderful post....I have a lump in my throat just reading it. I don't try and control my emotions anymore as it's just a losing battle. I have found that the older I get, the more emotional I have become and I too am trying to embrace it. My husband does get a good laugh every once in a while at the things I cry at but he is also learning, that if an animal commercial or nature show comes on and I am in the room, he quickly turns the channel as I turn to mush.

  12. I'm a crier, always have been. I don't think it's a bad thing - it's cleansing. Emotions need to be released for our own good.