My friend Patricia has taught me many things over the years. She’s a motivational speaker, trained facilitator, personal and professional coach. I first met her when I was a student in her training class in my early career. She was poised, confident, and gracious. I was immediately aware that she was also a kindred spirit. I’ve been privileged over the years to hear her speak many times. I’ve learned a lot about assertiveness, connection, community, and acceptance. I’ve learned how to ask for what I need and to be gracious in the face of difference. Throughout the years I’ve known her, I’ve heard her say many times, “When you have goosebumps or tears, you are closest to the truth.” She’s a wise woman, my friend Patricia.
You see, for my entire life I have been a crier. Just this morning as I was talking to a co-worker about a mutual friend who has gone through many health issues, and now a death in the family, I needed to grab for a tissue. I used to loathe this part of me. Having the tears well up against my will was frustrating at best. And the harder I tried to contain them, the more they would appear. I’m not talking about boohooing and sobbing – I don’t really do that kind of crying. I’m talking about the tears that appear spontaneously and slide quietly, and without permission down my cheeks. They were forever an enemy because they made me feel vulnerable at times when that was not what I wanted to portray. The hardest is when they would show up at work. My body was having a physical reaction and my brain was not in compliance.
Over the years I’ve come to accept that this is part of who I am. I don’t cry because I’m weak, or for attention, or because I want sympathy, or for manipulation. My body cries because I feel things very deeply. Which emotion causes them may vary but the intensity of emotions are always they same. The energy of those emotions have to come out somehow and this is how my body manages them. I’ve been told that I am an empath and as I learn about that I’ve come to understand so much more. I feel things deeply and completely. I can feel what others feel. I don’t mean I can understand what others feel – I actually feel what they feel. I used to be both bewildered and embarrassed by this because it caused tears to flow when it wasn’t “my stuff”. I’ve been laughed at by my kids for crying at tender moments in a movie (yep, almost every movie has one), or touching commercials, or weddings, funerals, births, from a touching song, or a poignant sermon, etc. I remember at work one time a colleague was announcing his retirement. I could feel everything – his pride, his fear, is excitement, his reluctance, and his celebration. He was a quiet, introverted man and he was not able to articulate any of these things … but I felt them and the tears began to slide.
Now, as I look back on things I am beginning to see them a little differently. I can’t say I never feel self-conscious when the tears sneak up on me because I do as a first reaction. But I can say that I’ve learned to embrace this as a gift most of the time. I’ve seen when my tears came that others have felt connected. They have been the start of deep, connecting conversations that might never have happened otherwise. They have inspired others to allow theirs words or tears to flow without being embarrassed. They have been a tool for others and a release for me.
What gifts do you have that you resist? Do you know the power they hold for you and others in your life? I wonder.