I’ve never cried in therapy.
In fact, I sort of pride myself on not crying… which in itself shows how far I have to go. Why on earth would a person attach any positive significance to not showing an emotion?? Right or wrong, it makes me feel as though I’m winning somehow, because I think my early stereotype of therapy included someone cross-legged on a couch, weeping into a bottomless box of Kleenex.
But I’ve never cried. And I don’t even have a couch as an option. (I feel a little cheated. I’m not gonna lie.)
The problem with my self-imposed no-crying policy is that I spend an inordinate amount of time actively focusing my attention on trying not to cry… ranging in intensity from “You’re cool, just take a breath. You’ll be fine” to “Good God, big emotions. Don’t make eye contact. Concentrate on fiddling with your ring. Or examining your fingernails. Or inspecting the seam in the arm of the chair. Emotions! Big, big emotions. Whatever you do, keep looking at the seam.” None of this goes unnoticed of course. Once when I was directing all my I-refuse-to-cry angst into wrapping my ear buds into a tight little ball, he asked me, “You’re waiting to cry until you leave here, aren’t you?” It was both embarrassing and for some reason oddly touching. And yes, yes I was waiting to leave before I cried. My poor Land Cruiser has seen more tears than a confessional. (Disclaimer: I’m not Catholic, and I’ve never actually been in a confessional. But I imagine it lends itself to crying.)
So why the big bias against witnessed tears? I guess I find it embarrassing, and I have …. issues. But I also fear that once I start crying that the floodgates will open and I’ll never stop. You know that scene in Good Will Hunting where Robin Williams’s character keeps telling Will, over and over and over, “it’s not your fault,” until he finally breaks down and starts uncontrollably bawling onto his shoulder? That would be me. Except I’m pretty sure that in real life therapists aren’t actually supposed to hug their clients. Nor put them in a throat hold like he did during their first session.
But I digress.
This past week, we were near the end of the hour when my therapist said, “Be your own best friend.” I laughed, because it sounded like a bumper sticker, and he tends to say a lot of bumper-sticker-esque things. But I was glad there were only a few minutes left in the session, because even as I laughed it was there, in the back of my throat. “Dammit, I’m about to cry again.”
By the time I got to Starbucks – It’s part of my weekly therapy routine. I circle the city until I can quell my tears enough so that I don’t look like I just witnessed my dog being shot, then I treat myself to a Trenta iced coffee for the rest of my ride home – By the time I got to Starbucks, I’d connected a dot I’d never connected before. I realized that the times that I get so choked up in therapy, the only times, are those times we talk about me. Not peripheral things related to me… not relationships or goals or past experiences, but ME. My darkness. My light. My self worth. And I finally realized why that is.
- Why, like Will Hunting, I find it so difficult to believe that it isn’t my fault (What is “it”? It’s everything. It’s nothing. It doesn’t matter; it’s still my fault)
- Why even the thought of asserting myself is met with such abject terror.
- Why a silly little cliche like “Be your own best friend” would make me want to cry.
It’s because my whole life, I’ve been told the opposite… by the people around me, by my church, by myself. Be compliant, Jennifer. Be nice. Be quiet. Be small.
I was conditioned with a phrase that I heard so many times, in so many ways: “What would God have to say about that?”
The inference being that it’s the *world* that wants you to think about yourself, and care for yourself, and make yourself a priority. It’s the *world* that wants you to be best friends with yourself. God wants your sole focus, and your sole friendship, to be with Him.
I’ve decided I think that’s bullshit.
And I mean that with no disrespect and no levity. I have a relationship with God that spans forty two years. It’s important. But it’s not the end of the story.
Because day to day, in the middle of the fray, you – we, I – need to take some ownership. It’s ME who has to decide to put two feet on the floor every morning. To get up when I fall. To make decisions for self-care. To get in my car and drive to therapy even when that voice that says, “Screw you, this is unpleasant and hard and I’m not going to do it anymore” threatens to take over. To hold on, for just one more day.
To learn to finally, finally stand up for myself, and accept wherever the chips may fall.
To own my warts, and shortcomings, and mistakes, of course. And my TEARS! For heaven’s sake, a person shouldn’t be afraid to cry!! But also the good stuff. And the beautiful parts. And the things I’m proud of.
To be my own best friend.
To simply be me. Every time. Every single time. With no disclaimers and no apologies.
And so, I think I finally have an answer to the question I asked up above. What would God say to the “wordly” admonition to love myself? I think God would say:
And then He’d ask me what the hell took me so long.