Recently I saw my chiropractor for a routine visit. It had been many months since I saw him, primarily due to my many months of feeling quite depressed. Back in May, I came for a scheduled adjustment, and I was in tears. It had nothing to do with my back, but instead everything to do with my life. The doctor and everyone else in the office saw that I was crying. I did not attempt to hide it. Yet, nobody mentioned it. Everyone acted like I wasn’t in tears.
On the current visit, I was feeling much more like myself. The doctor shook my hand with an excitement that I don’t recall noticing on any previous visit. He said, “It’s great to see you feeling good again!” Apparently, my last visit stood out. I snickered to myself over how he hadn’t said anything back then.
On my way out, the receptionist mentioned she hadn’t seen me in a long time. I said, “Yes, and I think I was crying the last time I was here.” She nodded and whispered in a serious tone, “Yes, I felt so bad for you.” I withheld from any comment. I didn’t want to deny her choice to feel whatever she wanted to feel, but I thought; wow, I feel bad for people who feel bad because they see someone emotional. It made me recall the first time I cried in public as an adult and didn’t give a shit about it.
In October 2008 I attended my first personal growth event in Kansas City, Missouri. It was a week-long meditation retreat with Centerpointe, the makers of Holosync, a meditation product I’d been using for less than a year. I’d read great reviews of this annual affair, and when I discovered this was the last time they were going to do it, I decided to go for it. That week was life-changing. One particular highlight was my first experience with Holotropic Breathwork (something I would go on to do multiple times and even wrote a book about).
During my breathwork, I found myself mourning my prior suicide attempts and genuinely celebrating being alive. For the first time, I accepted that I had survived attempted murder. I bounced from laughing and beaming at my love of life, to sobbing over the fact that I had tried to throw it all away.
I continued to be very emotional for the remainder of the week and even when it was time to head home. I joked that I felt sorry for the poor sap who was going to be stuck sitting next to me on the plane.
I boarded my flight home to Boston and hid under my headphones cranking lots of my favorite music, ranging from Metallica to John Denver. I was in tears almost immediately. Each lyric hit me in a new way. I was sobbing out of control, sometimes in joy and other times sadness. Nobody sat next to me. The flight attendants never asked if I wanted a drink, a snack, anything. I was invisible.
I didn’t have a direct flight and sat through a 3-hour layover in Washington DC. There I opened my laptop and wrote love letters to my mom, my dad and to myself. And of course, I was bawling the entire time. When I paused to notice my surroundings, I was alone at a terminal gate. Nobody sat near me. Nobody stopped to ask if I was alright. I was invisible.
That is when it hit me that a man in tears is not accepted in our society. Therefore it can’t be seen. I didn’t have to worry about being embarrassed because every stranger around me seemed to feel embarrassed if they noticed me. Only children made eye contact with me.
If a woman cries in public, people stop to ask what’s wrong and if they can help. But when it is a man, people avoid him. Maybe it is a mix of fear and not knowing what to do? Perhaps people think a man crying must be crazy. Whatever the cause, I felt so unseen while crying in public that I thought bank robbers should sob their way through their crimes.
When I see a man crying, I think to myself – good for him. I don’t attempt to feel for him or guess at what might be causing his emotional distress. Sometimes I give a look offering support, or I ask if there is anything I can help with, but always – I celebrate it. Real men do feel.
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