These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

A FAQ about Crying

Posted on November 28, 2013 by Alana Bandos

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725_4124941173963_991969400_nI cry a lot.  Some of you have noticed.  Others probably haven’t.  But no matter, if you are going to be in the same program as me for at least another month, you will probably see me cry at some point.  A lot of people have been showing concern for my crying and I’ve received a lot of different reactions to my explicit show of emotion.  I appreciate everyone’s good will, but in the spirit of the other FAQs posted to this blog, I wanted to make my own to clarify a few points about my tears.

  1. Crying is not something I control.  I don’t cry because I’m a drama queen or like attention; in fact, my crying embarrasses me.  But it’s a fact, I cry a lot and I’m learning to deal with that.  Please don’t tell me “you hate seeing me so upset,” because I am one-hundred percent with you.  I hate seeing myself so upset too and I’m trying not to hate it anymore.  I’m trying not be ashamed of it.  In fact, crying runs in my family.  I am my mother’s daughter.  She and I can cry at the drop of a hat; whether it’s in watching a movie, reading a sad article, showing frustration, or even expressing happiness at being around our family.  My mom is 60 and is the kindest person I know.  If crying will make me turn out just like her as I advance in years, then I am proud to say I cry like she does.
  1. Although I certainly display my emotions in the open, I am not by default more “emotional” or “unstable.”  Other people have just as many feelings as I do and express their emotions through other mechanisms like laughter, anger, hugs, smiles, tense faces, and whatever else you can think of to fit an emotion.  Others have the same amount of emotion but have the ability to truly internalize their feelings.  It just so happens that crying is my way of expressing emotion, not an indication that I somehow “feel more” than anyone else.
  1. When you see me crying and ask me what’s wrong, I may not answer.  Please don’t take personal offense here.  As I mentioned, my crying embarrasses me.  The more people that see and verbally recognize my tears makes my embarrassment worse.  And in the vicious cycle of my emotions, that embarrassment manifests itself in the form of more tears.  The best way to talk to me and show your concern is in private.  If I’m crying in the break between classes, I’m generally trying to pull myself together before my next class. You can really help me do this by either politely being indifferent or asking me totally unrelated questions on a different topic than my tears altogether.  Sometimes, I just need someone to help pull me back into the present or discuss something later in the day for me to stop crying and mentally prepare for what’s next.
  1. If I’m crying, I’m probably not “ok” at that exact moment, so asking me if I’m “ok” just annoys me.  A better way to phrase it is “I can see you are upset at the moment, would you like to find a time to talk?”  If you want to ask if I need anything, I probably just need some tissues.  Tissues are priceless in my life and I’d never turn down a soft piece of disposable cloth if you could find one in Israel 😀 In fact, that gesture alone means a lot to me!
  1. The worst time to give me life advice is when I’m crying.  I love and appreciate everyone’s concern, but I promise you that if I want advice, I will approach you and ask for some counsel.  Until then, see # 4 about tissues.
  1. Crying does not make me somehow more immature than anyone else.  I put myself at great personal risk by being so exposed, but it also means I give a lot of myself to things I am passionate about; I put forth 100% effort to care for others.  I am extremely sensitive to others’ needs and emotions as well and would give my life to help a friend.
  1. I’m not always sad.  Often, I’m frustrated, pissed off, or as I mentioned earlier, embarrassed.  My tears express multiple things and it’s difficult for me to have to explain to someone who asks that I’m not sad.
  1. Going off of that, tears are not something to pity.  Oftentimes, I feel like a wounded puppy or a mourner when people ask me how I’m doing in the midst of a crying bout.  Since everyone is a genuinely caring person here, I know that your intentions in approaching me are coming from a good place.  But if you could please leave out the sad frowns, big eyes, and back-rubs, I would be that much more grateful.
  1. I’m not crying because I can’t handle a disagreement or someone expressing an opinion different than my own.  In fact, I have some amazing Chevrutas with whom I have spectacular disagreements with and no person leaves more upset than the other; we even leave with smiles on our faces.
  1. I am not even the only person to cry at Pardes.  Everyone has their ups-and-downs in such an intensive program, and I’ve heard from multiple alumni that everyone has a bad day verging on the point of a breakdown here at least once.  But we have a lot of happy moments together as well, and I think life is meant to have a balance of those frustrating days and those amazing memories.  I take them both as a packaged deal and just try to get to the next amazing day or amazing moment.  That being said, it’s a good bet that I have Kleenex Plus Lotion with Aloe somewhere close to me at all times (or at least in my apartment) if you need to cry and want someone to cry with or cry to.  In many ways, I am grateful for my tears because they reveal my compassion; they show me as a kind individual who cares for others.  The next time you see me cry, try to see beyond the few drops of salt water on my face and see that there is nothing wrong with wearing your heart on your sleeve.