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Sacredness in Tears

Sacredness in Tears

Several months ago I attended a funeral for a bright blue-eyed baby that fought his hardest for his 12 days of life. His incredibly strong parents shared a quote by Washington Irving that has stuck with me since.

“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not a mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition and of unspeakable love.”

Long story short, my husband and I have struggled to start a family. It is no major surprise since it seems to run in the family, but struggled nonetheless. After almost a year of trying, the little stick finally showed two lines – pregnant! My immediate thought was “this is too good to be true” and “it can’t be this easy for me.” I could feel myself becoming over the moon excited for a baby to come this summer.  

I repeated the whole pee on a stick thing six times just to really confirm the first positive test. Six times. Just one day after the positive pregnancy test, I had a crib picked out, four pregnancy books bought, a list of my top five favorite boy and girl names written in sharpie (sharpie is a big deal for me), and my eight-week appointment set. I was ready for this baby.

My husband left to go out of town for a week for a work conference. That very day I started to feel a bit off. Over the weekend I started to have some symptoms that are typical for the first few months of pregnancy but also overlap with some symptoms of miscarrying. This being my first ever pregnancy, I had no idea how to tell the difference. I made it through the weekend and on Monday met with my doctor and learned that I miscarried. Devastation started welling up in my eyes and tears began pouring out of me.  

My husband was 1,800 miles away. My parents were over 2,000 miles away. And, since I parked in the wrong parking lot, I had to walk almost a mile to get back to my car. Balling my eyes out. Washington Irving’s quote came to my mind and this salty water coming out of my eyes started to take on a whole new meaning.

Lessons from my tears

  1. Tears are sacred. The tears that were continuously streaming down my face were in respect and reverence for our little family’s loss. We were overjoyed at the thought that we would be starting our own little family. The tears were not just salty drops coming from my eyes because of my hormones or because the nurse that drew my blood said something insensitive, but in respect for what could have been. We could have had a child together this summer and knowing that it wasn’t going to happen was overbearing. My tears meant something. My tears are sacred.
  2. Tears are powerful. My husband has not actually cried since his grandmother passed away over 5 years ago. He’s been teary while watching a Nicholas Sparks movie or two but has not legitimately cried since 2014. As I listened to him cry over the phone I did not associate his tears with weakness. All I could think about was the power that comes with becoming a parent. Granted, parents are not perfect, they are human and make mistakes, but regardless of those faults, parental power carries some major weight. His tears over someone he had never even met yet showed me the power of love that can come with becoming a parent. Tears are powerful. 
  3. Tears speak. I had a kidney stone a few months ago and I shed many tears as that little sucker was making its world debut. There is something definitively different between cries of physical pain versus cries of emotional pain. Instead of my kidney bursting, my heart ached like it had never ached before. I already loved that 5.5-week, sesame-seed-sized, little human and the thought of never getting the chance to meet him/her was too much that all I could do was cry. I love the segment in Irving’s quote “[the tears] speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues.” I didn’t need someone to give me a bunch of advice, nor did I need to explain to everyone how I was feeling, I just needed someone to sit and cry with me.

I used to think that if I was not physically hurt, then crying was not needed – that it was a time that I just needed to “suck it up” and move on. I have learned that tears are not only meant for scraped knees or kidney stones, but for emotional pain too.

Own the Present

Own the Present

I was recently told something that has been on my mind for a bit. I can’t remember the exact quote, but the message was this: you can’t change the past, and you can’t control the future, the only thing you have power over is the present. (more…)

Failed Lately?

Failed Lately?

We had on our hands what the internet calls a “Pinterest fail”.

My family sat in stunned silence. All eyes were on the platter I was placing on the table for dinner of something completely unidentifiable. Siblings nervously glanced sideways at each other. I waited, trying to predict which family member would be brave enough to say something first- and wondering how long the line at the Chick-fil-a drive thru was. (more…)

New Year, Same Me

New Year, Same Me

I usually love New Years. It’s honestly one of my favorite times of year. I like to introspect about my growth from the previous year and also my stuck points. I like to tap into my passions and values and strategize how to optimize growth along those lines in the following year. I love generating a personal “theme” each year that will guide my behaviors and intentions. And I love the feeling of January. It’s a fresh start, full of endless possibility. (more…)

Dos & Don’ts of the New Year

Dos & Don’ts of the New Year

Welcome to 2020! I acknowledge that not everyone gets excited about a new year, but I always feel rejuvenated and hopeful when January 1 hits. I enjoy taking some time to reflect back on the past year and recognize ways that I have grown. I try to give myself a generous portion of compassion for my mistakes, failures, and struggles of the past year and try to prioritize self-compassion in the year to come. For me, a new year is a time re-focus and take an inventory of how congruent my life is with my values. (more…)

The Beauty of Exercise

The Beauty of Exercise

Rocky Relationship

I don’t know about you, but my relationship with exercise has always been a little rocky. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I grew up as a gymnast, and then did competitive and high school cheerleading after that. I was an active little girl! As a nine and ten-year-old, I had four, four-hour long practices a week. That’s 16 hours a week of highly active practice! It never felt like exercise, because I was just practicing being a better athlete, and even though we had conditioning, I knew it was to make me a better. (more…)

Three Myths Big Data Debunks

Three Myths Big Data Debunks

Often, clients feel that they’re uniquely distressed, socially awkward, or “messed up.” Everyone else seems to have their lives together. Facebook and Instagram confirm their intuitions. Their peers are getting happily married, having beautiful families, landing dream jobs, and earning advanced degrees. Moreover, those peers seem to do it all smiling, with effortless glee and levity.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard a client say: “I feel like I’m the only person who has this problem. Why can’t I figure it out when everyone else can?” Big data researchers, scientists who use the incredible quantities of data on the internet to make inferences about human behavior, have identified a phenomenon that might partially explain this trend. It turns out, people are generally much more forthright with the Google search bar than they are with their social media followers. In other words, there are massive discrepancies between the content that people Google and the content they create on Instagram. In this blog post, I will review a few of these findings that pertain to the pervasive feeling that we are uniquely messed up.

Myth 1: Everyone Else Has a Great Relationship

The most common words people use to describe their significant others on social media are “best,” “good,” and “beautiful.” The most common questions people search about their significant others on Google? “Why am I unhappy in my marriage?” “Is my partner cheating?” “Does my partner love me?” And researchers are able to identify that the people praising their significant others on social media are the same people airing their insecurities to the search engine.

As Jim Gaffigan said, “I’m not a calculus teacher, but I’m pretty sure everyone’s lying.” Relationships, as all can attest, are messy, difficult, often painful-but-worth-it endeavors. And perhaps most people aren’t lying about their relationships but simply hiding the challenging parts. The unfortunate consequence of this mass concealment is that it makes it all too easy to feel alone in the struggle.

Myth 2: Other People Have Lots of Close Friends

Recent evidence suggests that people now have fewer close friendships than at any other point in recorded history. This trend is more pronounced among young people in developed countries, including America. But you probably wouldn’t think this based on a review of people’s social media feeds. A cursory scroll through Instagram or Facebook reveals dozens of photos of people at gatherings and parties, enjoying outdoor adventure culinary fineries. People seem to live inside an American Eagle photo shoot. When pressed, however, in anonymous surveys about their social lives, many of these same people report feeling sad due to loneliness and having few friends with whom they would feel comfortable sharing personal information. We’re in, as some have called it, an epidemic of loneliness, one made all the more acute by the mistaken perception that one is alone in the loneliness.

Myth 3: Other People are More Normal, Moral, and Secure

Cognitive therapists often cite a “cognitive triad” that occurs in depressed clients. This refers to the tendency for depressed people to view themselves, the world, and the future negatively: “I am bad, the world is bad, and things will always be this way.” Often, when people struggle with depressive and anxious symptoms, they see themselves and their prospects in this distorted way. They assume they’re worse than others–less smart, worse looking, more sinful.

But the fact is, most people are pretty weird, at least if their Google search history is any indicator. The search engine reveals strange fetishes and fears. People keep sexual secrets, of course, but not just sexual secrets. Seth Stevens-Davidowitz, author of Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are, notes that body dissatisfaction is highly common, even for men. Prejudice against other races and against girls and women are also very common, even in liberal states and cities. The data online would suggest normalcy doesn’t really exist and that no one is all good or all bad. What’s more, just about everyone, even your most confident counterparts, hide deep insecurities about their appearance, performance, sexuality, children, integrity, and beliefs.

Conclusion

There’s an abundance of books and articles (some published on this blog) denouncing the habit of comparison. And that’s a good thing. Injunctions to avoid this habit date back, at the latest, to the 10 Commandments. In 1931, Bertrand Russell called the habit of comparison “a fatal one.” Still, humans have a biological propensity to compare ourselves to others. In an age with quick and heavily curated access not only to our friends’ lives but to the lives of celebrities, this propensity becomes more pernicious. What could be a source of connection–our shared struggle and strangeness–becomes a source of shame. Big data shows us that we’re more similar than it seems on the surface.

“True humility,” as Uncle Iroh put it, might be “the only antidote to shame.” And here I refer to humility as a species, an acknowledgement that to be human is to be somewhat whacky, a mixture of mistakes and victories. The poet Lauren Ireland wrote that “almost everyone is lonely, almost no one’s amazing.” Although this might sound pessimistic, I believe it’s an ode to the vastness of what we share. A host of clinical experiences has convinced me that dragging this shame into the light, whether with a therapist or some other trusted person or group, detoxifies it beyond expectations. The lies we tell ourselves grow weaker the more clearly we see them.

 

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