I’m So Happy That I Can’t Stop Crying



I hate to cry in front of people.

Hate it.

Despite that, or maybe because of it, I sure seem to do it a lot.  I cry easily.

The more determined I am to appear cool, calm, or unaffected, the less successful I am. The more desperately I’m trying to hide the depth of my worry or heartache, the more likely it is that I will be overcome by unwanted emotion and dissolve into a liquefied puddle of embarrassment in front of whoever is around, whether it be friends, coworkers, or visiting foreign dignitaries.

It doesn’t take much, just the proverbial drop of a hat.  I cry when I see little old couples holding hands. I tear up when I pray out loud. I even get suspicious sniffles every time Clinton and Stacy teach another poor, clueless woman how to shop for her body type.  Some days, for no reason at all, I just wake up feeling weepy, and I know it’s only a matter of time until something sets off the deluge.

Just recently, my traitorous tear ducts have spilled over while I was singing at church, when feeling a little overwhelmed at work, when an unexpected financial expense popped up, and during a group meeting that got a bit tense.  And forget trying to surreptitiously dab at your eyes; someone always notices and approaches with the tender-hearted question guaranteed to turn a couple of transient tears into a truly horrifying gusher: “Are you all right?”

The embarrassment of having my waterworks noticed coupled with the emotional impact of someone reaching out in compassion never fails to intensify the storm.  Suddenly, it’s an Incident.  People walking by feel the need to stop and see what’s wrong with me (answer: a lot) and to offer hugs and pats on the arm while I try to explain, between sobs, that I’m okay, really, and it’s nothing, and as soon as everyone stops looking at me I’m sure I’ll be able to get myself under control, I promise.

It might be different if I cried pretty.  You know what I mean.  In the movies, the ingenue always weeps quietly, lower lip trembling, moisture pooling sweetly below her beautiful, shining eyes until one glistening tear escapes to make its careful way down her face, miraculously leaving her makeup intact before it is kissed or wiped away by the studly love interest gazing rapturously into her soul.

When I cry, it’s nothing like the movies.  My face gets all red and blotchy, my eyes swell up, and the only thing glistening is my nose, which runs like it’s being chased by a mugger.  My vocal cords seize up and I can barely squeak out a word, let alone form a complete sentence.  The muscles in my face each go off in their own direction, and anyone looking at me finds himself thinking inexorably of Heath Ledger’s Joker from the last Batman movie.

I know some people view tears as manipulative and immature.  A 36 year old woman should be able to reign in her emotional reactions, they’d say.  Apparently, the six year old inside of me does not agree, and she will not go quietly.

I’ve tried to stop.  I pinch myself.  I think of puppies.  I blink really, really fast.  Nothing works.

I guess there’s nothing for it but to accept my ridiculous eyes and all that goes with them.  It’s not all bad, I suppose.  There’s a certain wanton relief in having a good cry.  It leaves the heart feeling like the woods after a hard rain: fresh, clean, and cleared of debris.  Far, far worse is the feeling of needing to cry and not being able to.

Or so I’ve been told.

Frankly, that’s never been my problem.

28 responses »

    • You’re right! And I hear you on the hormone thing–take everything I said in this post and multiply it by ten, and that was me when I was pregnant. I tried to channel as much of it as possible into watching “A Baby Story” on TLC so that I could go out into the world and function semi-normally.

  1. I can totally relate! I appreciate people’s concern, but when I get a kind word when I’m just a little weepy, it turns into a full-fledged bawl. And I cry at all kinds of things. The Aaron Burr “Got Milk” commercial always gets me. Most recently the Taylor Swift song “The Best Day” because it’s about a Mother-Daughter relationship. *Tear!* But the crying pretty thing… totally not me. My face screws up like a baby and I look like Quasimodo. And I get blotchy and can’t talk. I don’t understand the people who give speeches and sing songs with that hint of emotion in their voices. I can’t do that. So maybe next time I notice you a little weepy, instead of reaching out, I’ll say, “Buck up, Katrina! Rub some dirt in it!”

    • What a pal! Thanks, Alyson. I think that will help immensely.

      I haven’t heard “The Best Day”, but I always cry at that mother-daughter song from Mamma Mia, “Slipping Through My Fingers”. Okay, I’m tearing up right now just thinking about it!

  2. Perhaps you should just make a sign to put on your desk or hang around your neck when you just need to continue your emotional break from normalcy. Then you wouldn’t have to talk. And, if you make the sign funny, you could look at it and laugh and turn tears into laughing fits!

  3. No, no…I am the worlds ugliest cryer. It’s like Julia Roberts but worse. Yikes!

    I also am a cry cy baby ( I definitely just sang that a la Janis Joplin) like my daddy.

    It’s always worse when I talk to my mom. The tears turn to faucets and I sob and turn into a bumbling fool. ugh

  4. Remember – our emotions are one of the ways we are created in God’s image – the same thing that makes us tear up at TV commercials allows us to experience true joy in our lives. But I agree – I am an ugly crier too!

    • That is a good point; emotional intensity goes both ways, and I wouldn’t trade the highs for anything–even the ability to get through a whole episode of What Not To Wear without having to pull out the kleenex!

  5. I had a moment this weekend while alone in the car when I thought, “I need a good cry.” But just then the phone rang and I didn’t get to it. I have cried about songs and movies and commercials with little girls and their daddies. I cry at church when I sing and at home when I pray. God gave us tears for a reason. Embrace them.

    And Ada’s right, I do not call mom when I’m on the verge of an unwanted cry. There is no holding back once I hear her voice.

  6. I think that we should start a new trend where it is way cool to cry in public. After all, we estrogen laden beings are just victims of a patriarchal society that is afraid to cry! Crying is the coolest!

    • Absolutely! Maybe we could get NOW to turn their attention to the more important elements of women’s equality. Stamp out the suppression of natural emotional exuberance! Save the Wails!

  7. You are so inside my head with this one! I mostly fight this at work; my friends and family are used to it so I don’t even try to suppress it around them. One tip that works for me: squeeze your “cheeks” (the posterior, *ahem*) together as hard as you can. Sounds bizarre, but it actually works. I heard this at a conference in the 80’s for “women in the workplace” – heinously un-PC at this point, but some of the ideas stuck with me!

    Thanks for sharing, and letting me know I’m not the only one!

  8. The most tender-hearted, kind, compassionate people I know share this characteristic. There’s enough cynicism in the world, don’t you think? 🙂
    I’m totally with you on the ugly cry, though. My nostrils flare. Like a horse. Ugh. And it happens at least 3 times a week. In front of others. Double ugh.

  9. I too am an ugly crier. If I cry, its obvious, and always garners those “glances” and comments that inevitably make it worse. I can appreciate your weakness in this area…you are not alone 😦

    P.S. LOVE the new blog header 🙂

  10. “There’s a certain wanton relief in having a good cry. It leaves the heart feeling like the woods after a hard rain: fresh, clean, and cleared of debris. Far, far worse is the feeling of needing to cry and not being able to.” – I AGREE

    I cry easy myself – on various emotions from very happy to very sad.

    Hey, love the new header 🙂

  11. I so identify with your column. I had hoped that I would outgrow/overcome it with age. No such luck; I’m sixty-two and still weeping at inopportune times. I can tell when it’s going to start and now usually warn those around me that “I’m OK, really” but all I really want to do is disappear. Sometimes it’s happy tears, sometime sad….I often times don’t know what the trigger was. But once the tears start, there’s no way to stop them ’til they decide to stop. And I don’t look pretty ; my nose runs and my face terns blotchy red.
    So, if you see the tears start, please don’t ask “What’s

  12. i’m confused. are you so happy BECAUSE you can’t stop crying. or are you so happy about something that the RESULT is that you are unable to stop crying. clarify, please.

  13. I used to always be able to grit my teeth or curl my fingernails into my palms and stop the tears from coming. But…. no longer. I cried three times in public already this last week. I am a mess. 🙂 I used to pity the people I knew who could not control their tears, but now I am one of them. I do think that it is MUCH healthier to let the tears out. My makeup runs, my skin also gets blotchy…and it is Me. Really Me. Here’s to free-flowing tears whenever the moment appears! Love ya.

  14. Another 62-year old still crying, altho mostly happy tears. One way to prevent is to sip water. For years I have gone to my annual review with a HUGE glass of water and sipped, sipped, sipped. Not because I expected criticism, but to ward off the good news! In our extended family, I am the “designated crier” for weddings, birthday parties, and the evening news. Some of us just have the gift!

    ps: just re-read the above. I wonder if gin would work as well as water?

  15. I came across your website while I was doing some research on crying… I must say this is exactly what happens to me and today I cried at work and it was the most embarrassing thing everrrrrrrrrrrrrr. All day I kept thinking about it and could keep feeling the tears about to come as well. Of course i had the red blotchy hives thing going on and that doesn’t make you feel any better! I wasn’t even crying for a good reason, I didn’t do anything wrong! I am 22 years old and a customer was really rude to me and I just lost it. I tend to cry a lot in front of my family as well, but like Jen said above it doesn’t really bother me they are used to seeing it. I even cry easily during tv shoes when the actors are crying, it is like I feel bad for them or something.

  16. I hate crying infront ppl too
    before some days the person who I love, engage anothe girl

    I love him now I am very alone without him
    nobody can fell what I fell now

  17. Do not ever be ashamed of your emotions. It should not feel any less refreshing to cry in front of people has it does praying in bed under the big Navy Blue blanket.
    The ancients use to think that tears was a sign of God’s Love. I think they are right…
    This high quotient for emotions is not a disorder – it is a gift.

  18. I’ve just seen the King’s Speech and cried almost all the way through! I was so moved by it – like lots of the above comments so many things can set me off and it defies belief that I can find some things so tear jerking while others don’t. Even cloying sentimental movies, poems etc that my head thinks are ridiculous, my heart is saying ‘ohhh..’ It is getting ridiculous but it’s been happening since I was a child – good to know we are not alone but I think I will try sipping water during the next public event I attend and hopefully that will stop it.

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