The Part Where I Cry – and on Acting As If

the part where i cryNo one wants to read a blog post about a girl crying. Hence, you’re forgiven if you click this closed and opt for French toast and a pitcher of Bloody Marys instead. But it’s true.

This is a post about a girl crying. And it’s also a post about Acting As If.

The part where I cry…

Have you ever had an irrational response to something or someone? Like crying when presented with a live Maine lobster. Or bursting into tears when you misfire your fork at a Morton’s Steakhouse and your cauliflower goes flying across the dining room. Maybe it’s laughing to the point of tears when you see a scene from Family Vacation. Well, my Saturday evening this past week culminated in a glorious irrational response to something ever so simple — and involving someone I care about very much.

So this is the part where I cry. Not only was Saturday the first funeral/memorial service I’d attended since Jason’s back in November of 2010, I was at the end of my rope from a whirlwind week where sleep eluded me and the horizon wasn’t looking any better for rest. Feeling as if I fucked something up so royally had me cry myself to sleep that night, hoping I hadn’t decimated a relationship that’s terribly important to me.

In the midst of the tears (which probably needed to come out for many reasons beyond my fuck up), it occurred to me…

They didn’t get your memo.

You know. The one about your day. The one enumerating all of the things you experience, feel, and think but don’t share with people. All that shit that makes us respond the way we do. We end up in situations where — between two people — we each only have half of the other person’s story. So my response (irrational) was based on my day and my own bullshit and here’s someone sitting next to me thinking “WTFPSYCHOREDHEADBBQLOL.” And I only had half the story as well. But here’s the thing we’d all do well to remember: Two people with half a story each doesn’t equal a whole story. Unless we’re willing to share our bullshit, as uncomfortable as it might be. We’ll be stuck in Halvesville when the people we care for most deserve a condo in The Whole Story.

Something I would like to do better is reminding myself that there’s another half of the story with everyone I meet. We all should strive to Act As If.

Acting As If…

It’s the only way to act, I think. And granted, this is a conclusion I came to in the midst of a crying hangover (ever had one of those?). We should act as if the person before us deserves the benefit of the doubt. What kind of bullshit would we avoid if we extended that gesture?

How many of you woke up this morning nearly suffocated by the burden of the upcoming week? (raises hand)

Who out there looked at his inbox with dread as the server started dumping digital shit on your virtual desk? (+1)

Is there anyone reading this who has something personal she’s dealing with that colors every interaction and gesture? (ahem)

The thing that was clearest to me as I emerged (coffee-fueled, albeit) from my crying hangover was that I had to share the other side of my story with the person who got the brunt of my irrationality. Did I do it in a lame-ass email? No. Was it easy to pick up the phone? Also a no. But was it easier than letting the sick feeling in my stomach persist and share the other side of my story — no matter how irrational it might be? Yes.

And it was worth it.

When you Act As If, you’re giving the person in front of you the chance to share. Odds are you’re going to emerge with more of their story than you had. And isn’t that the best we can hope to do as human beings? Crawl into those uncomfortable places in life and let them challenge us. Respect our gut and say, “FUCK! I hear you already. FINE!” and Act As If our gut has something important to share or else it wouldn’t be bugging us like a yappy pup. Those uncomfortable places — while I’m not actively looking for them, I’m doing a better job of allowing myself to experience them instead of avoiding. I’m super excellent at running AND avoiding. And my life’s become a much richer place for giving myself the chance to see what’s waiting on the other side when I decide to deal instead of dodge.

So I ask…

Was it worth it to cry myself to sleep? Yes. Because I have a feeling I’d been due for a good cry (and not all for bad reasons). I had an uncomfortable conversation where I was honest and open and received exactly the same in return — which was a gift, and not necessarily one I deserved. I’m grateful I’d earned this person’s audience. And with any luck, I can leave that irrational broad behind and be more willing to share the other half of my story.

The people who are most important to me deserve to have both halves. Which means I’ll Act As If towards them and hope they do the same in return for me.

PS: I’m not pretty when I cry. And while Pinterest would have us believe otherwise, sometimes the most meaningful things in life aren’t pretty. They just are.

40 replies
  1. John Trader
    John Trader says:

    I could hardly imagine what the world would be like if, “We should act as if the person before us deserves the benefit of the doubt.” It’d be much more pleasant, that’s for sure.
    Although there are many subtle themes to this post, the most meaningful for me and my 2012 goal is to get the hell out of my comfort zone and start feeling more uncomfortable more often. It stimulates my sense of perception and helped me to be more empathetic. Which we all could use a little more of.

    Let the tears flow.

  2. Shannon W.
    Shannon W. says:

    Perfect. This happened to me recently – clearly a co-worker thought the stress & strain in my voice was directed at her and she hung up. So I called her back and told her something deeply personal that I was still sorting through in my mind. And I acknowledged that while it would be best for me to just hide in a cave until I had things sorted, that wasn’t really realistic. She showed me a grace I didn’t deserve. And I learned that my penchant for ‘sorting things out myself’ doesn’t do anyone any favours. 

    Also, crying is awesome. Fully on snot-and-tear-fests that require a t-shirt to dry your face because kleenex just won’t do are the best. 

    Bless you. 

  3. Steph Lee
    Steph Lee says:

    I’m definitely feeling like a pit hole of negativity today and I usually cry in public (still suffocated by the a gazillion to-do lists). *Hugs. You have so many people who care about you; even when you’re not in a state of mind to give someone else the privilege of the doubt, they still care about you. Taking your advice to heart and sending you awesome vibes to get everything you need to get done before SXSW!

  4. Joel MacCollam
    Joel MacCollam says:

    Here a slightly different twist on the “missive half” Erika mentions: When CEO of a small company (under 25 staff), I would visit each new staffer and ask them to stand up and step away from their desk. I’d then sit in their chair and look around the work space for a moment. Maybe also ask about any pictures they had already brought, etc. Then the big “why did I do this?” would come up.

    We were small and had the luxury of overlaying any conversation (written or voice) with a literal perspective on “where that person sat” … and I’d let them sit at my desk and see the scope of what a CEO does every day as well. This simple object lesson helped immensely when it came to stressing communication as a two-way street, “Sitz-in Leben” all all of that good stuff.

    I also took this to heart when calling vendors or our other offices in Europe or Hong Kong … not only picturing their “space” but also what time of day it was and, thus, how to approach a topic .. whether they might be full of energy or exhausted.

  5. NikkiGroom
    NikkiGroom says:

    I’m ridiculous when it comes to this. No matter what kind of foul, rancid mood I’m in, I expect everyone to KNOW this and understand WHY I don’t want to talk today. I’m snappy if they don’t seem to grasp this and irritated and frustrated at them at the same time.


    I will be less passive aggressive in future and more communicative and stuff.

    Thanks, angel.

    PS. There shouldn’t be a “but”, (two, if you’re counting) BUT… just so everyone knows, I have to have to HAVE TO have a cup of tea in the morning before I’m even talkin’ to your ass.

    The End.

  6. Jim Brochowski
    Jim Brochowski says:

    I teach classes in crisis prevention where we call these “precipitating factors.” In my life I call it “True Intent.” In each conversation I have with folks, personal, professional, casual, what not… I try to ask myself – What is their true intent? It helps with more open communication, diffuses possible tension, leads to better customer service when I’m at work. Of course I also track my own True Intent when interacting with people and it keeps me on my toes to be sure I’m bringing my whole, honest, true self to the table. This all started when a guy came in to use our computer at the library who was just irate, angry beyond belief. It occurred to me that he wasn’t really mad at me or the library, he was mad because he didn’t know how to use the computer and he had to to accomplish his task. I calmly asked him what exactly he needed, spent about 11 minutes getting it for him and sent him on our way. A short time later someone from our director’s office came down with a letter the gentleman had stopped to deliver complimenting me on my service.

    Aha! I was onto something.

    It’s always the right thing to consider all sides and as many factors as possible. It’s also fair to cut yourself some slack or give yourself a break sometimes if you need to. Good on you for that.

    I also agree that the phone call was an absolute necessity, (and I don’t always agree with you on the phone thing.)

    Good for you!

  7. jo miller
    jo miller says:

    You, quite simply blow me away, with your writing.  the shifts in perspective and perception that you help direct us in, reach places that make a difference.  Thank you.

  8. Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2
    Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2 says:

    I believe people with a dominant feminine essence acting from their primary emotion is a beautiful thing.

    I learned that we all have masculine and feminine streaming through us but one is the leader. Has nothing to do with male or female. It’s about what you favor at your core the majority of the time. 

    This is why when my 5 year old girly-girl niece cries now for no reason (or what I deem to be a dumb reason) I don’t tell her not to cry. I tell her I love it when she cries over something inconsequential in the big scheme of it all (completely different story if she’s physically hurt).

    I think people holding back what they feel because they know the other person doesn’t appreciate the full range of emotions available and will make them wrong for expressing ourselves makes us less authentic. I believe the key to solving this is to love and the be the ocean shore in the face of the typhoon or the hurricane that is human femininty in the people we treasure.


  9. Pamanner
    Pamanner says:

    Spot on! You managed to sum it all up in only 3 words yet explain with such clarity! You deserve a reward! I’m trying to live this way . . .

  10. Frelle
    Frelle says:

    This is my first visit to your blog, courtesy of one Cabot O’Callaghan, and I love what you have to say here.  I agree. I’m so glad you decided to write about this scene in your week, and give us all something to keep in mind.  Letting someone in when your filter has made you receive something the wrong way and act irrationally angry or sad is a huge risk. I’m glad you took it, and that you feel better for it. 

  11. Kristina Sorrelli
    Kristina Sorrelli says:

    It doesn’t matter what post I read on your blog I am able to take something meaningful and useful away with me when I leave.  You tell it like it is and never EVER sugar coat anything (which I love).  

    Thank you, thank you for being brave and strong enough to say all the things we sometimes don’t know how to say or are to afraid to say. 

  12. lisagerber
    lisagerber says:

    Two things: Our natural reaction when the OTHER person reacts irrationally is to think it’s about you. That they hate you, or it’s something YOU did. Stopping to think there is another half we don’t know about is soooo important. 

    Second thing: Best scene ever in a movie is the Broadcast News crying scene. I do it all the time. It works. 

  13. Nancy Cawley Jean
    Nancy Cawley Jean says:

    Oh what a post! Thanks for putting into words what I’ve felt a few times! And unfortunately i didnt “act as if” and suck it up and do the right thing. And the crying hangover? The totally dehydrated can barely open your eyes morning after? I’m acquainted with that. Ugh!!! Thanks for this. 🙂


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