I had a big cry today. Crying isn’t exactly a rare occurrence for me, but today was different. I felt despondent and helpless. It felt like all the sorrow that has befallen my friends, family, and community hit me all at once. In addition to all the national tragedies, I have had several close friends lose loved ones recently. And it’s just too much.
I’m an emotive person. I feel all the feels. I feel everyone else’s feels, too.
I can’t help it. If someone else is sad, I share that with them. Happiness and excitement? For me, it’s literally contagious. My “emotive bubble” is porous; it’s easy for other people’s feelings to sneak in, and I express my own pretty easily, too.
This has its pros and cons.
It makes me pretty darn good at my job as a therapist. I’m also a very empathic friend. I can really connect with people on an intimate level, and I enjoy feeling all the feels. I love opening myself up and living vicariously through others’ experiences, movies, and books. I relish watching a gripping drama and feeling the tumultuous ups and downs. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen The Notebook, sobbing happily every time, and I truly felt like I’d lost a family member when the series Parenthood ended.
I cry at commercials, and I tear up sometimes when my kids have a particularly poignant exchange together. I wouldn’t say these emotions are out of control; I just enjoy experiencing them all. My husband doesn’t get it, but for me, if I have a feeling building up, I just need to immerse myself in it until it has passed. Hence the fact that I enjoy a good cry.
Even the expression “good cry” makes total sense to me. Sometimes if I feel overwhelmed or burdened by all the sadness, crying about it helps me cope. It’s like I’m cleansed and washed anew, and I usually feel refreshed afterward with a better outlook on the situation.
But it can also be utterly exhausting, especially if there are too many inputs from too many places.
For instance, last night I watched a video of the father of one of the Parkland shooting victims. I was sitting there crying silent ugly tears for his loss, and the loss of so many others. Soon after, I found out about yet another friend who died suddenly in her sleep, impacting so many, especially the young family she left behind.
And it can just be too much. I just want to shout, “Stop the sadness! I can’t handle it!” It’s not even my sadness to carry, but I assume the burden anyway. I feel easily connected to others’ experiences, and I can empathize to the point where it feels personal.
Which, I’m realizing, is not always good.
I was driving my daughter to preschool this morning, and was hit by another wave of sadness that brought tears to my eyes. I started thinking about this most recent loss, on top of all the others, and I got caught up in my thoughts.
I was jerked back to reality when I realized my daughter was shouting my name over and over. Here I was, so caught up in my own emotions that I was ignoring my daughter. My sweet, precocious, funny girl who just wanted her mom’s attention while she sang me a silly song. And I realized this has to stop.
I can’t let myself get caught up in the experiences of others if it’s going to leave me distracted and less present with the people who mean the most to me. It doesn’t help anyone. All the sadness and tears in the world won’t bring these people back; it just leaves me emotionally unavailable for the ones who need me.
I don’t want to miss out on all the sweetness of life because I’m focusing on the sad, the evil, and the unjust.
I want to take advantage of every minute I have with the people I love most to enjoy those sweet snuggles, stories, giggles, and songs. I want to still be able to feel all the feels without becoming so completely overwhelmed by them all. And I know I can do that.
First and foremost, I can set limits for myself. I won’t watch the videos of victims’ families if it’s too much. I won’t read more about tragedies online, especially late at night. I won’t spend time putting myself in someone else’s shoes, wondering over and over how they feel and how they are possibly coping with their loss.
I need to plug the holes in my emotive bubble. That way, I can still see, hear, and engage with others around me without feeling the breath knocked out of me because I’m experiencing their emotions as my own.
If not for me, I want to do this for my own family and friends, so I can really be there for them when they’re the ones who need a good cry.