And I think I’m going through a third-life crisis.
Emotions are high. Candy wrappers carried down the street by a gust of wind remind me of the fleeting nature of life and suddenly it’s all too much. Random displays of friendship that don’t even involve me get me choked up and in need of a group hug. One minute, I want to have a huge party and be surrounded by every single person I’ve ever met, the next I’m having a panic attack at the thought of being around so many people, and just want to hide under my covers with food, hugging my laptop and whispering, “You’re the only one who really sees me”.
What the hell is happening.
I’m not an emotional person. I don’t cry – not at goodbyes, not at funerals, and rarely in pain. Displays of emotion make me uncomfortable, and a little itchy. I don’t know how to deal with sadness; my idea of a comforting gesture is to lightly tap you on the back with the very tip of one finger, and if I can convey my sympathy without touching you, well then that’s just a good day for everyone.
So what’s making me so damn emotional? It’s not hormones, I know that, and I’ll spare you the details of how I know. And I don’t feel or look my age, at all, so I know it’s not the age thing…
…Or is it? Is this what happens when people get older? They become blubbering balls of sensitivity? No shade to people who feel things (they are superheroes), but the idea of becoming an emotional being terrifies me. I have enough trouble controlling the one emotion I *do* feel (anger) – I can’t imagine having an entire range to deal with. What if I can’t control my powers? What if every sunset makes me cry? What if I start crying and can’t stop? What if I’m forced to spend the rest of my life writing sappy poetry and staining the pages with my sad, salty tears?
You notice the pattern, right? Not only do I associate feelings with waterworks but, more disturbingly, I have a deep-seated and obvious contempt for crying. I’m not sure where it comes from, but I have a theory:
When you’re a child in an ‘other’ household, parents will say things like, “Aww, what’s wrong, honey? Oh no, don’t cry. It’s okay. It’s going to be okay”, after which they will investigate as to the reason behind your distress.
As a Sudanese child in tears, you will probably hear this (and nothing else):
“Bitabki? Waaaaaa, ya bakkaaaya! Shufu albakkaayaa!”
Translation: “Are you crying? Waaa you crybaby! Look at the crybaby!”
As a young adult going through a traumatic or otherwise sad experience, you might be told, “I understand what you’re going through. It’s okay to let it out – crying does the soul good”. In a Sudanese setting, you will most likely hear these comforting words:
“7ata3mali shinu, 7atabki ya3ni? 3aweera inti? Fi bika 7alla laihu mushkila?”
“What are you gonna do, cry? Are you stupid? When did crying ever solve anything?”
Clearly, my mother-culture has subliminally taught me that crying is bad….which is confusing since now as an ‘adult’ I’m expected to be an excellent crier. I’m supposed to show love by crying when I drop people off at the airport. I’m supposed to show respect and empathy by crying at funerals. I’m supposed to show happiness by crying at weddings. As a “lady”, I’m supposed to show anger – you guessed it – also by crying.
Ironically, any display of humanity has become inextricably linked to my ability to produce tears. My entire upbringing was based on a lie.
I want a refund. A written apology. Reparations. A sorry-cupcake. Something.
This post had very little to do with my birthday, but I don’t care. You know why?
Because it’s my party, and I can (not) cry if I want to. 🙂