On Being a Crybaby

When I was younger, I cried a lot. Mostly the kind of spoiled crying most children do when I didn’t get my way. I rarely cried over things that deserved crying. Even breaking my wrist at 12 was not met with tears but naive stoicism. That changed when my dad died. My mother told me repeatedly that crying would be a poor reflection of her parenting skills; even going so far as to tell me that I was not to cry during group therapy as I was meant to be working through my grief. I internalized that for years because it was not the first time during a death my mother had told me such a thing. It actually happened first when I was 9 and my grandfather died. My mother told me I had to be strong for my younger cousins and thus, as the oldest, I could not cry. I had to be strong. I remembered that lesson at 12 and I held onto that for years. 

My aunts were better at letting me express feelings during therapy but when I was home such “outbursts” weren’t usually met well. I assumed my tears were weak. So many went through so much worse than me. What did I have to cry about? I had lost my dad, sure, but there were other things to be upset about. What was the point of crying? 

Around 17 is when I found Gravitation and quickly fell in love with the series and more importantly with a certain Cool Beauty that uttered a line I’d repeat in my day to day life regularly: Sorry fixes nothing. Yuki Eiri refused to apologize or accept apologies from people and he had a saunch view of shedding tears citing them as weak and pathetic to the extent that he questions his own masculinity when he finally reveals his trauma to his lover and cries over the years of pain he endured in mostly silence. 

I felt those feelings. I related to wanting to ignore the past and wanting to shun tears as they did nothing but keep present long-held griefs. I used charm, humor, sarcasm and more to deflect how I truly felt culminating in a moment that I did not think would ever come.

When my mom died, I was given power to make a lot of the choices. I don’t think I had time to be sad, I was so busy. Planning a funeral is hard work and I mostly smiled and made jokes to break the tension. I greeted guests as nicely as I could, deflected my feelings by asking about normal things and mostly did my best to ignore the fact that a part of me seemed to die with my mother. I was an orphan and I was not handling it well. 

When I spoke to my therapist before going to Austria, she looked me in the eye and said 

“I had no idea how much you overcompensate with humor.”

I laughed off her comment before going quiet. I sat on that as I boarded a plane to another continent. 

In Italy after a few travel mates decided to visit a cemetery in Sorrento (a terrible idea for a recent orphan) I found a statue of a long-dead Italian general and I sobbed. I draped my pathetic form over the cold bronze and openly wept. I lamented missing my mom, not revering her as much as I could in life and not being able to see her headstone be placed. I left loose in that moment all the emotions I had ignored. 

I returned to the U.S. and continued to not cope well with the death of my mother, mostly laughing until I just couldn’t laugh anymore.

I’m bad about suppressing my emotions but working in career positions meant ignoring my feelings to be strong and stoic. As a black woman, my emotions are particularly scary in the workplace. Too angry and I am the angry black woman white people are told to fear. If I am too passive or sad then I am weak for being a woman. It’s a lose-lose situation that I internalized by just bottling up my emotions.

But a few years ago: I became a crybaby. If I was put under too much stress or felt too many things bubbled up, I couldn’t keep myself from crying. I felt miserable the first time I felt my cheek dampen with liquid failure and as I continued to find myself crying at even the slightest of inconvenience either professional or personal I would just burst into tears. Usually silent, usually soft, usually almost without my control. If I felt too overwhelmed, too sad, too anything: I would just cry. 

Crying in public is an odd thing. It disarms people in all the wrong way. Professionally, it’s a nightmare. No boss knows how to handle a crying subordinate. Even close friends rarely know how to handle crying. It’s just an odd thing. What does one do? Are they to hug? Should they offer tissue? Should they just walk away and hope everyone just forgets it happens?

I fought this weakness for years and resented myself for being useless despite a few things being against me. One is that I have a pretty decent amount of trauma behind me and that two: I am incredibly empathetic. When I saw a person get into a low impact car accident downtown, I lamented to my sensei that I hope that others would care about me if I was in such a scenario to which my sensei was surprised and frankly troubled by my ability to empathize and internalize a scene that did not physically impact me. But in that moment when I saw that person get hit by a car at low speed, I immediately felt that shockwave, immediately felt that pain and immediately my heart sank knowing that we are all just a step or two away from being hit by a car and having others around you not care enough to stop or ask you if you need help. 

To beat a dead horse but when I was watching Devilman Crybaby that was something I always resented Akira for. I found his desire to save humans as weak. I wanted to be Ryo. I wanted to be jaded and cynical and think that humans were just as bad as demons so why not make a hell on earth. I wanted to think that I didn’t care about people or good things or heroes. Dear reader, I was wrong. I am Akira. I am an emotional and empathetic crybaby who wants so badly to see all the good in people; even if it means the end of me. 

I’m coming to terms with being emotional and with being an empath. I’m coming to terms with the fact that I just cry…and maybe that isn’t all bad. I’m getting better at holding it together when needed but also letting go of my emotions when I’m around people I can be vulnerable around and that I trust. 

Now that I think about it: I do cry a lot. 

I cry during movies when characters I love die or honestly, when the scenes make me feel too much of my past. I cry during anime series at home when I feel too much. I cry when songs are too much or hit particularly close to home. Lots of things can make me cry. 

I suppose, what makes it not so weak, is what I do afterwards. I try to be honest about how I feel and realize that tears don’t make me a bad person. I try to be better at piecing together what has me emotional or overwhelmed. I’m honest with myself about the fact that I’m usually holding onto feelings and more importantly: I’m trying to find better methods for channeling my empathy into being present, kind and listening. 

Maybe being a crybaby isn’t so bad after all. 

Dear Kanye West

It seems we living the american dreamBut the people highest up got the lowest self esteemThe prettiest people do the ugliest thingsFor the road to riches and diamond rings.png

Let’s get a little mood music going, shall we?

Hello, Mr. West.
I’m sure you won’t read this (though I’d be certainly flattered if you did) but it felt appropriate to address you formally regardless. I’m a longtime fan. No, really. I still have the censored copy of your first album College Dropout that my aunts purchased for me under the condition that I accept the censored version that Walmart so graciously offered to us back in the mid-2000s.

I wanted to talk to you today about how important your album was to me and why it’s been so difficult to watch you go a little bit insane.

So when I was younger, back in high school, I loved your album. I loved Jesus Walks. I loved your message. And there’s a reason for that and it’s sort of personal. But I’m in the spirit to share, so I’ll do it. I’m culturally abandoned. I’m not very tied to my blackness. I was raised in a mostly white neighborhood and had very little of the struggles that the average African-American youth faced. I didn’t traditionally struggle with money. I faced very little racism. We lived in nice areas and I was smart, in a good school and was surrounded by mostly white people and had mostly white friends. I just simply did not have the experience of the “average” African-American youth in America.  And while my father’s taste in music was diverse, my aunts had less diverse tastes in music. And while I was being raised with my aunts, it was easy for me to get lost in a sea of J-Pop and heavy emo music.

And then College Dropout arrived.

Mr. West, your album was fantastic. It still is, I can’t and won’t take away the greatness of your album. By focusing on more universal struggles like inferiority and boosting those feelings that are inexorably tied to race, you helped me tap into my blackness: even if it was only for a moment. Songs like School Spirit and All Falls Down were emotional, raw, intense but still clever, humorous and authentic. Your rhymes addressed so many of my concerns and feelings with hip-hop and rap and while sure, they still were misogynistic and homophobic: I ate College Dropout up. And you even managed to tug at my Catholic heartstrings. Not too many African-Americans I knew back then were Catholic, hell, most of my friends weren’t Catholic. You, Mr. West, became like the Catholic friend I never knew I needed.  And when your next album: Graduation dropped, I was even more sold. Heartless seamlessly blended style and genre while Good Morning was literally my moodboard song for months.

And then it all seemed to go to hell. I’m empathetic to the loss of a parent. I understand that one can even go a little mad after someone you love dies. But, you Mr. West, Mr. Fresh… you went more than a little mad. You proclaimed to be a god over and over again. Which, by the way, one Catholic to another: isn’t in any of the catechisms. You hooked up with some strange hellbeast (though most know her as a Kim Kardashian). Procreated and continued to spout out racially divisive, culturally insensitive and outright outlandish nonsense from then onto now.

Your music has seemed to suffer as well. While there was always a healthy level of egotism in all your music, it was in the past, almost self-deprecating. Now, you think you’re a god-king. Now, you’ve alienated your friends and fanbase. I worry about you. I know facing mortality is difficult. I know being surrounded by people who either don’t get you or only valid you can be trying. I get that being creative, being a creator and being an icon must be exhausting. But I want you to know; I need you to know, that you were an important part of my teen years and that I’m grateful for that.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Amanda

Catharsis vs. Reality

ca·thar·siskəˈTHärsəs%2FSubmitnoun1.the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions..png

I have a weird love-hate relationship with the Netflix hit BoJack Horseman. It’s probably one of the smartest shows ever with the some of the most realistic depictions of social issues, mental illness, addiction, gender and orientation topics. On the other hand, watching this series puts me in a weird emotional place. In so many ways this show feels like it’s taken from my diary in dealing with topics of dealing with distant and less than ideal families, loved ones with dementia and the fickleness of time and memory and finding out that the world isn’t and will never be enough.

I’ve now watched 4 seasons of this show and depending on when this post goes live I’ve either finished season 4 and am probably crying or I’m still in season 4 and probably crying. And each time I watch this show, I don’t know if I can say I enjoy it. Carlos and I watch it: it’s one of the few things we can agree on. And one of the biggest things I end up always saying about BoJack is simply:

“This is too real.”

This show is a reality for so many and in more ways than I like to admit; a reality to me, as well. This show for me is emotionally draining and exhausting and authentic. And even though they are all feelings I’ve felt and in some cases situations I’ve lived: it doesn’t help me work through any of these resolved or unresolved feelings. It doesn’t help me feel distanced from the pain of these instances. It just forces me re-watch these situations with weird anthropomorphic animals.  

BoJack Horseman isn’t cathartic. Watching Fullmetal Alchemist is cathartic. Reading Grendel is cathartic. Working through a good book of poetry or going on a walk is cathartic and is a good way to work through negative feelings.

But my desire to want a medium with which to work through problems rather than face a realistic portrayal of actual concerns does not mean I don’t value this show. This is probably one of the most important shows on TV right now. Who else has a realistic  and nuanced view of an asexual man in a basically leading role who doesn’t have to die and isn’t the butt of anyone’s joke? What other show handles the fickle nature of political stances and trending ideas and media? What other show is willing to sucker-punch you in the gut emotionally like this with no filter or concern for how you the viewer feels?

The most intense, wonderful and jarringly existential show in recent memory is about an anthropomorphic alcoholic horse coping with lost fame and the fact that there probably isn’t a grand reason to be alive or to be anything.

I’m tired every time an episode finishes but that doesn’t mean I won’t stop watching.