Strength in Tears

I have spent most of my life ashamed of my propensity to cry.  I felt that it showed some weakness in me, some deficiency in my ability to be a strong, real person.  I’m not sure where this came from.  In looking over my life, I can remember trying hard not to cry in the face of conflict or challenge, but the more I tried not to, the more I cried.  In my poor sense of self it was just one more reason not to like me.

My sense of self is changing.  I am becoming more comfortable with things that used to upset me.  I am beginning to understand that things like my tears are not a shameful thing.  I am an emotional person who takes things to heart.  I care deeply and I feel deeply.  That is ok.  That is part of what makes me who I am, and part of what makes me so good at what I do.  My compassion and empathy make it possible for me to be able to make a difference in the lives of the older people I work with.  It makes me able to hear and understand my children and husband when they are struggling.  It makes me a better friend.

I read something the other day that kind of stuck with me, and I guess it is the impetus to this post.  I wish I could find it so I could reference it here.  Basically, it said that tears show strength and the ability to release tension and keep perspective in the face of troubles.  Someone who is able to cry is comfortable with their own feelings, comfortable being authentic and open, and able to express true emotion.  Crying cleanses the soul and allows a person to move forward free of strain.  It is a tool for those who are strong to stay strong.

I like this thought.  It is ok that I cry and it does not mean that I am weak or unable to cope.  I am me, and me is different maybe from you.  Me is strong and sensitive and empathetic and caring and able to navigate life in ways that are positive and effective in serving others.  It makes me a good mom, a good wife, a good sister and daughter, a good Gerontologist, a good Christian, and a good person.  My strengths are uniquely suited to my roles and my place in this world.

Even my propensity to cry!

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Puzzle of Life

“Counseling is a complex riddle where the mind’s lines are joined with scrambling and precision to make sense out of nonsense, a tedious process like piecing fragments of a puzzle together until a picture is formed.”  -reprinted from “In the Midst of the Puzzles and Counseling Journey,” by S. T. Gladding, 1978, Personal and Guidance Journal

When a person puts a puzzle together, it takes time.  First the pieces must be sorted in a way that helps to organize them and discern the “edges” from the “innards.”  Some people like to put the edges together first in an attempt to define the picture and make it easier to produce a finished product.  Some do not.  Some use the picture on the box every step of the way to guide what pieces go together in order to create the whole picture.  Some do not.  What is true for everyone, no matter what the method of preparation and the plan of attack, is that putting together a puzzle is a process that takes time and does not happen in an instant.  The shapes and colors that lay before a person in chaos at first do come together to make a beautiful picture, whole and complete.

Counseling is like a puzzle.  It is the process by which a person sorts the pieces of his/her life and begins to put together a beautiful picture, an understanding, of self and the world.  The process takes time.  It does not happen instantly.  The boundaries must be set and the picture slowly takes shape and understanding dawns as order is brought to the chaos.  Eventually a beautiful and unique picture emerges, one that is made up of the lessons and good and the bad and all the many pieces that go into living a life.  As the picture becomes more complete, understanding springs forth and leads to peace.  The picture makes sense.