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!

Body Image

I am 43 years old and yesterday I wore a two-piece swimsuit for the first time since I was about 19 years old.  It wasn’t a two piece that looked like a one-piece, it was a bikini top and a skirted bottom.  My belly was uncovered for all to see! (Ok, so all was my hubby and kids and two very good friends.  But still…)

I have struggled with my weight and with my own self-image for my entire adult life.  Swimsuit season has always been hard for me, just as it is for women everywhere.  My body flaws were exaggerated and even new flaws imagined.  My usual swimwear choice always covered me and was much “older” than me in style and color because I wanted to hide.  The idea of a two-piece was ludicrous to me!  I had two larger babies, and my belly sports the stretch-marks to prove it!

I have spent the last 5 years of my life working to improve myself.  I have been working on degrees and educational pursuits that have allowed me to see myself as a smart, intelligent person who is able to succeed at the things that I set my mind to.  I have also faced some health issues that were serious and gave me an appreciation for where I am today.  I am at a relatively good place in my life.  I am starting to actually like me!

This is translating into how I feel about my physical self.  Do I weigh what I want to?  No.  Do I still have health concerns?   Yes.  When I decided I needed a new suit, I decided to be open about what I would try on.  I decided that I didn’t need to make such a big deal of my “flaws” and I could decide what made me feel good and attractive and confident.  I tried on the suit I got and my husband and daughter both told me I look good.  I mentioned that you could see my stretch marks, though they are faded after so many years.  Hubby said, “So??”

So got the suit.  I took it with me yesterday as we went to our friends house to celebrate Independence Day and swim.  I had a moment when I put the suit on and went out in front of everybody.  It was hard at first because my insecurities tried to raise their ugly protests.  My friends both said they liked my suit and that I looked great when I joked about it in an effort to cover up my nerves.

We had a great time!  I felt comfortable and it was nice to be able to break through that barrier for myself and be comfortable in my own skin.  It’s been a long time!!

I think that women place too much pressure on ourselves to look skinny, young, fit, whatever.  I think that being a 43 year-old woman with a real body is the most common thing in the world, but many of us feel that we are somehow ugly and flawed because we are normal.  Is this due to our culture?  The media?  The pressure of our husbands or friends or others?  I don’t know why we feel somehow less when we are not some stereotypical image of the perfect woman.

I know I’m not the “perfect” woman….but that is ok.  For once, I feel good about my self.  That is everything!!