What I've been chewing on lately...

May 14, 2012
The Importance of Crying in Public

Last week a very important and dear relationship ended.

This past week I cancelled The Well-Fed Woman retreat to be held at Tassajara. There simply weren’t enough sign ups. This retreat has been a dream of mine and the content was extraordinary. It’s not dead in the water by any means; we’re trying to reschedule, but do I ever feel grief.

Yesterday, Fiona, my family’s dog, died suddenly and tragically at the age of nine. She was the embodiment of love. There was not a mean, grumpy, punky, mischievous bone in her body.  Pure love.

Today, I have a heavy heart.

I have a heavy heart and the unexpected thing is that I was planning to write this post on crying even before any of these events occurred.  Now, I feel an even greater urgency to do so.


Many of us feel shame about tears. Some only shed them in the dark of movie theaters, at funerals, when curled up alone in bed, or maybe only in the confines of a coach’s office. Others quickly wipe away a single tear and issue an apology that goes something like “I’m sorry, I don’t know why I’m crying” or “Ugh, I’m sorry, this isn’t worth crying over.”

Sadly from the time they are small, most of the men in our culture are encouraged to suppress this important and natural emotional reflex at all cost. “Be tough” we tell them. “Be a man.” “Men don’t cry.” In 2012, crying for most men is still a taboo.

Oddly when many of us cry, we feel we need to take care of those who are with us when we come to tears. We feel that we have to make sure they don’t feel too bad or overly concerned. So we buck up, we assure and reassure them “we’re fine” or “we’ll be fine.” We don’t let ourselves melt for fear we’ll bring them down with us.  But sometimes we actually need to melt and we need to trust that others cannot only handle our tears, but can benefit from them.

You see, the result of all the suppression, minimization, and hiding of tears is that we suffer alone. Humans were not meant to suffer alone.

I used to be this way. I would go through the world with a “perfect” face on and only when I retreated to my bedroom or therapist’s office would I give myself permission to fall apart. Unfortunately by holding it all together, I felt profoundly lonely and lifeless much of the time.

Thankfully, I’m not that way anymore. Today, my emotions are fluid and, to me, beautiful. I have a rich community of like-hearted friends who powerfully support me and I them. I have safe places to go and be witnessed. There is no putting on a face anymore for me.

On the other hand, having an online brand adds a complication. Others frequently project their “stuff” on to me. As a healer I must be totally healed; as a wise woman I must know all; and as a woman behind a pretty-shiny website — some people assume my life is always pretty and shiny.

These projections are not true. They are not  true for me or any of my incredible colleagues in the online sphere. No matter how pretty the online interface or wise the teachings, we all have experiences that make us cry.

When I say I want you to cry in public, what I am encouraging you to do is to feel what you feel, peel off the masks and let others (whether close friends or strangers) see you as you are. When we can do this, we heal, we connect, we give others permission to do the same and we are more in touch with the flow of our lives.

Stifled tears = stifled self and life.

When we let go and unleash sad tears, we also break the dam that may be holding back tears of joy, tears of ecstasy, or tears of empathy. I’m not saying we all need to walk around with mascara streaming down our cheeks 24/7. I am simply advocating that we allow what wants to happen to happen and we realize that when we do, the connection between us can be a healing connection.


Reflect: How do you feel after you cry?

Reflect: What story do you have that might be preventing you experiencing emotional authenticity?

Reflect: “What I know to be true about tears is…”


A note about the images I shared here:

The other night I began to sob. It was the kind of sob I have only when I pray. While I am not an alcoholic, it was very much in the vein of the serenity prayer:

“God (or as I say Universe) grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

Heavy emphasis on the last part. I was praying for the wisdom to know the difference. And in my anguish and aching, tears were pouring out of me.

I reached for my phone and snapped a few quick pictures because I wanted to see what that kind of pain looked like and with so many happy headshots of me, I just wanted a visual reflection of my humanity. When I took these photos, I never intended to share them. Yet, I kept going back to look at them, feeling compelled to write this post; so, sharing them seemed fitting.

You and this community most definitely inspires joyful tears. Thank you for reading.

Love, Rachel

“The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.” – Isak Dinesen