Valentine’s Day tears

Sobbing. Bawling, Tearing up. Weeping. Welling up.

There are a lot of different ways to describe crying.

Being in my 40s I kind of through that a simple holiday like Valentine’s Day would no longer have the power to make me cry, but this year it did. Twice.

First though, it was tears of joy.tears of joy

I am the principal of a middle school and one of my sweet 8th grade girls created some Valentine’s Day fortunes for her friends. I saw one on another girl’s plate and it read:

“I’m dieting this Valentine’s Day, so I’m accepting diamonds instead of chocolate”

Very cute, very fun, and very appropriate.

So she asked me if I wanted one. I asked if they were “principal appropriate.” She smiled and said “Mostly.” I guess I could have walked away at that point, but they were cute and she really is a good kid. So I pick out a Valentine’s fortune. As I read it, the girls next to me starts reading it too and we burst out laughing.

The one I picked read:

“Wishing you a happy Valentine’s Day from the bottom of my boobs. I would say my heart but my boobs are bigger.”

We were all cracking up. I’m not sure whose face was redder – hers or mine.

She tells me to pick another one. So I do. And it read:

“I’m only in this relationship for your cute butt.”

I hand it back to her. The entire table is now hysterical. Tears are rolling down my face from laughing so hard. “Those are the only 2 that were bad at all.” She promises me, but I tell her I’m all done with her Valentine’s fortunes.

She frantically finds me another one that says:

“Yay! Valentine’s Day! That means discounted chocolate the day after.” I smile wiping the tears of laughter from my eyes.

While that moment of crying was a good one. My next Valentine’s Day tears were not shed in joy. I woke up at 5:00 in the morning and couldn’t fall back to sleep. That’s not usually a good sign for me. It’s when I start to think too much, and that’s exactly what happened.

I began to think about Valentine’s Day and being part of a couple, which I am not. And I started to get sad, really sad, about being alone.

And I cried. A heart wrenching, sobbing, all out bawling cry.tears

I hate being alone. I am afraid I will never have someone to share my life with, to share myself with. I am afraid I’m a burden to my friends. I’m sad that I feel so damaged that no one will love me again. So I cried.

But one thing is true about both of the cries I had on Valentine’s Day. They were both good for me, good for my soul.

The laugh until you cry cry, was great. It was fun. It made me smile. It made me feel good. And it is important to let yourself laugh and feel good.

The heart wrenching, tears pouring down my face cry, was also great. I spend so much of my time pretending that it doesn’t hurt and that I’m not sad, that it was great to just let it out and cry.

Being alone is hard. Being alone is scary. But being where I am now is better than were I was before. Sometimes it is hard for me to recognize and remember that. Giving myself permission to just cry and be sad is important. Just so long as I don’t get stuck in the sad tears and allow myself the tears of joy too.

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Strength

Strength comes in many shapes and sizes,

many forms and functions,

many ways and words.

Strength comes when a mom holds her baby for the first time and knows in that moment that she will do anything to protect her baby. It also comes when her grown baby is in tears because their heart has been broken, or someone has treated them poorly, or they had to learn for themselves that life isn’t fair, and knowing she can’t fix it.

Strength can be found in a grown adult sitting by their parent’s bedside while they are recovering from surgery, still waiting to find out what the next steps are. It can be found in the waiting room of a hospital in the family members hoping, praying, and just being there, being together.

Strength comes when a smart, beautiful, young lady spent her junior year of high school battling cancer instead of her grades. When she shaved her own hair before the chemo could take it away from her.

Strength can be found in the eyes of a 12-year-old girl who finally got up the courage to tell her father that she was raped by her boyfriend. And in her steely response when her father asked if she did anything to encourage the boy.

Strength comes when a woman stands up to the man she loves, the man who promised to love and protect her, but instead filled her with fear and terror. When she finally finds a way to protect herself and her family from the man who threatened to ruin it all.

Strength can be found in weakness, in tears, in fear. Because in those moments, when we are often at our weakest, it is then that we feel the strength to push on, the strength to move forward, the strength to ask for help.

Strength comes from knowing when to walk away, and when to walk towards.

Strength can be found in the arms of a friend, who doesn’t have to say a word.

Strength comes in the familiar “ding” of a text message or email alert from someone who cares enough.

Strength can be found in the amazing people who are in our lives.

To walk with us,

to cry with us,

to celebrate with us,

and to just be with us.

I am blessed for all of the different ways I have experienced strength.

I try every day to accept the strength others give to me, and to be strong for them in return.

I’m not a very big person. I doubt anyone would describe me as physically very tough or strong.

But I have seen strength, I have felt strength, and through my experiences, I have known strength.

gentle strength

STOP

How do we make it stop?

I’ve lived it. I see it. I hear about it all too often.

But I don’t know how to make it stop.

I’ve lived through two horribly abusive relationships.

I have pictures from my first marriage. I have pictures of the bruises he left behind. I have pictures of the hole he punched in the wall an inch from my infant son’s head. I have pictures of the welts left on my arm from where he shoved me up against the wooden edge of the bed. I have pictures of an actual footprint on my leg where he kicked me. The physical bruises heal. The emotional scars don’t.

When people saw the bruises they felt bad. They said it was awful. They understood why I left. Physical abuse is horrible to live through. It is terrifying. It is debilitating. It is demoralizing. But in some ways it is easier than emotional abuse, because it can be seen. It can be defined. And it is not tolerated.

My second marriage was also abusive, but it was emotionally abusive. An emotionally abusive and controlling relationship is hard. It’s harder to identify. It’s harder to recognize. It’s harder to explain. It builds up over time. It is a series of doubts, manipulations, and incidents that sneak up on you.

It is hard to realize what is happening, identify it, name it, and get out of it. It feels weak to say, “He’s mean.” There is no bruise to say, “Look what he did.” In the end, it is the realization that it is bad, unhealthy, and wrong. I have scars from my second marriage. I have scars of fear, of self-doubt, of intimidation. I have scars from the emotional abuse.

I’ve lived through it. Both the physical and the emotional abuse. I’ve heard about it from other women. I’ve heard stories of intimidation, stalking, and manipulation. I’ve heard stores of lies, deceit, and falsehood. I’ve heard from other women who have experienced similar types of abuse. I’m surprised saddened by the sheer number of women who have experienced some type of emotional abuse.

Working in a middle school, I see it in our young girls. I’ve witnessed the terrors of young girls who are already getting themselves into abusive relationships. I’ve witnessed these girls believing it is their fault. I’ve witnessed them being taken advantage of for being kind, compassionate, and wanting to fit in. I’ve witnessed the extremes they go through to feel “loved” and “accepted.”

I see, I listen, and I cry. Sometimes with them, always after they’ve left. I cry for the innocence lost. I cry for the wanting. I cry for the pain and desperation in their eyes.

What I don’t know how to do is make it stop.