I saw a Facebook post this morning: a young woman celebrating her birthday with a Cannoli. Apparently, a Cannoli – a really good Cannoli – makes her cry. For reasons unknown, it inspired me to write about crying.
Then I lost the post ... searched for it ... couldn’t find it. How will I write if I don’t have more information about the young woman, about the Cannoli? These are the desperate questions a writer asks.
Then I saw another post with a quote from Eckhardt Tolle, and misquoting, since I can’t find that one anymore either, “You are getting exactly what you need to grow your consciousness.” Thanks, Eckhardt.
So, Cannoli, Crying and Consciousness. Here’s where I’ll begin and see what comes of it.
When I was a little girl, I’d always cry if I saw someone else crying, even if I didn’t know them. My father would turn to me and remark, “Why are you crying? There’s nothing wrong with you.”
It was a judgment, not an observation.
I was highly sensitive even then, feeling the energy in the emotions around me and taking them in as my own and yet, de-sensitization seemed to be the way to get through my childhood.
Fact: my mother was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis a few years after I was born. This crippling illness took its toll on her, my father and our family unit as her mobility decreased. People would stare on the street as we walked slowly along, a cane and knee braces advertising that something wasn’t as it could be. I glared at the people who stared because I didn’t like the staring. It made me want to protect my mother. And shutting these people down was the only way I knew how to protect her when I was little.
Fact: There was always accommodation in our household because of my mother’s illness. As I reflect back, it was never really expressed out of love; more out of obligation, it seemed. “You made your bed; lie in it” was one of my father’s favorite sayings. When I chose to divorce, my father remarked, “What’s so wrong in your life that you have to leave? If I can stay, so can you.” I didn’t stay, by the way.
Fact: we moved to an all-Jewish neighborhood when I was little giving us the distinction of being the only Roman Catholic family for miles because my mother wanted to live in a ‘good’ neighborhood. Yes, I had friends; one who invited me to Seder and holidays; one who lived across the street and we’d communicate through our bedroom windows, alerting each other to a “call” with our flashlights. We’d put on plays in her garage, singing, acting, dancing.
There were also the ones who drew pictures in chalk of a fat naked girl with crosses for nipples on the sidewalk and hurtful words that I don’t recall after so many years; Funny, I can’t remember the words or who did it and yet, I can still remember the hurt.
Okay, we were all bullied as children at some point or other, or so I tell myself now. Back then, who had any consciousness about bullying? It felt so personal, so, for many of my own reasons, I learned to live with my defenses going up and down; up and down; letting people in; shutting my sensitivity out.
Small things are still like an arrow to my heart. I can turn on TV and catch the last 5 seconds of a commercial – you know the ones, designed to tug at your emotions. I cry before the regularly scheduled programming comes back on! 4-3-2- and there go the waterworks.
What does this have to do with Cannoli? Back to the birthday girl and the Cannoli. This beautiful young woman with tears in her eyes, holding a Cannoli with one bite missing, made me cry. It was a beautiful, unguarded moment of life. A connection to pleasure and vulnerability. It reminded me that little things make up a big thing and if a million little things can bring me joy, or move me to tears, then that’s a big thing wanting to happen. I also can’t let the big things that happen in life shut down my sensitivity to the little things. Not knowing anything about consciousness as a child, I offer myself complete forgiveness. As an adult, well, here’s where consciousness comes in.
I define consciousness as the ability to see past our stories into a bigger space where so much more is possible. An opening into mystery.
As a child, I never questioned the stories of my parents. Life was hard. You keep your promises, even if they become obligations. All real stories for them.
There were stories I questioned, though. Crazy moments in time and why I remember these stories and not others, I can’t say because I don’t know. Dare I call it consciousness without someone interpreting it as ego?
First story: I was little and sitting with my mother and her mother watching TV. An actor of color came on the TV and, back in the late 1950s, how many actors of color were there? Yes, you and I are probably thinking of the same person right now. My grandmother spoke up immediately, saying, “There are so many ‘colored people’ on TV” or something very similar to that. So many? Seriously? I remember turning to look at her and absolutely hating her in that moment. This wasn’t a story that I could accept and now I realize that I actually refused her story, and I refused it on a cellular level. How did that story get rejected when so many others were embraced? It just did.
Second story: When there was a death in the family, no one was allowed to watch TV, listen to music, laugh … nothing and nobody … until my father decided we were done mourning. Music was always a solace for me and I never could understand why we would deny ourselves something so comforting in a time of deep sorrow. Now, I realize it was because there was an obligation to mourn; to stay sad. It was required. You were either happy or sad; never both, and certainly not at the same time.
Consciousness tells me that I can be both happy and sad; I can grieve and rejoice, as difficult as that sounds when I write the words. I am all this and more. Today, I smile at people I don’t know. You know that moment when your eyes meet a stranger’s eyes and you hold eye contact for a moment? Most of the time, people look away as if saying, “oops, you caught me looking.” I smile. It unnerves some people and engages others. I’m in it for the engagement. I am not obliged to look away. Neither am I obliged to smile. I do it because I want to.
So, what does it cost me to cry? (The original title of this blog)
It costs me very little. At the risk of inconveniencing others, it costs me more not to cry: to write my own stories and feel deeply for someone else, for myself, for the world. Happy tears or sad tears, it makes little difference.
So, Cannoli girl, happy birthday. Eckhardt Tolle, I really do love you. And to friends and family, if you see me crying for absolutely no reason, know that I’m having a really good time and that I’m acting out of love, not obligation.