Art of Crying

Learning How to Cry

Breakdown time. Have you ever had a time in your life where all the energy of trying to hold things together finally falls apart? Where there is no longer a choice of holding things in because it is impossible for your body to contain anymore?

I have, and I do. A few weeks ago, I was cleaning out the remains of a house I haven’t lived in for two years. It is left over from a finished relationship and along with it, the dreams the home once held. It had been a week of logistics – sorting, cleaning, recycling, trashing, donating.

I was exhausted and took a moment to sit down and have a sip of water. A moment of pause, a few breaths, and there it was – my feelings surfaced in full force. Sadness. Anger. Relief. My slow stream of tears quickly transformed into a raging river of uncontrollable sobbing, lungs heaving and a whole lot of uninhibited releasing.

I feel like a big puddle curled on my futon, tissues box near empty when the door bell rings. It’s a man who answered my Facebook ad to pick up some chairs. I hesitate. The last thing I want to do is I interact with someone I have never met before. The options were to either pretend I wasn’t home or go to the door with my puffy eyes and pretend everything is fine. Since this person made time on his lunch break to come and we had an appointment, I wipe the tears off my face, take a quick look in the mirror and see my own reflection – let’s just say I don’t look at my best.

I slowly turn the knob and reluctantly open the door. There stands a man with a beard and a friendly face that I recognize from his profile picture. I prepare myself to put on a cheerful mask, and say in a higher pitch of voice than usual, “Hi! Are you here to get the chairs?” Instead, we looked at each other, and in that moment, another choice revealed itself.

I looked into his eyes, I let go and cried. And cried. I cried for a few minutes, breathing into my tears and let them flow down my cheeks.

He stood there.

I went into hiccupping, snot dripping, no holds back release.

He stood there.

Then I leaned against the wall as my whole body shook as I sobbed.

And he stood there.

He stood there until I finally paused and looked up at him. With a soft and steady voice, he asks, “Is there anything I can do for you?”

I pause, with a feeling of Canadian courtesy that I shouldn’t take up anymore of this man’s time. He came on his lunch hour to pick up some chairs for goodness sakes. Instead, I respond to his question in truth. “I would love a hug.” This stranger holds me, and I melt into his shoulder as I cry some more. He says, “You are doing great. Keep going.” So I do.

And he stood there.

When I finally surfaced with a wet, yet softer face and a giant feeling of relief, I looked at him and said, “thank you.”

He says to me, “there was a time when I didn’t cry for fifteen years. Now I do, so I know how good it feels.” He pauses and smiles, “You really know how to cry.”

We laugh, and I share with him that yes, I do cry well…I am learning to breath into my tears rather than breath them away. I am learning to embrace them so that they can be felt, experienced and moved.

And in this instance, I experienced that tears can be a bridge of connection. The facade of pretending things are ok when they are not, only breeds greater sense of separation and aloneness. In this moment, the gift of a stranger holding space for me to simply be as I am, expanded my heart in countless ways…and perhaps this Spring afternoon, his opened a little more too.

Thank you, Alfonso, for being an angel at my door. Thank you for holding space for me. Thank you for wrapping me in your arms. Thank you for seeing me. Thank you for reminding me that vulnerability is not a weakness. Thank you for reminding me we are all human. Thank you for showing me that an open heart is indeed, how I want to walk this life.


Alice Hong

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