This past Saturday, to open up our Board of Directors’ meeting for MenLiving, we checked-in with naming a man or men that inspire us or is part of the “why” we do this work. It happened to be a rather impromptu suggestion that came to me in the moment but wasn’t altogether different than other ways we’ve started similar meetings. However, this one hit me.
As I began to share, emotions started bubbling up and coming to the surface – I became choked up and was filled with a handful of emotions – sadness, joy, fear. My voice changed and the tears started welling up in my eyes (a few may even have descended down my face).
This isn’t all that surprising. Number 1, I have a proclivity for tears in sentimental moments but #2, I was in the company of men I fully trust and know will not only hold the space for me to be sad, vulnerable and emote but also be fully present and patient with me in my experience. Nowhere to go. No place to be…but there with me.
I hadn’t realized it until today but July 24th was International Self-Care Day, an annual observance initially started in 2011, to highlight self-care as critical for our health and wellbeing. What’s one thing you can do to take care of yourself? Cry, of course!
According to some experts, “stress sees it’s exit through our tears” and has been found to help activate the parasympathetic nervous system causing more of a relax response as compared to a stress response. Scientists have studied the content of our tears (c’mon you knew that…remember the study on which direction people stir their coffee?) and found that emotional tears contain higher levels of cortisol and adrenaline (both stress hormones).
I won’t go into more of the details of what the experts have to say on this (though, if interested you can click here) but will mention a couple of my own realizations around this.
First, when I’ve allowed myself to “sit” in sadness and outwardly express it (and not hold it in, deny or repress it) in the company of people I trust, I feel seen and heard and true to myself. I also feel like those that see me in that way, see the REAL me and the WHOLE of me. And, I believe those relationships are stronger and richer for real, authentic expression of those (and other) emotions like Anger, Fear and JOY!
Secondly, even with this understanding, I am challenged by holding that space for my children! I’m more able to do this sitting in circle with other grown men than I am with my 4 and 2 yr olds! There’s shit to do! We need to eat dinner, bathe, brush teeth, read books and get to bed. I don’t have time for this! Or, c’mon…your sister just took that one toy away, amongst the 50 that are on the floor and you’re crying about that one toy?!? I’m not proud. I’m just leveling with you here.
Actually, I (and we’ve) got nothing BUT time when it comes to this. I’m lucky, my kids are still smart enough to know that when they are upset, they show it and tell me. When they’re having fun, there is NO question that’s what they’re doing, when they are angry…they damn well know how to express that emotion and when they feel sad…they cry. They don’t need me or any experts to tell them to. They just know.