Ever have your parents yell at you, “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!!”?
I’ve been thinking about this statement because I heard it a lot during my childhood. The crazy thing about it is this: I think I probably had a great deal to cry about. They didn’t need to do anything else to give me a reason to cry. So chances are, I was likely crying for a good reason to begin with. It’s kind of scary to think about what they planned to do to me to “give me something to cry about”.
I guess there were things they could do. Like throw me out of the house when I was a young child. Stop giving me access to food, maybe. But there were so many things they already did that were awful, whatever else they threw in might have been a bit anti-climactic.
For example, were they going to hit me? Ummm, they already did that. My mother would slap me, throw me down, drag me by my hair, push me, shove me, punch me. My father, on the other hand, would knock me across the room with one well-placed fist. Or he would send me flying with one gigantic smack. He was also deadly with a belt. So physically beating me wouldn’t give me anything new to cry about.
Neglect me? You can check that one off the list too. They barely even knew I existed until I didn’t do something the way they wanted me to do it. Or perhaps I didn’t do something they wanted me to do at all. They gave me pages of chores to accomplish every day. I tried. But with homework and those rare after-school activities, sometimes I failed. And I paid for it. Additionally, I was threatened that I had better be “sick enough” to justify the expense of being taken to the doctor, so I tended to wait until I was REALLY super-sick before I told anyone. They never once took me to the dentist, even when I split my lip open and knocked my front teeth out. I walked to school by myself from the time I was in 1st grade all the way through high school. I did most of the house cleaning. I foraged for food because my mom rarely cooked for me. I came home to an empty house and did my homework on my own because I wasn’t allowed to stay at my grandparent’s house with my brother. I learned how many times a week a person should bathe in Home Economics and I learned how to brush my teeth in the 5th grade when the guy came in with the red “candies” that stained your teeth everywhere there was plaque. I found out about women having periods when I had my first one – while I was at school – at age 10. Thought I was dying. My first bra was a size 36B (which is larger than I wear today!). They just hadn’t noticed me. Never paid me much attention unless I didn’t live up to one of their many expectations or demands and then they yelled and hit me. So neglecting me couldn’t have given me something new to cry about. Being neglected was actually a lot more desirable than some of the other options.
Sexually abuse me? Ho, hum, my father did that too. From the time I was around 4 until I was somewhere in the vicinity of 14 years old. He started off slow, but worked his way through about every sexual fantasy one can imagine. He raped me the first time when I was 11. You would think THAT would qualify as “something to cry about,” but evidently, crying wasn’t allowed, no matter what. So I shoved the emotions down my throat until I choked on them. And I learned not to cry.
Yep, I sort of feel like they gave me plenty to cry about without doing anything special to fulfill their threat to give me something to cry about. Regardless, I stopped crying. Learned it wasn’t safe. And to this day, it’s a real struggle for me to allow myself to cry.
I probably have a lot of catching up to do in the crying department because of my parents and their threats. I have years of stored up tears just waiting to be shed. Thunderstorms worth. Hurricanes of tears. Oceans of tears. Floods. Massive gushing underground streams. I’m living in a drought, but I have all this water stored up that I can’t access. Even that seems like it should be something to cry about. But I can’t. Try as I might, it is only with great difficulty that I can shed a lonely tear. Which I quickly wipe away.
I’m trying to get better…to somehow access that universe of pain I have hidden and crammed away. So far, about the best I can do is to occasionally release a slow, small drip from the facet. At this rate, it’s going to take a long time to drain all the despair and unshed tears. A very, very long time. Now that’s something to cry about…