In what I can only attribute to the growing list of fun and exciting ways that aging is routinely throat punching me, I am officially now a person that gets overly emotional about the most trivial, remotely sentimental occurrences of everyday life. Although I spent my formative years seldom shedding a tear about what others would (and should) consider highly emotional, I now get choked up about commercials with animals in them. Not just the legitimately depressing ones where Mira Sorvino’s pleading for donations while they show neglected, malnourished animals in the freezing cold, I’m talking about something as simple as a pet food ad showing a dog excitedly greeting a kid stepping off a school bus. I won’t even realize I’m feeling anything until I need to secretly use my sleeve to wipe a tear from the inner corner of my eye. When a commercial depicts parents giving sage advice to their teen children, I’m not sure if my weepiness is due to feeling ‘eventually my children will appreciate all I’m doing and understand I only want the best for them‘ or ‘I’m royally screwing this up and damaging my daughters for life.‘ Lyrics from upbeat songs that were never intended in any way to evoke tears will get me by surprise (‘he didn’t know how but he always had a feeling he was gonna be that one in a million’ – I’ll bet we haven’t seen the best of him!) Yeah, I can’t even begin to dissect what that was all about, but thank God my daughter didn’t catch me because I’m not sure which one of us would be more embarrassed. I survived 40 plus years with emotional stoicism so I never developed a coping mechanism for how to manage this new found sensitivity.
In my teens I worked at a video store (remember those?) and coworkers would challenge me with, “You have to watch this one. It’s so depressing, there’s no way you won’t cry.” And while I understood that parts of Terms of Endearment were sad, I’d report back with a cavalier, “This seriously made actual tears come out of your eyes because you found it so depressing, Stacey?” It wasn’t like I was killing animals in the woods with a clinical level of sociopathic unfeeling, I just thought I had a healthy emotional stability. However, it now seems that all that indifference was actually masking a hoard of emotion that would come pouring out tenfold in my mid-40’s. Revenge is a dish best served without any napkins to dry my wet, confused cheeks.
It was an open, ongoing joke in my family that my dad always cried when they’d play the national anthem before a sporting event — yet here I am. Who’s laughing now? Not me, because I’m looking at the ceiling while sniffing tears back into my face. Previously emotionally untouchable, I’m now the person who openly cries at weddings. And baby showers. And when they sing at church. And when I’m looking at old pictures. And during movies – lots of them, not just the sentimental or depressing ones.
If anyone out there can commiserate and I’m not the only freak with bloodshot eyes and salty sleeves suffering through this alone, I can offer one piece of advice to get you through your next graduation ceremony (unless one of the graduates is surprised by a military parent who’s been away for months – there’s no hope holding back the waterworks there.) But, yes, I went to Google looking for a solution because I was legitimately concerned about this foreign new crying nonsense. What I learned is that if you’re feeling overwhelmed with emotion, do math in your head. Doesn’t have to be scary math that would make you cry anyway, like quadratic equations or the stuff Matt Damon was solving on the hallway chalkboard in Good Will Hunting, just think numbers. Count something – ceiling tiles or chairs in the room – and multiply it by eight. What day of the week does the 17th fall on next month? And don’t cheat with a calculator because that defeats the purpose. The answer doesn’t have to be right as long as you’re distracted, because apparently utilizing the left side of your brain to perform logic based problems will overtake your right-brained emotions. You’re welcome. And don’t ask me for a tissue because I’m fresh out.