When I was studying for Dip TESL in Wellington, New Zealand, in 1992, I had a friend who always appeared cheerful, optimistic, vibrant and friendly, so much that I thought she must have been the happiest person in the world.
Until one somber day, after she received a letter from her family, she suddenly locked herself inside her room for hours. Late in the afternoon, when I knocked her door to check if she was okay, she opened the door and I was stunned to see her eyes red and swollen.
She had been crying for hours . . .
“HI!,” she said with her typical cheerful voice, while I just stood frozen.
“It’s okay,” she said assuringly, obviously knowing how I felt. “Crying is a woman’s way of venting off the pressure. I’m okay now. Shall we go to the dining room?”
I walked behind her quietly as she walked lightly to have the dinner at the dormitory. I was 25 at that time, probably still too naïve or too stupid to understand that even a seemingly happy person had to endure her own hardships, and that shedding tears somehow helped to ease the pain.
Years later, in 2005, I recounted this story to a staff member of mine, who was also a lively, amiable woman, and who said to me something I would never forget:
“Every one has his or her cross to bear, Pak Patris. Mine is also a heavy cross, and I believe you also have your own cross. But since we believe that Jesus saves us, we should never fear the burden.”
“And, as for the crying,” she added, “that’s a very normal reaction, particularly to women who tend to be more emotional than you guys.”
Our own cross to bear, and our tears to release all the pressing emotions.
How ‘normal’ . Yet I am still thrilled by the sight of someone’s crying, and I still often think that happiest, problem-free people do exist. Plus one more foolishly naïve thought: that big boys don’t cry.
We are all fragile glasses. Shattered dreams, extreme boredom, broken hearts, separation from loved ones, loneliness, jealousy, hatred, despair, grudge, they are all our crosses. We sigh and grunt and stumble under the weight of our crosses. And we have the right to cry as much as we want to ease the pain.
It’s strange that it took me years to fully realize this.