ain't no shame in cryin'

A girl hurried in moments before class started, claiming the seat next to mine. I knew her name, maybe she knew mine. It didn't matter because we didn't talk. The lecture was about John Calvin or the development of prophecy in ancient Israel. It didn't matter because she wasn't paying attention and neither was I.

She wrote furiously. Scribbling. Looping. Pausing dramatically. I couldn't read her words; I didn't dare peak over her protectively curled arm. The tears welling in the corner of her eyes spoke clear enough: all was not well. She tried to hide her tears, but I sat in their presence and wished I could cry, too.


I asked a professor after class if she had any insight on a feature of my past, present, and potential future that had come up in class. It's a challenging one, something that hits close to home, something that has built a highway to my tear ducts. As we talked, I cried. My heart burning for clarity, yearning for relief.

She offered a kleenex, a more private location, but I refused. I looked her in the eye and said, If everyone pretends like this is so easy, everyone is going to convince themselves they are the only one in pain.


Margery Kempe, a woman living in late medieval England, could not attend mass without wailing deeply and loudly, often to the chagrin of her fellow worshipers.  Julian of Norwich said that Margery's free and passionate experience of tears was a sure sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit in her. To cry so freely must be a gift from God.


Someone needs to cry publicly. Someone needs to remind their lecturemates, officemates, classmates, and cubemates that there ain't no shame in cryin', in speaking the truth emotionally and vividly into the present, in being true to the joys and the sorrows. Whether you can grasp on to Julian's belief that God gifts these free tears, or simply believe it is a human giftedness, the powerful presence of raw sorrow grips each of us, ripping us away from our stolid wanderings, awakening us to the depth of human emotion.


After a particularly emotional morning prayer, I put my arm around a friend and said, You may want to hit the bathroom before you go to class.

She looked at me a little startled and a little horrified, asking after her running mascara and subsequent cat eyes.

They are beautiful and truthful, I told her, but maybe not your desired aesthetic.


Tears are beautiful and truthful. Crystal clear. Summoned without warning, always with cause. In each tear, there is hope for a cleansing of all things: that water will flow from rocks and and joy will come from sorrow.


This post was written as a part of a friendly synchroblog. Hop on over to these other blogs to enjoy the writing and art others.

i write to be rid of things, pince caspeen
m, shame shame
nightsbrightdays, Waiting for Twelve
Wordshepherd, The Wax and the Wings


The Hat Shop said...

Wow, this is really beautiful - the words and the image together. It makes me wish I were brave enough to cry without shame - to admit to "weakness."

I also think it's interesting that your and Katie's posts have a somewhat similar take on the topic of the week - that it's a shame we restrain ourselves and hide our emotions.

Kristen said...

Challenging, but true. Thought provoking as always, Alaina!

Alaina said...

Thanks Jennifer and Kristin.

Jennifer, thanks for pointing out the similarities of our posts. I hadn't seen it (probably because I could only see through my eyes), but you are right. It isn't all that surprising that Katie and I would have similar approaches to the topic, those sorts of things happen to us a lot. I think it comes with two intuitive people living together and spending a lot of time around each other. Their wavelengths synchronize.