Emotional constipation

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Last week I was emotionally strung out. Very. Strung. Out.

I had a very sick pet which gave me a sense of dread that I couldn’t shake.

Death was in the air. I’ve had that experience too often. Way too often.

There was a choking heaviness in my heart. It was painful.

I used to cry to release the tension but as I get older I find that crying isn’t as easy.

Physical exercise and deep breathing only go so far. A good cry goes farther. A cry with the big heaving sobs where you can’t catch your breath. Your whole face swells but you feel so good afterward. Released and renewed.

Over the years my skin has gotten thick (figuratively). Some experiences are not personal but they still hurt. When you get enough of those combined with the purely personal hurts, you build a protection.

That’s good for survival but it comes at a price. You have to let it out.

I could blame it on my ethnicity. My grandparents came from Germany. You know. Stoic. Strong. Not emotional. No crying.

In my family a shoulder pat is considered bordering on indecent assault. There is no kissy-kissy.

In contrast my ex was of Irish extract. Damn family kissed relatives on the lips (ON THE LIPS) all the time. I would do all sorts of things to avoid it. Running to the car fast so I could wave out the window. Claiming I had a terrible herpes outbreak or maybe it’s leprosy (better safe than sorry). Turning the cheek at the last moment. That was the best game of dodge I ever played. Maybe whack-a-mole.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like them. It was uncomfortable and sometimes (most times!) unsanitary. Throw some garlic in with a big cigar. Yikes.

My family didn’t do that. We are content with a fist bump. We know we care about each other and don’t need to exchange saliva to seal the deal. (We are also big onion and cabbage eaters. It isn’t inviting.)

We hug. After a round of cancer in the family I make sure I hug my relatives every time I see them. You never which time will be the last. It sneaks up on you. Just yesterday I was in high school. It’s a respectful hug. No free feels or anything like that. Just sincere affection.

Last week it took two days to work out the heaviness (and some extra mocha lattes, deep breathing exercises and a strange form of yoga that my cats taught me). Next time I should try chopping onions.

70 thoughts on “Emotional constipation

  1. Don’t think my comment “took”. 2 bits as I walk carefully around your edges. 1. It may not seem like a good thing, but it seems to me your coping mechanisms are functioning fine and as designed. I so get the sobbing cleanse…doesn’t happen as often as it did back in the day, but when I surrender, it helps. 2. May not feel like it, but please know you are not alone…you are in our collective embrace even if it is stoic-light (Ha!). What I can do is to be lighting a candle at 11 tonight (central). See you then (metaphorically speakin)…that’s the Irish side. Take your time with this. Later.
    Dan

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  2. I’m going to walk carefully around the edges of your heart with two thoughts. 1. It may not be a comfort but your coping mechanismso sound like they’re working as designed. 2. The bigger thought is the one it can be toughee to see…you are NOT alone. I’m lighting a candle tonight at 10 (central) in support. You matter.
    Dan

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  3. Asian upbringing here. My parents didn’t tell me they loved me till we moved to Canada about 4 years ago! My grandparents never told me they loved me or hugged or kissed. My husband’s family is German so no kissing or getting too close there either! Surprisingly I am a big hugger and a kisser lol. I don’t kiss strangers on the lips though or even on the cheeks but hugs for everyone!

    Husband isn’t big on being too expressive either. We have a little one on the way and I plan on smothering her with kisses and love!
    I hope your pet’s ok?

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  4. I can so relate. I’m a hugger too. Unfortunately, my husband (and his very large extended family) are all two-cheek-peckers. For almost 30 years there have been 100s 0f rounds of two-cheek pecking with his 30+ extended family of cheek peckers.
    I am also a once in a decade crier.Surrounded by drop-of-the-hat criers.

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  5. This sure does ring a bell with me, too. I sometimes long for the days when I could at least rely on a sad movie to bring on the tears. With my dad’s recent death I have almost tried to cry. I might get a little teary now and then, and I am carrying sadness that is a heavy as lead, but doggone it! I just don’t cry! LOL! My son-in-law’s family is Hispanic and physically very demonstrative. In the 10 years that my daughter has been married I’ve been hugged and kissed by her in-laws and family more than in my own family over 65 years! i’m so sorry you had such a difficult and upsetting week!

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  7. The other night when I was walking my dogs a car pulled over to park. As I was standing there I heard a woman crying. It was the full blown nasty sort of crying. I was paralyzed by the sound of her pain. All I thought was “she’s had enough.”
    Glad things are getting better in your world.

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  8. Not only was my family a little shy about hugging–definitely no kissing on the mouth, but I grew up in the 50s and 60s when there wasn’t much public affection. Now everyone hugs instead of shaking hands. It’s nice. But when I go to kiss someone on the cheek, I’m not sure which cheek to kiss. It makes for an embarrassing scene.

    I know what you mean about crying less as I get older. I still cry in movies, though, or when I hear a sad story. There are so many sad stories these days. I hope we don’t all get jaded. Today I’ve been thinking about the undocumented who must be scared to death with the new policies for immigration enforcement. It’s just a sad situation until you hear an individual story. Then it brings on the tears.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I grew up at the same time and it was the same on the east coast. I worry about getting jaded. When the initial ban came out a local family was affected. Part of the family had emigrated a decade ago and another couple was emigrating how. They were sent back despite the fact that they weren’t Muslims (that should not have mattered as they were very well vetted) and had worked 13 years to get all the proper documentation. Had they flown a day earlier all would have been well. Their local family had to start a gofundme account because they didn’t have money for another plane ticket assuming they could get through. It took two weeks of goings on but they are here. The local family bought them a home to live in and all is well. At least for now.

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  9. My family was a no touch kinda clan. I have become a hugger and I cry. Not big sobs but I can’t talk or if I do it’s a squeaky sound. When Henry and Dolly died I think the vet thought she was going to have to sedate me. Hope this week is better for you.

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  10. Everyone in my family hugs. But one sister for some reason developed the kissing on the lips thing starting sometime in the nineties. I’ve learned to turn my face when we kiss and force her to kiss me on the cheek. I know she doesn’t like it, and probably whispers later to her friends how “uptight” her family is. Families…. – Marty

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  11. I can’t remember the last time I cried…But I’m sorry for your loss of eye leakage. Hopefully everything got resolved well, and I’m glad to hear the cat yoga was working out for you. I usually makes me sprain my back- seriously, how do cats arch so much?

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  12. My family isn’t huge, either. Also of German descent. And also, “Ahhhh! No touchy!”

    But I cry over any good news these days. Take the viral photo of the Jewish boy on his dad’s shoulders laughing with the Muslim girl on her dad’s shoulders at one of the airport protests. Total waterworks.

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  13. My family was kind-of in the middle, physical affection-wise. Hugs: yes. Kisses (especially on the lips): no. (Of course, I’m talking about non-married partners… I’m pretty sure my parents did more than hug each other.) When someone I’m greeting goes for my lips, I am extremely uncomfortable (again, I’m not talking about my husband 🙂 ). It just seems way too personal.

    I’m glad to know that things are improving in your world. A good cry is good, but having nothing to cry about is even better.

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  14. When I cry, I do it when I’m alone. I feel like I have to put a brave front on it all. Then, by the time I get alone, the feeling has passed. When the crying comes, sometimes it’s a flood that won’t stop. I’m with you about kissing on the lips!

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    • Sometimes those tears for no reason are the best. There are reasons that build up but we no longer remember or they are an amalgam of a bunch of stuff. It’s almost like a nice pity party which for a short time is a good thing.

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  15. My family is of German descent as well. A big show of emotion for us is a pat on the shoulder, and it had better be a quick one. Your hand shouldn’t remain there unless the other person is standing on one leg, on an incline, pouring gravel from their shoe.

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  16. I’d like to know the answer to your question to Alice, too. Why IS it harder? Like you, even in my 30’s I could have long, body-wracking crying jags, but it’s been so long, I can’t remember the last time I truly wept.

    Wait. I can. It was five years ago when my cat Joey died. I’m tearing up to tell you about it. [sniff]

    But here’s something a bit different in the cultural differences department – my hubby is German. Over the long winter months, we’ve been watching animated movies and every single time, when the story reaches the tear-jerking finale, I am unmoved, I’m all “right, here’s where the hero saves the day and all’s well that ends well.” Then I look over at him and he’s trying to, but fails to hold back the tears.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

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  17. For me, writing works best of all for getting things ‘out’. And you’ve written this so beautifully. Sending warm vibes for a much better week for you and your family.

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  18. My emotions always come out – and I let them. When I am moved to tears by small things it is usually a big thing trying to get out. Animals let us love freely and open us up in ways we can’t entirely with people. So we’re intensely vulnerable to them. That’s my take anyway.

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  19. Darn EQ, it is hard when ancestry or life made us the way we are. Only animals we care will soften our hearts. Watch the March of the Penguins. Tears will flood the earth. I still miss Maurice and still have not done a follow up anecdotes of death and dying.

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  20. Wow! I am just the same – have that German heritage at least on the maternal side. We are the untouchables, and even hugging is verboten and embarrassing. “Leaning” is o.k. in the depths of despair though. I am so glad you were able to let it out though and can resume a happy life as an untouchable. 🙂

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  21. I completely understand. I found myself very concerned for Gracie, just -reading- your last post! I’m super glad she recovered — and super glad you were able to cry it all out.

    I spent so much of the past two years caring for, worrying over, and then, in less than 10 months, losing both my animals (Hildi from old age and kidney failure, Nathan from something completely separate from the chronic health issues he’d been fighting against) — I -still- haven’t worked all of the grief out. Or so I ascertain from the dreams I’ve been having lately? Which all revolve around sick or dying cats (cats I used to have; these dreams are quite specific in that way), and I am trying to save them. Takes me a moment when I wake up to remind myself that Hildi is already out of pain, that I am not hearing Nath’s claws scrabbling in the bathroom, that Eliot passed more than a decade ago, etc.

    Not telling you this to bring you down (and deep apologies if I have!), just feels like something you would understand. Hug and skritch your cats for me this week, if you don’t mind? Not more affection than they’re comfortable with — cat-equivalents of fist bumps, too, are fine! 😉 — but I’d love to know that this love I still carry is going… somewhere… even if I can’t still get it to the animals I’ve lost…

    ~Alice ❤

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    • What a beautiful comment. I so get it. Still missing Jake (gone 17 months but who’s counting?). I also hurt when a blogger tells of a loss. One of my favs is not doing well and he’s the star of the blog. Why is it that it’s harder as adults to “get it out.” As a child I could cry my eyes out easily. So easily it was embarrassing. Perhaps all those years of trying not to cry at sad movies or funerals or something. Repression is not good. It habit forming.

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  22. I hear you, Kate. You have been quiet. You said it took the wind out of you with Gracie. I know this sounds crazy… no, not to you I am thinking, but I still have not gotten over losing Z Cat and that was in January of 2009. I never was a crier, my Mom did not allow it. Chopping onions doesn’t work for me either unless I don’t have my contacts in. Have you noticed how you can chop onions from now until the cows come home without a teeny tear when your contacts or in? Or am I weird?

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  23. such weeks are the worst…and it needs a while till we can close crypt where all the fears and the nightmares lure …
    btw: here everybuddy changes kisses with everybuddy…that’s a thing I don’t really like… and I always don’t know who gets a kiss and who only a handshake… :o)

    Liked by 1 person

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