Today, I teared up in the grocery store. The Flaming Lips Song “Do You Realize?” came on as I was putting spinach in a bag and talking to my daughter. If you’re unfamiliar with the song, you should listen to it; like many songs, its lyrics all somewhat flat printed on the page without their melody. Anyway, its opening goes:
Do you realize?, that you have the most beautiful face
Do you realize?, we’re floating in space,
Do you realize?, that happiness makes you cry
Do you realize?, that everyone you know someday will die
When I tear up, I never can explain in the moment exactly why I’m crying. Tears aren’t logical. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I cried once when the Blazers lost a basketball game. When my husband comforted me, I sobbed, “but they tried so hard.”
I guess the song brought tears to my eyes because of how true it is. Because when you do anything worth doing in life, the beauty and the pain are intertwined. Because it’s the fragile things–the newborn–that are the most beautiful. Because when I look at my daughter I love her so much that it hurts.
Of course, the thing about pregnancy hormones, is that you end up crying over things that you would normally feel quietly to yourself. I was embarrassed of this during my pregnancy with my daughter. I’m still not incredibly comfortable with the tears this time around.
But now that I’m raising my daughter, I’m also thinking a lot about empathy, and how we teach kids about empathy. I wonder if the way we teach empathy is to first allow our kids to feel their feelings. Can we expect an ability to feel for others, if we’ve lost the ability to feel for ourselves?
I get why we try to suppress our feelings. It’s not practical to cry at every shopping trip. But, it’s also not exactly serving us well to swallow our truths, or to shield them with an inauthentic veneer. Pregnancy is supposed to be a time of preparation. Maybe rather than thinking of the emotional aspect of pregnancy as an embarrassing side effect, we could think of it as another part of the preparation. Being in touch with our own emotions can help us to accept our children’s often irrational-seeming emotions. And that might be the greatest gift we can give them–to love them unconditionally through every tear.
I want to give that gift to my daughter, and to my unborn son. So, I’ll start with letting myself cry by the spinach.