Monday, January 26, 2009

90 - Staring at others when they cry

Have I seriously had this blog for ninety days already? Because it feels like so much longer...

It must be the way that time flies when you're having fun, the way you reflect on months that've gone by without you even realizing it, as you're caught up in the everyday errands you must complete, with the school you must attend, the work you must do, the holidays you must celebrate, the meals you must have and the people you must spend time with for your entire life. We are born with nothing.

Let me illustrate this for you: when we are born, we are born with no sight and limited senses of touch, taste and smell. All we perceive are sounds, loud, loud sounds, and we cannot express how scared we are as we are exposed to the world and the world is exposed to us. We cannot run away in fear, we are incapable of speech or mobility. We cannot hold our pee, help our hunger, handle anything for ourselves at all. We are unable to hold up a briefcase full of paperwork, a schoolbag full of books or even a small toy truck, let alone our own heads, let alone support our own bodies on our own two feet. When we're born, we can't even roll over, or breathe upside down without killing ourselves. We even require help to simply burp, and all we can do, all we know how to do, is cry.

From the moment we are born, we cry all the time. We're told that there's nothing wrong with crying by our mothers, that there's everything wrong with crying by our fathers. We cry on wedding days and at funerals, at baptisms, births and birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, on good days, on bad days, in the spring, summer, fall and winter, in the rain and sun and wind, in war, in public, in hospitals, on planes, boats and trains, on beaches, when we're by ourselves in our own rooms, or when we're together with friends, family or a group of strangers. Whether we're young or old, gay or straight, rich or poor, happy or unhappy, male or female, intelligent or ignorant, alone or otherwise, we all cry at some point or another, whether we're frequent criers or not.

We all cry for many different reasons. What I sometimes do whenever I get extremely mad at someone, especially someone I care deeply about, is imagine them crying. It makes them human, the image makes me empathize. The pain, the struggle strikes me with a lot of impact and it calms me down to know that these people that are pissing me off have another side that I can sympathize with.

Whenever I actually do see someone crying, I want to help them. When it comes to people that I don't know so well, I'm not one to charge at the opportunity to dry the tears, but I will take some action. I don't want to overstep my boundaries as crying is personal, so I will just put in my effort and if they want more, I'll give more.

A few years ago, I saw an old woman on the train. She wasn't that old, she was wearing a pink T-shirt, had a sports bag, relatively 'hip' glasses and a stylish hairdo. I was sitting across from her and I listened to her talk to her son on the phone. The son, most probably a full-grown man already, according to his mother, never went home for dinner to drink his mother's soup or inquire about her back pain. The old lady was telling him how disrespectful and cruel her son was treating her after all those years in which she raised him to become a man. I was welling up from the opposite side and I shook the tears out from the corners of my eyes. The old lady's son hung up on her and I watched her bow her head and cry to herself.

It took me a while to realize I was staring at her. I looked around and everyone in their school uniforms and business suits were staring at her, too.

And I despised them all, I despised myself. What was I looking at?

When the time came for me to get off the train, I walked over to the old lady and gave her a pack of tissues, with one taken out and placed on top of the pack of tissues for her convenience, so that she could wipe her tears away. She sniffed and thanked me. She was a cute old woman... Everyone else was staring at us during this ordeal, but I didn't care.

Since I realized I was staring at her that day, I've hardly ever stared at someone else in public again.


Madame DeFarge said...

I find that I cry all too easily these days, at the unfairness of life (feeling sorry for myself), tales of heroism, old people, dying people and men when they cry. It's still not entirely acceptable, even in women, and I know people think I'm weak when i do it, but sometimes it's all I need to do. I want to howl out loud and rage against the world.

I'm sure that this random act of kindness was well received. i would have appreciated it.

gaf85 said...

Michael, I think what you experienced is called empathy. It is a wonderful quality to have!

Louise said...

You truly have the qualities of a Filipino. Well, it doesn't always mean that only people born with Filipino blood knows how to care. But all my life, I have only seen strong care, understanding and love among Filipinos.

You're a nice person Michael. Don't ever lose that soul - empathy - to the evils of the world. These days, fewer and fewer people like you stay the same.


Michael said...

Madame DeFarge: I tend to cry openly, no matter who's there, but sometimes, the wrong people are looking, the people are looking for the wrong reasons, the people react in the wrong way or you, yourself, are wrong for crying. But as they say, whatever. I know I need to do it, so I do.

gaf85: Yes, I know. It's all the suits that just stood there and stared that I despise.

Louise: As I said to gaf85, Hongkongers in public aren't very nice.