Everyone knows the scene in A League of Their Own where Tom Hanks’s character bellows to Evelyn, “Are you crying? Are you crying? ARE YOU CRYING? There’s no crying! THERE’S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL! Roger Hornsby was my manager, and he called me a talking pile of pigshit. And that was when my parents drove all the way down from Michigan to see me play the game. And did I cry? NO. And do you know why? Because there’s no crying in baseball. THERE’S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL! No crying!”
Many years ago, I used to cry often. Things would upset me and the tears would flow. It happened regularly. After I got divorced, I stopped crying. I refused to allow myself the luxury. Crying is for the weak and I’m not weak. I’m strong. Strong people don’t cry. That’s what I told myself. Strong people suck it up, rub some dirt on it, and plow through whatever adversity faces them. I wasn’t about to let my kids know that I was scared half to death about carrying on as a single mother. I didn’t let them know I had major doubts about my ability to do everything. I didn’t express how overwhelmed I was with the massive responsibility of caring for my kids 24/7 without an ounce of help from their father, or how I was pretty sure I’d never be able to make enough to support everyone.
No, there was no crying. I put on my game face, turned my baseball cap around and rallied because I flat-out refused to let my kids become a statistic of a broken home. I vowed to be strong and to continue making them my priority. I intended to show them I was bulletproof. But here’s the thing – when you take a sensitive, highly emotional person and put a cork in them, preventing them from expressing those emotions, something happens. The stressors are still there, the emotions are still piling up inside – the letters from lawyers over bills, the foreclosure notices, the medical issues you can’t solve because you only have 20 minutes a day in which to make phone calls and you’ve never been on hold for less than half an hour – it’s all still there. Then one day, over something as silly as someone not changing the empty roll of toilet paper or someone unfriending you on Facebook or someone leaving a nasty comment on your blog, you lose it. The tears flow for hours. Great sobs wrack your entire body. You use an whole box of tissues. Your head pounds, your eyes swell shut, your nose becomes so congested you can’t breathe. And every time you start to pull yourself together, another wave hits you and you’re back to sobbing uncontrollably until you feel like nothing but a hollow shell.
Then the next day when I’m applying makeup with a spatula in an attempt to disguise the swollen eyelids and bags, no scratch that – the suitcases under my eyes, my kids will look at me and ask, “Are you okay? Are you sick? What’s wrong with your eyes?”
I’ll answer, “I think I’m getting a cold,” lest they discover I’m human and I sometimes feel down because there’s no crying in baseball.
But for some reason, today when my kids looked at my face in horror and asked, “What’s wrong with your eyes, Mom?” I answered, “I was crying.”
Their jaws dropped a little and they asked, “You were crying???”
“Yeah,” I admitted.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d still rather be bulletproof, but maybe, just maybe, it’s better to teach my kids that everyone gets overwhelmed now and then. Maybe, just occasionally, there is crying in baseball. And I guess that’s okay as long as you suck it up, rub some dirt on it, turn that cap around and go hit a homerun when you’re done sniffling.
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