At some point during one of our conversations, my boyfriend and I started talking about obscure children’s cartoon characters. Our conversations tend to do this, meandering from very serious topics like life and love to old cartoons in the same breath. Blame it on our collective inability to focus. We’re easily excitable.
Regardless of how we got there, I made a comment about how Rosie from Caillou always aggravated me. In the few scenes from Caillou I can recall, she’s always complaining or whining about something. I mostly remember the tears—the piercing cries of a child which, even in a cartoon, go right through me.
Either way, I remember the flippant remark I made to my boyfriend verbatim: “I can’t stand Rosie, she cries all the time.”
His reply? “Well, so do you.”
We both laughed because it was true.
My anxiety’s response to anything beyond my threshold for stress? Tears. Big, puppy-dog, waterfall tears. I cry quite often, and I’m at the point in my life where I no longer feel ashamed of it. I’ll walk into Target, foundation running onto my neck, fresh off of an in-car cry session.
To me, it feels like the most natural thing in the world. I don’t mind if complete strangers whom I’ll never see again think I’m a basket case for a brief moment. It is the fear that the people I can’t turn away from will reject my idea of a “normal” coping mechanism.
Having to make decisions and talk about difficult or uncomfortable topics sends my anxiety into a spiral. I dislike confrontation and I dislike having to make choices. My boyfriend was right—I do cry a lot. It’s in my nature. It’s how my body signals to me that life has become too much and I need to slow down for a second.
Being of anxious mind and body, I rarely forget things that are said to me, particularly comments about myself. Naturally, I’ve come back to this comment again and again, both because it continues to make me laugh and because it reveals something deeper about my relationship.
My boyfriend knows me well enough to know this about me. We’ve reached the point where we are long past formalities and into deeper waters now. He’s seen my panic attacks and my tears, the things I am still trying to tell myself are okay to share with a larger group of friends and family. The fact that my anxiety, as fickle and destructive as it is, has chosen to find peace with him says something. About us, about who he is as a person, about my heart.
It made me realize how many people wouldn’t know of my resemblance to Rosie. It made me think about the fact that I haven’t cried in front of my aunts, uncles, or grandparents in 10 years. Ten whole years of bottling myself up and presenting myself to the world in small doses, in amounts that feel acceptable and likely won’t offend anyone. I’ve been doing myself a disservice by blocking out connections that I could be deepening.
I cry regularly in front of my boyfriend, my sister, my parents. These are the people I consider closest to my heart. They see this side of me all the time. Slightly less frequently, I cry in front of my four or five best friends. They know I’m a crier, but they don’t quite know the intensity or frequency of emotion I feel. Then there are the handful of exes and long-lost friends who once stood close to my heart but no longer live there. For a fleeting moment, they knew who I was. That memory is gone now, the flame of connection snuffed.
What I’m trying to say is that in love, there must be an element of vulnerability. I’m learning that you can’t control the narrative on how you’re perceived. It’s a losing battle, and rather than trying to fight it, you have to let go. The world will see what it wants to see. Love begins when you stop walking on your tippy-toes and confidently walk towards the other person exactly as you are.
It never stops being scary. For me, anxiety will always trip the alarm in the back of my head out of fear as I bare a part of myself to someone new. It will always feel like a risk to be seen and to be loved, but it is necessary. We cannot love in bits and pieces, in carefully-crafted fragments. We have to love fully and authentically.
I’m going to keep crying and stop apologizing for something I cannot change. Rosie, I hope you do the same. You’re a lot cooler than I gave you credit for.