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Crying In Public & The Need To Be Seen

In my post yesterday, I did something a bit unfair. Maybe you noticed. Maybe you didn't.

I wrote about how I was walking along the city streets near Toddler's school when I read an article on my phone that stirred something - a creative spark, an existential flame, a flicker of rejuvenation. Those of you who read closely - or who are just curious - might have noticed that I neither linked to that article nor mentioned the name of it. This was not an oversight on my part; It could very well have been an example of Mommy Brain, but this time it wasn't. It was intentional. That post? It was not so much about the words I read, but about the feeling they caused in me. A feeling for which I am more than thankful because here I am blogging again, sending bits of self into this odd and exquisite ether we have come to call the Blogosphere.

But today? Today I will mention the article. It's from the New York Times and called Look at Me, I'm Crying. In it, author and New York-based writing professor Melissa Febos explores, exquisitely in my estimation, the phenomenon of public crying in the specific context of Manhattan. She confesses that she herself has cried many times in public and that there is perhaps something about this particular urban jungle - with its concomitant paucity of space and traditional privacy - that goes hand in hand with breaking down in public spaces.

The article spoke to me on many levels - of style, of content, of vulnerability. Reading it, I remembered the last time I cried in public. It wasn't too long ago. It was a very rainy evening and I was on my way to get a manicure. I made a quick call on my cell. The call was meant to be short and simple. But something happened, a rush of emotion, a rapid unraveling, and there I was, suddenly in a tempest of tears, thick and violent tears, on a street corner. I wonder what people thought of me - a very pregnant ponytailed girl huddled under a broken umbrella sobbing uncontrollably in front of a Starbucks. In retrospect, I realize that many people saw me, they must have, but no one stopped to ask me if I was okay.

That's New York for you. That's one of the many things I love about this place.

It seems that Febos and I are in agreement on this. She, like me, falls into the camp of people who do not want to be asked what's wrong in a situation like this. Febos writes,

For me, itΒ’s not that I want apathy, just privacy. To be noticed, but not interrupted. ItΒ’s comforting to be seen in our grief, there is a confirmation in it Β— however awkward it makes us feel. Is that part of why we live here? New Yorkers do tend to be the kind of people with both a need to be seen, and a deep fear of it. Somehow, this place satisfies both.

Yes! I am the kind of person who needs to be seen, but who is also immensely fearful of this very thing. Isn't that why I blog? To be seen in my iterations of insecurity and grief and utter humanness? But isn't blogging also evidence of a true desire to hide a bit, too? If we really wanted to be seen, to shine a light on ourselves however cracked those selves might be, would we really duck behind a screen to do so?

Here, in this city, I am somehow able to be seen for who it is I am and hide who it is I am.

Here, on this blog, I am somehow able to be seen for who it is I am and hide who it is I am.

Ultimately, I'm not really sure what this post is about. Is it really about literary inspiration? Is it really about crying in public? Is it really about New York neuroses? I'm not so sure, but that's okay. What I do know is that these words are about me and part of me, a creature ever-confused and ever-curious. A creature who has cried in the rain and written through her pain. A creature who wants to be noticed and is deeply afraid of being seen.

Yes, these words are about me. A creature who is happy to be back here in this place, this little corner soaked in life's abundant rain, thinking and asking. And trying. Always trying. To see. To know. To understand. To make sense of it all.

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Have you ever cried in public? Did people ask if you were okay? Did you want them to? What do you do when you see a stranger crying? Do you blog or write out of a need to be seen and/or a fear of being seen? Do you ever write something without knowing what it is really about?

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