"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened." (Dr. Seuss)
In my kids’ high school yearbooks, seniors usually put a quote at the bottom of their picture, words that represented them and they wanted to pass along to their fellow classmates. I loved reading each one of my kids’ friends quotes because they gave me a little glimpse into what mattered to them, their final statement as they pushed on to the next world of college. They varied from very serious and mind-stretching to completely silly and slightly inappropriate (here’s a secret…those were my favorite).
The above quote from Dr. Seuss was under at least a few of the pictures every single year. For a long time, I loved it. It shouted the very important ideas of hope and thankfulness. It helped people look “on the bright side” of life. It granted a new perspective when sadness and pain came knocking. Or so it seemed.
I filled my kids’ scrapbooks with quotes from Dr. Seuss. Many speak words I want to shout from the mountaintops and especially whisper to the souls of my kids.
“Today you are you. That is truer than true. There is no one alive that is youer than you.”
“A person’s a person no matter how small.”
“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
“And will you succeed? Yes! You will indeed! 98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed!”
Wisdom. Hope. Life.
So why does the “Don’t cry because it’s over…” quote rub me in the wrongest (not sure if that is even a word) way?
I am not good at crying (except at Disney movies and when I say goodbye to my away-from-home kids). I like to pride myself on being the “strong” one, the “positive one,” the “hope-bringer.”
But that pride gets me into lots of trouble.
I keep others out, when it would be best to let others in.
I put on the “smile” even when I am hurting inside.
I push aside any grief (like a good American) that threatens to overwhelm me instead of working through it.
I don’t like the negative emotion of sadness.
JOY is my middle name after all (no pressure there WINKY FACE).
I’m discovering ever so slowly that:
CRYING releases toxins and reduces stress. Tears feel cleansing and authentic.
SADNESS speaks to the value of what’s been lost, giving honor to the good in our lives. (I joke often that if my kids or Allen don’t seriously fall apart for at least a year or two or three after I’m gone, I will be pretty upset about it! What does that say about me if they only “smile because it happened?”)
GRIEF brings empathy for the pain of others (our universal human language) and creates a healthy path towards true, lasting restoration.
It’s okay to be sad just as much as it’s okay to feel joy.
It’s okay to cry just as much as it’s okay to smile.
It’s okay to grieve just as much as it’s okay to celebrate.
It’s why funerals and memorial services feel so bizarre sometimes. One moment, sadness, crying and grief are palpable, threatening to overwhelm. A split-second later, laughter and the celebration of the one who has been lost bursts on the scene. What feels so dichotomous actually pronounces the permission to live fully in BOTH AND, not either or, the integrated, beautiful experience of our human space and my human heart in it’s entirety.
I say to myself, “Sure, it’s true for the large, visible-to-everyone, life-changing human experiences. But what about the very ordinary parts of my life and my day? What then?”
I cry when my baby takes his first step away from me AND II smile that he is reaching his normal milestones.
I cry when I'm in counseling AND I smile that all my hard work is [finally] paying off.
I cry when my friend tells me she’s moving AND I smile because she just landed her dream job.
I cry when my daughter buys her own place AND I smile knowing she’s spreading her wings just like I taught her.
All these run-of-the-mill life happenings echo the same voice as those that are profound. What happens in the momentous also takes place in the mundane. I have freedom to embrace BOTH crying AND smiling, in all that this adventure sends my way.
I do love Dr. Seuss. He reminds me of me, having both horrible parts and beautiful ones. It’s his birthday today!
So HAPPY BIRTHDAY Theodore Giesel. You’ve brought much happiness into my life and the lives of my children. For that, I am truly grateful!
I wish your quote said this instead:
“Cry because it’s over…AND…smile because it happened.”