“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened. (Dr. Seuss)
“There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (King Solomon)
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 This Is Us episodes). 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).
(and it’s a BIG BUT this time)
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.
BUT (hopefully a smaller BUT this time)…
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, but I smile that he is reaching his normal milestones.
I cry when my husband takes a job with a very long commute, but I smile that all his hard work is paying off.
I cry when my friend tells me she’s moving, but I smile because she just landed her dream job.
I cry when my daughter buys her own place, but 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, even though the man is surrounded with controversy. 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!
BUT (and this one is a middlish BUT)…
I wish your quote said this instead:
“Cry because it’s over…AND…smile because it happened.”
King Solomon was right.
P.S. When I told my daughter (one of the seniors in the picture on this post) what I was writing about and why, the basic gist of her response was this, “Oh Mom, I think you’re missing his point. I don’t think he’s saying “don’t cry.” I think he’s saying remember to smile.” So there you have it. If you also believe I am clueless about Dr. Seuss’ original intention, you are in good company! Point taken.
P.P.S. If you’ve read this far and want to comment here or on social media or in an email, I’m asking you this question: can you think of a time where you found yourself laughing and crying at the same time? What was it?