Best Places to Cry in the Privacy of Your Own Home

It’s a tough time out there for public criers.

Gone are the days of collapsing in a heap of sobs at the half-price sushi place or silently weeping in the back row of the theater during your fifth viewing of Little Women. It’s a time for social distancing and keeping ourselves–and our tears–at home.

Help flatten the curve by staying at least six feet away from others during your complete and utter breakdown.
Photo by Verne Ho on Unsplash

If there’s one silver lining to forcing the globe’s exhibitionist blubberers into solitude, it’s this: a return to the essentials. To simplicity. To the cradle of your tears. You might be a Vice President of Public Crying now but now is the time to hearken back to your humble beginnings as a lowly intern of tearfulness, honing your howls in the privacy of your own home.

Remember the simpler times, when all your crying needs could be filled by locking yourself in your bedroom and marinating in a puddle of your own tears?

In case you need it, here’s a reminder of some of the best places to weep while you ride out quarantine. A bonus? Crying openly is a sure fire way to ensure every other human being maintains their distance from you, too.

5. The Shower

Clichéd? Maybe. But look, the classics are classics for a reason. A perennial favorite for recreational and semi-professional criers, a steaming hot shower doesn’t just play host to your weeping; it weeps with you. Shed your tears and cleanse them in one pleasantly damp go.

Shower crying: Glamorous, pathetic, effective.
Photo by Hannah Xu via Unsplash

A solid shower cry sesh is just what the doctor ordered after your weekly trip to the grocery store (quite literally, you really need to shower after you visit those virus-marts, you walking petri dish). Strip off your clothes in your entry way and streak to the shower while your roommate follows with a can of hoarded Lysol, spraying everything in your wake.

If you’re new to shower crying, start with the basics: standing under the spray with your eyes closed and your chest heaving with sobs.

More advanced criers may want to try the following variations on the classic:

The Seated SorkinClimb on in and take a seat. Just make sure to wait a couple of minutes for the hot water to warm the tub floor. No one wants a cold ass while they cry. (Pro Tip: Try a Reversed Seated Sorkin for a bonus aquatic back massage.)undefined
The Soggy Savasanah – Take a supine pose and let hot bullets of water rain down on your emotional dysregulation.undefined
The Praying Pisa – Place one forearm on the shower wall. Lean your forehead against it, close your eyes and recall the days when you were allowed to touch elbows with other humans instead of just cold walls of tile.undefined

4. Over the Sink

Sink crying is a favorite for moms but you don’t have to be a parent to reap its benefits. Like its more popular cousin the Shower Cry, a sink cry involves running water which doubles beautifully as both soothing soundtrack and mournful moan muffler.

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

Save time while squeezing a sink cry into your evening dish washing routine, or spice things up by eating peanut butter fudge ice cream straight out of the carton with a fork because all your spoons are dirty and you’re sick of being a person and Ruth Bader Ginsberg is going to die one day while you stand over the sink and cry.

Don’t listen to anyone who says “This isn’t healthy” or “Why not call your therapist instead?” Live your truth. I believe in you.

3. On your yoga mat while an abandoned exercise video plays in the background

Take child’s pose to stretch your back and your lament

Practice self-care by unrolling that yoga mat, tuning into that restorative flow class that influencer you hate follow is hosting on IG TV and crying your little corona traumatized heart out. You can always modify by taking child’s pose and banging your head onto the floor repeatedly.

2. Against your front door

Seeing an upsurge since mandatory quarantines went into effect last month, leaning against the front door while mourning the loss of your freedom comes with surprising perks.

Photo by MARK ADRIANE on Unsplash

You’ll be able to hear when the UPS guy arrives with your delivery of assorted late night e-tail therapy impulse buys. This buys you a few more moments to try to engage Brian in an emotionally poignant conversation through your key hole in your desperation to speak to an adult through something other than the cold black mirror you’re tied to 24/7.

If others share your house, a front door cry is ideal for added privacy, too. No one’s likely to walk in on you because no one’s allowed to pass through that door anytime soon!

And, the top spot for crying in the privacy of your own home. . .

1. Under your covers

Wet the bed, but in a tearful way.

Photo by DANNY G on Unsplash

The most obvious spots are often the most underrated. You’ve been crying in bed with your Bed Bath & Beyond comforter pulled up over your face since adolescence and chances are good you’ve nailed it. Bed weepers, this is our time to shine!

Throw your hair into a messy bun (preferred hairstyle of crying enthusiasts everywhere), breathe in the scent of linens you should definitely be washing more often than you are and take refuge in a cave of your own despair.

Wherever you are right now at this very moment

Sure, we all want to maximize the effectiveness of our breakdowns, especially during these trying times. Just don’t lose sight of what matters.

Crying. Alone.

Together. At a safe social distance.

As long as you’re staying home, you’re doing it right.

Hang in there, public criers. Our time is coming–and we’ll be ready when it does.

Best Places to Cry in Public in Perry, NY

You can’t always control when the feels hit. From being hit by a stray cow on 20A to standing in subzero temperatures scraping ice off your windshield, Perry life comes with plenty of occasions that call for a good cry.

Photo by Aiony Haust. This guy’s been crying in public since before it was cool.

When the tears start to flow unexpectedly, you can’t always book it back to the comfort of your own home to sob into a pint of Perry’s Ice Cream–nor do you always want to. That’s why I’ve assembled a (highly subjective) list of the top 5 best places to cry in public in Perry, New York.

This vibrant New York village situated at the westernmost edge of the Finger Lakes offers a high quality of life–and a high quality of public weeping locales.

Continue reading “Best Places to Cry in Public in Perry, NY”

Fitness without shame: the body positive unicorn way

This post was originally published on Tumblr in September 2018. Please note that it includes descriptions of disordered eating behaviors and other sensitive content. Content is based on my own experiences and research is not a substitute for professional treatment or advice. This post is also not officially endorsed by SuperFit Hero (although I’m proud to be a sponsored trainer).

I am a recovered anorexic, chronic over-exerciser and body-hater.

I am also a fitness instructor.

I love exercise and believe there’s great value in moving often and moving well. Burpees and planks are my idea of a good time. Give me a sweaty kettle bell sequence and I’m a happy girl.

Photo by Sara Stabley

(Yes, I am fun at parties! Thanks for asking.)

 And even though I’m part of it, I hate the mainstream fitness industry with a white hot fire most people reserve for slow walkers or strangers who are wrong on the Internet.

   The fitness and diet industries had me in the palms of their low-carb fat-free hands as soon as I was old enough to open a Reader’s Digest. An obsession with so-called “nutrition” developed as a by-product of my compulsive need to shrink my body.

I got my tips, tricks and information from the  “wellness” columns of women’s magazines.  In those pages, I learned how to calculate my BMI and RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate) and that a pound of body fat was equal to 3,500 calories.

Posters at the gym showed images of foods–candy bars, apples, sugary coffee drinks, hamburgers–position next to the number of minutes you’d have to run to burn them off–120, 18, 90, 210.

In the corner of the poster, a blonde ponytailed woman in a purple sports bra raised her eyebrows and pursed her lips and shrugged one shoulder toward the camera.

“Is it worth it?” asked the text beneath her.

 Exercise was atonement for the sin of eating, the elliptical machine an altar on which to sacrifice your desires. All to make you happier! Fitter! More worthy of love! Also able to wear a two piece bathing suit without apology!

Up until adolescence, physical activity was something I did because I enjoyed it. I was happiest when dancing or swimming or cartwheeling outside on the lawn. Then it became both a method of self-laceration and a coping mechanism for other turmoil in my life.

    When I was on the elliptical or holding a plank or tracking my calories, nothing could touch me. The endorphins coupled with the light headedness I experienced a bi-product of my anorexia created a high I couldn’t get enough of. I was abusing exercise like a substance addict abuses drugs or alcohol. I had no other tools for coping with a life that felt chaotic and uncertain and, even though it made me feel exhausted and weak, I couldn’t stop.

   After I entered initial recovery, I avoided most organized workouts for years. Every time I’d go back to a gym or workout class, I’d hear the voices I used to hear. While I loved to move, structured exercise reminded me of one of the lowest points of my life.

I wasn’t sure how to exercise in moderation or without treating it as punishment.  I worried about triggering old behaviors, that a switch would go off in my brain and I’d go back to starving myself. It didn’t help that every time I’d visit a gym or fitness class I was bombarded by those same old messages:

    “Push just a little bit more and you’ll burn more calories!”

    “Let’s flatten those abs and tighten those saddlebags!”

    Once I used a free guest pass for a certain NYC gym chain and the member services director asked me about my weight loss goals–despite the fact that I hadn’t mentioned wanting to lose weight or change my size.

And I’m in a smaller body naturally, so I can’t imagine what he’s saying to folks in bigger bodies.

    Finding a workout environment that wouldn’t trigger disordered thoughts felt like trying to find a golden haired unicorn at the DMV or a Republican at Woodstock. I gave up hope that I’d ever be able to enjoy an exercise class or gym environment again.

    Five years into recovery,  I found myself exercising again . . . for fun.

I started taking Pilates classes, walking trails and occasionally even lifting weights. After pregnancy and childbirth, and a subsequent battle with postpartum depression, I found that exercise helped me feel like myself again.

 I felt stronger, happier, more balanced.  

My mental health didn’t improve because I looked different or gained muscle mass or lost body fat or “ate clean.” It improved because I moved in ways I enjoyed and ate without any agenda other than paying attention to my body’s cues.

    I decided to share that joyful discovery with others, first as a Pilates instructor and then as a certified group fitness instructor and now personal trainer too. After four years, I still have as much enthusiasm about teaching and training as I did on day one.  But I can’t help but cringe when I see the body-shaming norms perpetuated by my own industry.

    The capitalist business owner in me gets it. It’s easy to make money off of people’s insecurities–and it’s far quicker to add one more building block to the foundation of Diet Culture than to tear the whole thing down and rebuild.

It’s not news to anyone that the diet and fitness industries rely on our cultural obsession with bodily perfection. And look, I don’t believe there’s a bunch of ripped malicious fitness gods sitting in their fully equipped ivory tower gyms sipping negative calorie smoothies while manufacturing ways to make us feel bad about ourselves.

Messages about what a “healthy” body or “stronger” or “beautiful” body looks like are so deeply ingrained in our culture already that we’re all just stuck running the same hamster wheel of negativity and fat-phobia.

    The vast majority of fitness professionals who perpetuate these attitudes don’t know or fully understand the harm they might be doing. Most believe what they’ve been told–they are fighting the so-called “obesity epidemic” or helping people be happier by helping them look better, lose weight, tone up or whatever the current trendy fitness goal of the week.

    I’ve been guilty of it myself, despite all my best intentions. I’ve found myself marketing a group class by posting how many calories it can burn or using client weight loss stories as testimonials. I thought it was the only way to get people in the door.

      After looking at the research that suggests that weight alone isn’t a great indicator of health and that weight-based shame actually perpetuates overeating, I’ve worked to cultivate as much of a body positive environment for my clients as possible.

     Now in my sixth year of fitness training, I’ve learned to quickly identify both marketing and teaching habits that might trigger body shame and revised them to help rather than harm.

The Body Positive Unicorn Way

This approach prioritizes function over form and understands that a healthy body comes in many sizes. It also understands that ALL people whether they have a healthy body or an unhealthy body deserve to be treated with respect.

Dos and Don’ts for trainers

Don’t: Set goals related to weight or fat loss for your clients

Do: Work with your client to identify ways to make their body more functional for their daily lives (i.e. walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded or experience less pain when carrying bags)

Don’t: Talk about exercises in terms of “toning” or “trimming” a part of the body.

Do: Explain what muscles are being activated and how the exercise will help the functionality of that muscle. For example, when I give a tricep-focused exercise I remind the client that the functional movement of the tricep is to bend and extend the elbow. Strong triceps may help alleviate some joint pain and allow for more ease of movement.

Don’t: Talk about exercise as a way to “make up” for eating too much or eating the “wrong” foods.

Do: Encourage your clients to think of exercise and food as simply two elements of a well-rounded life. Speak about exercise and movement as fun ways of caring for your mind and body.

Don’t: Berate (even playfully) your client’s food choices or behaviors.

Do: Model and encourage mindfulness. Help them identify “good” discomfort (the deepest point of a stretch or last few reps of a tough set) and the kind of discomfort that means they should back off and take a rest. Encourage them to apply the same principles of mindfulness when it comes to eating.

Don’t: Measure or weight clients.

Do: Celebrate their accomplishments and progress, whether it’s holding a plank for 5 more seconds, running a big race, or just showing up for their workout!

Do you have anything to add to my list? How else can we make gyms and fitness studios more positive and inclusive places?

Looking for a body positive fitness trainer, gym or studio? Check out the SuperFit Hero directory.

I’m proud to be a sponsored SuperFit Hero trainer! They offer great quality apparel for bodies of all sizes, shapes and genders AND you can get a discount on your first order using my referral code.

The Giving Tree and Healing After Abuse

If you’ve gotten this far in life without reading The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, here’s a quick summer: Boy loves a tree. Tree loves a boy. Tree gives the boy everything she has to try to make him happy. In the end, all that’s left of Tree is a stump. Still, the text tells us “the Tree was happy.”

Much has been written about the message of this children’s book, originally published in 1964. I’m not interested in the question of the Silverstein’s intention behind the book (by all accounts, neither was he) and even less interested in the question of whether or not its messaging is “good” or “bad”. 

The Giving Tree is a story and stories are what we make of them. 

Like most American kids, I encountered this book more than a few times in elementary school. It didn’t leave much of an impression on me, other than that I liked how the red apple contrasted with the vibrant green background of the cover.

I much preferred Silverstein’s off-beat poetry, staying up late at night memorizing huge swaths of Where the Sidewalk Ends and Falling Up, annoying family members every holiday with unsolicited poetry recitals.

I hadn’t given more than a passing thought to The Giving Tree until I was cast in a ballet adaption of the book by Mossa Dance this fall. I played “Girl” (later “Wife”), the young woman who wins Boy’s affections and becomes an accomplice in his selfish, relentless use of the tree. 

Photo of Mossa Dance by Sandy Arena

Turning a 621 word children’s book into a full length ballet requires some artistic license, of course. In the ballet adaption, the subtext (or the choreographer’s interpretation of the subtext) became text, explicit and spelled out through dance and multimedia projection.

Each section of the ballet spilled over with emotive demonstrations of the bond between Boy and Tree.  While moved by the choreography, I also found myself becoming wary.

This is abuse, I realized, watching a scene where Boy cuts down Tree’s trunk to build a boat. This ballet is about abuse. 

Now, it was personal.

I lived in a codependent and abusive relationship for most of my adult life, believing for many years, that my worth depended on what I could give my partner. Even after leaving the relationship, It took many months of therapy to begin using the label “abuse” to describe what happened to me.

“I let it happen,” I told myself and friends who showed concern. “It’s not abuse because I didn’t try to stop it.” 

 Unlike the tree, giving my partner what I had didn’t make me happy (or him either). Instead of either continuing to “joyfully” let myself be used or saying “no.”  I became bitter and resentful. I produced poisonous apples. 

I held myself responsible for not leaving sooner; for not putting up the boundaries that might have saved the relationship; for not standing up for myself. 

During the initial rehearsals for The Giving Tree, I decided that the message of this story had to do with the destruction of abuse; the way it destroys both victim and abuser. At the end of the story, Boy is sad, old and alone. 

But there was something more to this retelling. In the final scene, choreographer Alexis Gaatano, depicts the Boy in each stage of his life (childhood, adolescence, adulthood) returning to Tree to thank her. While Boy used up various parts of Tree, first her apples, then branches, then trunk, the spirit of the Tree remains. 

I wasn’t sure how to feel about this celebration of selfless giving. Sure, Boy got what was coming to him but what about Tree? Was I supposed to believe that Tree was genuinely happy  to be used, abused and taken for granted?

Were books like The Giving Tree responsible for teaching me that I was made to be used? 

Tree needed therapy, I decided. Tree needed a workbook on boundary setting and self-care. Then, Tree would be not only happy but self-fulfilled. Justice for Tree!

It’s what I’d been trying to do, after all. It’s what I wanted to master more than anything. Since leaving my marriage, I thought healing would mean figuring out how to be happy alone. I focused on learning to do all the things I’d neglected to do the first decade of adulthood: namely, take care of myself. 

Yet, despite of all the workbooks, therapy and self-affirmations, I still felt like I was failing. 

  I was even envious of a woman in my online support group who said she was having a hard time opening herself up to love after her abuse. Instead of becoming distrusting or putting up walls after being hurt, I responded to my trauma by becoming even more vulnerable. I wanted to callus over my injured center, not feel soft, exposed and opened.

The wounds remained raw.

Not only did I want to feel loved, I desperately needed to give love. I was still looking for validation through what I could do or give to other people–and I was mad at myself for it. 

Why couldn’t I just stop caring so much? Why did I keep putting my unprotected bleeding heart on the emotional equivalent of a four lane highway? Worst of all, why did I feel so surprised every time it got run over? 

Photo by Sandy Arena

Watching those final scenes of The Giving Tree ballet from the wings on opening night, I realized that maybe healing comes in many forms. I can–and have–get better at boundary setting and honoring; but maybe it’s also okay to love to show love. Maybe it’s okay to stay a little bit vulnerable, to risk feeling foolish. 

Maybe the key to healing isn’t changing a fundamental part of myself. Maybe it’s giving that soft center the care it needs to be healthy. I’ve tried fighting it, smothering it, and loathing it–so maybe it’s time to try taking care of it.

I will always love to give. I always want to give. Only, now I want to give from a sense of abundance, not one of lack.

I want to give from love, not for love.

After a weekend of immersion in the world of The Giving Tree, I’ve decided this isn’t a story with one neat and tidy message. Rather, I think it’s meant to be mediated on; to be chewed over, considered from all angles. 

I’m a human being in the real world, not an anthropomorphic tree from a picture book. There are times when the best thing I can do (for myself and others) is to pull back my branches and say, “no.” 

There will also be times to give and give and give. Not because I need to feel worthwhile or lovable or valuable or moral; but because I need to feel like myself. And when I give, I will give without fear.