Sunday, June 1, 2014

No More Dead (or hurt...or sad...etc) Dogs

I started crying the other night about something stupid.

Chris and I are watching the series Parenthood on Netflix. We just began Season 3. What should have been an innocent and non-emotional scene in the episode triggered something and I found myself with tears going down my cheek.

Seriously, Jill? What is your problem?! Well, I could try to answer that, but in interest of time and the fact people have their own lives to live and jobs they have to get to, let's just stick with the subject I had in mind.

Chris wasn't sure what was wrong. In fact, he didn't know anything was wrong at first. He said he needed to go to bed and I was just "blank". When he asked me what was wrong it became obvious to him that tears were involved. Now, to put this into context, I've been extremely emotional lately with this upcoming move and everything that comes with it. I've mentioned that in previous posts. I'm not going to repeat it all now.

I do wonder if I was feeling less emotional about all those things if watching that simple scene would have prompted such a tearful and panicked reaction on my part.  Especially about the stupid thing I was crying about.

No, I'm not going to say what it was.

Anyway, Chris was nothing but loving and supportive. Where some husbands might feel weird when their women get all weepy - Chris was never like that. In fact, he wishes I would allow myself to cry more.

But he did chuckle a little bit when I told him why I was crying. I certainly understand why he kind of laughed, and it wasn’t insulting to me. He just knows me too well – that’s all. In fact, he's really good at screening movies for me if he knows there's something in it that's going to be way too upsetting for me. Well, he didn't have to screen Marley and Me...I knew (spoiler alert!) that the dog died at the end, so not only did I not see it, but I never intend to.

I have been trying to figure out lately why I have such a difficult time when it comes to allowing myself to cry - and how embarrassed I feel when I do. There has always been an obvious reason that hangs out like an elephant in the room, but I am not sure it is the sole reason.  In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s not.

But let's start with the obvious reason. I've alluded to my father and how he was full of a lack of understanding when it came to the feelings of others (along with his disgusting need to use physical abuse, but I’ll leave that part out this time). It wasn't enough that he didn't have any empathy for others and their feelings. He didn't even want to try to have any. It was all futile and ridiculous to him. His pathological narcissism did not allow that in its programming. 

When it came to crying, he would insult me (and my mom) and mention how ugly we were when we cried.  I think I remember hearing the phrase “wipe that crap off your face”, pertaining to the tears. My two sisters were six and nine years younger than me (well, they still are I guess!). I do not know if he did the same with them. They haven’t mentioned it if he did. However, I think everyone would agree my Mom and myself received the brunt of his callousness. 

It would be easy to point at that being the reason I have such a hard time to allow myself to cry now.  However, while I am still working through my anger at my dad  - especially considering recent evidence that he is still out there with his "word vomit" regarding me and my family, I do not think that's the whole story when it comes to my issues with tears. 

While I remember his cruel and unkind words vividly, I've come far enough to know and have grown smart enough to rise above such stupidity that has left his mouth.  If anything, it just bothers me that he’s still out there saying nasty things. I would hope others would be smart enough to “consider the source” when he does say those awful things, but who are we kidding? Some people can be just as idiotic to believe them as he is to keep saying them.

Therefore, if the source of my crying issues doesn’t entirely come from my sperm donor’s stupidity, then what are the other reasons? Well, I’ve been thinking about it, and I think I know.

I mentioned in a previous post how when I saw E.T. in the theaters back when I was 7 or 8, it traumatized me and I cried for the rest of the day. Now imagine a movie like that shown in school. Examples of such movies include Old Yeller, Benji, The Golden Seal, and other "kid-friendly" movies with the same kind of emotional turmoil they bring on. 

I use sarcastic air-quotes with "kid-friendly", because I hardly feel traumatizing kids with hurt, lost or dead animals  (or friendly aliens that almost die and then leave you after they get better) as being "kid-friendly". I’m pretty sure I would have been better off seeing R-rated psychological thrillers full of swearing and other more adult dialogue than a G-rated "kid friendly" film with lost, hurt and dead animals (or animals being taken away from their loving owners) or any of the other horrible plots these films contained to “entertain children”.

In school when these movies were shown, I would begin to cry - with classmates around me
to witness it. If the E.T. example was any indication, the tears would last far beyond credits rolling and the lights coming on. As a result, I was bullied and tormented until grade sixth as being a "cry baby".  
The only exception is in 3rd or 4th grade when we watched Where the Red Fern Grows after reading the book. Enough of us cried during that; therefore my own tears seemed normal and just part of the group.

Let's just call it what it is - The Traumatic Journey
I recall one incident that has obviously stayed in my memory bank because of how important it was to be saved from such trauma.  

Towards the end of 4th grade, the class was to go to the cafeteria and watch one of those horrible "kid friendly" movies with the rest of the fourth grade classes or even a larger group. I even remember the movie - "The Incredible Journey" (obviously the original movie version - not the remake). Plot synopsis? Three animals (two dogs and a cat) get lost when they're separated from their owners when they're on vacation or something. The perilous journey through the wilderness the animals have to make contain injuries, danger, sadness and other incidents that would make it easier to just take out a gun and shoot me instead of having to live through each traumatic scene and incident. I doubt IMDB has that listed as the official plot synopsis, but as far as I'm considered, that's what the movie is about.

I remember begging my 4th grade teacher to allow me to remain in the classroom.  She wasn't the nicest of teachers, but thankfully, she did allow me stay behind.  I was saved from not only the emotional trauma of the movie, but then the ordeal of being bullied and harassed from the tears that would inevitably result.

We moved during sixth grade. It didn't solve all the bullying problems, as I was always weird and awkward and therefore, it attracted bullies like a wounded gazelle on the Serengeti, but at least the "cry-baby" reputation was left behind. 

In my Archetypes of Children's Literature class in college, more than one of us mentioned the trend that seemed to point in the death of a pet in these horrible books and movies that were erroneously dubbed as "kid friendly".  Believe it or not, I sat quietly and just nodded in agreement because I didn't want to take it further and show just how horrible and traumatic these common archetypes were to me throughout childhood (not just dead dogs, but hurt dogs, sad owners missing them, etc etc). Well, okay, I did want to take it further. But I was pregnant with Christian and sick as a dog (no pun intended), and it was a miracle that I was able to show up for class in the first place.

Our professor showed us a book that immediately caught my attention and interest: No More Dead Dogs by Gordon Korman. It came out in 2002, so at the time, it was fairly new. 

Its title and story alludes to the fact that many books (and later turned into movies) for children and young adults featuring dogs (or other pets and friendly aliens) often have the dog die, such as Old Yeller and Where the Red Fern Grows as I've already mentioned, including the fictional novel that begins to cause the main source of all the character's problems: Old Shep, My Pal. The main plot revolves around a play based on Old Shep where the ending has been changed to let the dog live!

As our professor just touched on this synopsis, I kept thinking, "Yes! Yes! Yes! Give me that book!" And what makes "No More Dead Dogs" even more up my alley, is the middle school humor it's written in. I don't know why I'm meant to teach tough ages like Middle School and High School, but obviously I'm supposed to. 

I need to read No More Dead Dogs again.  It's been a long time.

Latest gift for a family member...given last night!
Anyway, I don't want these explanations for my issues with tears to be misunderstood as an excuse to continue having these problems with tears even to this day (or the other night just watching Parenthood). I do not want to use them as a crutch. 

However, they were obviously traumatic enough to still make it difficult for me.  I think it is another reason that I feel guilty if I make someone cry for a positive reason, such as when they're given my artwork as a gift (from me or from a customer that had me create the artwork for the person) and it tributes them, their wedding, a loved one or pet who has passed on, or any other reason they are touched by it. 

I do not want to associate tears for positive reasons as something bad - the latest being above. The graduation party for Selina, the daughter of Chris's cousin was last night. I presented this to her as we were leaving, due to us being so exhausted from the day before us that had nothing to do with the party later that evening. I was delighted that in return, she wanted to take me into her room to show her fun watercolors and other art projects she had hanging on her wall. If she had cried, that would have been okay too, but the excitement in showing me her artwork was much easier for me!

I am working through it. In the meantime, I applaud the character of Wallace Wallace in No More Dead Dogs, for his tenacity and demonstrating that not all stories involving beloved pets (or friendly aliens) has to result in death and sadness.  Tears of laughter are perfectly okay too!

I have no problem admitting to those.

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