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Crying shame


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I am a crier. This is hardly a shocking admission to anyone who has spent more than twelve seconds with me. I cry at everything; from touching Maxwell House TV ads to tragic hit and run reports on the nightly news. I cannot seem to detach myself emotionally from anything. It’s always been a problem for me. But it’s getting worse.

I now find myself crippled with anguish as I peruse the aisles of Walgreens or CVS. I am not exaggerating. They play horrible, sad muzak everywhere I go these days. And for some reason, drug stores play the most heart wrenching songs imaginable. Why do they do that? I mean, what’s wrong with some upbeat Jazz or twangy Blue Grass? I bet they did research and found a link between devastating dirges and increased profit margins, kind of goes with the whole “retail therapy” concept. The more depressed the consumer, the bigger the buy. Well, it doesn’t work for me. I have been unable to step foot in a grocery, big box or other retail establishment in weeks since I broke down in front of the dairy case at Frys listening to John Denver singing “Leaving on a Jet Plane.”

I just can’t block it out. That’s what everyone tells me to do. “Just don’t listen.” “Think about something else.” “Turn your attention elsewhere.” But, I am mentally unable to do that. Music has a direct path to my soul. It bypasses my brain and intellect and goes right for the jugular of my internal core. It’s like my Kryptonite. A soft lilting tune, even barely audible in an elevator or as I walk to my car in a mall parking lot, can reduce me to a whimpering idiot after mere seconds of listening to it.

The other day we attended a birthday celebration for a friend’s mom who had reached the age of 90. Quite the joyous occasion. They showed a video montage of the honoree’s life. I was sobbing by the second photo. I tried biting my tongue and digging my nails into my arm to create physical pain that might distract me from the pictures and the medley of sentimental Frank Sinatra ballads. But, nothing worked to slow the flow of tears that gushed from my baby blues.

My husband offered me a napkin with embarrassment. “This isn’t even your family,” he chastised. “You don’t even know these people.” “I can’t make it stop,” I lashed back. “It’s not like I’m doing this on purpose.”

I weep at services at our synagogue every single time I go. My son’s taking bets on whether I’ll be able to make it through his Bar Mitzvah service without mascara zebra striping running down my cheeks. I’ve bought commercial grade waterproof mascara for the event. You need turpentine to remove it. But I’ve yet to find anything to address the bulbous red nose, blood-shot eyes and crackling voice that always accompanies my tearful outbursts.

About a year ago I had a play reading at a theatre in LA that happened to be connected to a church. The actors had a meeting prior to taking the stage. They concluded it with a few moments of shared prayers for people in need, asking Jesus to step in and guide the poor souls who were struggling. While everyone else seemed to manage hearing the tales of poverty, divorce and other unexpected woes that had impacted people’s lives, I became completely overcome with anguish and wept as if each story was about my very own family. Please understand, I’m not talking about a faint stream of tears inconspicuously streaming down my face. I’m talking about a waterfall of wetness, snot pouring out my nose, and hyperventilating gasps of air as I tried to compose myself unsuccessfully. “Remember, you’re Jewish,” my friend whispered as everyone held hands and thanked the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. It didn’t matter. Nothing could suppress my sobs.

How do I live? Well, basically I’m trying to avoid every person, place or event that might trigger some sort of sentimental reaction. As you might imagine, this makes living life rather tricky. No TV or radio for fear of an update on Nairobi or a reality check regarding Rwanda. No mall shopping in avoidance of sad, twenty-something break-up songs. No grocery jaunts or prescription pick-ups so as to miss those sappy Carpenter songs (It really was tragic what happened to Karen).

So, if you’re hanging around and have only good news to share, call me or shoot me an email, just don’t attach any .mp3, .wav or .aiff files. K?

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About gettrich

Debra Rich Gettleman is a professional actor, playwright and journalist living in Seattle, WA with her husband Mark and two amazing boys, Levi and Eli.

One response to “Crying shame

  1. I cried during the PBS broadcast of the Celtic Woman concert at Slane Castle. It was when they sang “Somewhere Beyond the Sea”–and I don’t even like that song!

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