IT’S THE SMALL THINGS
I write this on the thirteenth death anniversary of my late grand-aunt, Consuelo “Chito” Madrigal. I need not elaborate further, but followers of this column, my friends and family know what a great influence she has been, and continues to be in my life. It is also so timely that I close my series of women’s month articles inspired by her. After all, she was a woman who so generously empowered other women, and the greater community.
“You must never cry in public.” That remains to be one of the most poignant and impactful statements she has ever told me. She pulled me aside right after I broke down in the midst of delivering a eulogy in a funeral mass. At the time, I took it quite literally – I remember pondering and asking myself how one could manage not to cry in public, especially in a situation as such – in a funeral. I mean, I felt it would perhaps even be one of the most acceptable public places to shed tears in. “You must show others that you are strong” is what she followed it up with.
And so for years it registered to me that crying equated to weakness. It also made me realize that perhaps being the strong woman that she was, she expected those she had a hand in raising in nurturing to muster the same amount of strength. It was only recently, and after much introspection that I think I finally realized what she fully meant by “you must never cry in public – “more than the literal meaning of it, it was perhaps the emblematic significance that she wanted me to carry along for the rest of my life.
Above and beyond everything, she did not mean that we could not cry and have our weak moments – after all, we are just human. What she meant was not giving those who were not deserving the privilege of knowing and seeing your weakness. That while it is okay to be not okay at times, one must surround oneself only with those they trust most to guide them through. It was her way of fiercely protecting me from the pack of wolves that plague this world, which teenager me then, was still naïve to and unaware about. In reference to today’s world where social media dominates, it is but a means of always remembering not to over share – to leave the most precious for oneself, and to those who matter most. The minute you make something public, you are inevitably giving people access to your life – by means of re-sharing what you had just said, by forming their opinions about you, or simply, giving them the opportunity to talk about you. This is the two-way street social media has created that a lot of us are conscious and aware of, but still need to learn, and re-learn everyday. In other words, do not air your dirty linen – or any of your linen, for that matter – where a lot of people are waiting to watch.
“You must never cry in public.” In other words, do not make a fool out of yourself where there are so many people to witness it. Or if you must share, or do something ever so publicly, please be kind – to yourself, and to others. In a world that has been seemingly overcome by gossip, fear and worry, there is no more room for added unnecessary stress. Remember, we all have our moments of weakness and vulnerability, and it is definitely okay to not be okay at times, but in those moments, remember as well to surround yourself with those who are worthwhile – only those who you know will stick around in your life, even when the grass is no longer as green on your side of the fence. Only they should have a front row seat of what it is you are going through – less said, less done. Nothing said, nothing done. No further explanations needed. And who would have thought that many years after, this would be one of my most valuable lessons in life.