My eyes have always betrayed me. Someone tells a side-splitting joke and tears start to flow, then the questions come, “Are you okay, Melinda?” I’m fine, just laughing, no big deal. People seem to be okay with this happening. But, the real Brutus moment is when my eyes start to water just because I am starting to feel something. Even in my adult life, when I get passionate about my work or talking about a moment with a young person, my eyes well up like clogged sink. In my older age, I’ve learned to come to terms with it, but being the girl in middle school who cried when she talked about Christopher Columbus not really discovering America was a bit embarrassing.
At around the age of 11, my oldest brother, Junior, taught me a little trick. He was used to my tears and understood that they were my body’s way of expressing–things. He handed me a piece of paper and a sharpened pencil. He told me that if I ever felt myself starting to tear up, just look down, grab a pencil and start doodling. One night, around the kitchen table, when my other brother, Kevin, started to critique how I had played in a basketball game, the tears came, but I wasn’t actually crying. I doodled. Big, long swooping lines, merging into one another and crossing paths and linking at various points. The water faucet in my eyes turned off and I was able to have a normal conversation about hook-shots and sliding my feet on defense.
This little trick taught to me by my brother sparked a path to acceptance about who I am, how my body worked, and how manage my emotions. ‘Til this day, my blank-paged notebooks in meetings are filled with doodles and although it may get some stares, and I am finally totally okay with that.