emma peel

emma peel
La dolce vita, Canada
December 10
Citizen of the world
Inside my head
A writer is an egomaniac with low self-esteem. Disclaimer Please be advised that what you read here does not represent anyone at OS, or anyone else in the known blogosphere, or world outside the Internet unless specifically stated. I've spent most of my life as a journalist, arts and film critic, editor, educator and writing coach. I've been lucky enough to travel extensively and to meet many fascinating famous and ordinary people. I live in a beautiful part of the world that sustains my soul. I am blessed to have an understanding husband and loyal friends. I have a sharp edge, but underneath I am an idealist and a romantic. My heart breaks at all the stupidity, injustice and cruelty in the world. I will never stop fighting against it.


Emma peel's Links

JUNE 26, 2010 9:49PM

As tears go by -- a Saturday re-post

Rate: 33 Flag

 After great pain a formal feeling comes

After great pain a formal feeling comes--
The nerves sit ceremonious like tombs;
The stiff Heart questions--was it He that bore?
And yesterday--or centuries before?

The feet, mechanical, go round
A wooden way
Of ground, or air, or ought,
Regardless grown,
A quartz contentment, like a stone.

This is the hour of lead
Remembered if outlived,
As freezing persons recollect the snow--
First chill, then stupor, then the letting go.

–– Emily Dickinson

I've been thinking a lot about crying. Not simply because I've been exploring some unresolved grief around childhood events, or because the level of pain and suffering in the world is becoming even more unbearable, although those are reasons enough. No, I am contemplating the shedding of tears as an indicator of emotional health, of thawing the frozen feelings I've harboured deep inside for most of my life. My thought processes crystallized when I read Outside Myself's post. What she wrote about crying struck a chord deep within me, a chord that reverberates and  cannot be ignored.

Crying should be easy. After all, we cry right after being born, when we don't get our diapers changed quickly enough, or get the candy or attention we want. My step-granddaughter cries if I speak to her carelessly -- her feelings are sensitive and easily wounded. My eyes sting, and I remind myself that she deserves better from me. Teenage girls shed torrents of tears over boys, love songs and slights real or imagined. When we grow up, we cry over lost loves, lost jobs, disease and deaths of loved ones and pets. So why was it that one day in my 40s I realized that I hadn't cried in so long that I literally couldn't remember the last time?  I am not counting the false tears that brim when a sappy song or TV commercial manipulates our emotions. I mean crying as in tears rolling down cheeks and flat-out sobbing, although I don't think I've ever really done the latter. One of my most painful memories is remembering the harsh sound of my grandmother sobbing the day my father died. I had never seen her express that much emotion before. 

The tracks of my tears

I chose the "tough," predominantly male profession of journalism, which suited my belief that crying was "weak" and "unprofessional." I thought poorly of women who cried in the workplace, and privately discounted friends who cried easily . No matter what happened, what horrific apsect of human behavior I saw and reported on, the sexism I endured on the job, I never cried. I didn't cry when I was fired without cause although I later learned that my not crying was considered proof that I wasn't really all that upset. I saved my scant tears and self-rage for the car and later, my bedroom.  My grief had long ago festered into depression and anger and only rarely emerged as sorrow.

Shortly after I was constructively dismissed, I moved and left my former life behind. I remained stoic, yet inside I was starting to crumble. I'm not sure exactly when or why it happened, but one day I found myself sitting alone on my couch with tears streaming down my face. For a while, it seemed that I could not stop mourning the loss of my previous identity. I mentioned to a friend that I had to wear sunglasses on even rainy days to hide my eyes because I never knew when the tears might start. She replied that I should wear them as long as I had to. She reminded me that tears are cleansing, that they purify the soul, and that they are as necessary as breathing, sleeping and eating. My tears stopped without warning, and the old defenses mounted again. I cried discreetly when my brother died three years ago, but mostly I was in shock and remained that way until late last year. My grieving process for the many losses in my life finally began as a result of working with a Budhhist therapist and a life coach when numerous forms of conventional therapy had failed. 

Now I am happy to report that I cry freely, sometimes too freely. I cry while listening to music, while reading about atrocities committed toward people and animals, while reading OS, while driving, while looking at old pictures or reading poetry, while cooking dinner -- just about anything sad, beautiful or sentimental can start the tears flowing. I still don't cry easily in front of other people but I attended a workshop recently where in fact, I cried without shame or fear of what others might think. And I fought back tears during a recent dinner with a close friend when she casually mentioned my cat, the late great Marvin Grey, who died six years ago.

My feelings are no longer paralyzed but float close to the surface. It is a new and exhilarating experience. In fact, I enjoy crying so much that I've  invested in waterproof mascara. Best of all, I no longer worry that I won't be able to stop crying. Instead, I worry that the tears will some day stop without warning and I will be frozen once again.

The Tracks of My Tears
Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
People say I'm the life of the party
Cause I tell a joke or two
Although I might be laughing loud and hearty
Deep inside I'm blue

So take a good look at my face
You'll see my smile looks out of place
Just look closer, it's easy to trace
The tracks of my tears
I need you, need you

Since you left me if you see me with another girl
Seeming like I'm having fun
Although she may be cute she's just a substitute
'Cause you're the permanent one

Outside,  I'm masquerading
Inside, my hope is fading
Just a clown, oh yeah since you put me down
My smile is my make-up I wear since my break-up with you

Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
Your friend said it best: "She reminded me that tears are cleansing, that they purify the soul, and that they are as necessary as breathing, sleeping and eating." That simple. Your fear that you will freeze back up is unwarranted and false. Relax.
Thanks Dr. Spudman. Trying to relax has been a life-long goal!
I tend to be suspicious of people who don't cry. Acknowledging their power is very healing. Thanks for reposting this.
I thought your reminiscence about "toughening up" to endure the professional life was very moving. I don't think such "toughening up" is only required of women, but perhaps seems more crushing in that women are comparatively new to the arena of stiff competition and self-reliance.

I recall my father - for decades tough-as-nails - continually teary-eyed in his later years. He seemed constantly crying: when he looked at children, at art, at television commercials. It was good to see him letting down his guard, but it did seem to annoy my mother. There was not a little self-indulgence in all that slack weepiness.

Don't freeze up again, Emma - but do get a grip on yourself, my dear.
@Inquisitive Canuck: Thanks. I agree that the energy required not to feel is far more exhausting.

@Kathy: You're welcome.
@Monsieur Chariot: Thank you. I agree that "toughening up" isn't unique to women, but I experienced hostility because I didn't cry on the job, which is even weirder in some ways. I refused to fit into the stereotypes they wanted to put me in, and in the end, it cost me my job.

I don't go around blubbering in public as a rule, but I do cry a surprising amount in the privacy of my home and car. I still have a great deal of the "suck it up" stoicism I was raised with and it's not likely that it will ever completely go away.

Self-indulgent crocodile tears are never a good thing, but maybe your dad was trying to communicate something? It's an interesting behavior pattern.
Okay, this post makes me want to cry..... I'm with ya, but I've gotten much better!

I watch that video of Marianne Faithful and I am taken back to 1969. She had a face like an angel. Reminds me The Shrimp, my personal favorite. If I only knew then what I know now.... Okay, off to my hot bath and crying in my washcloth!
Crying is the ultimate physical manifestation of emotional purging and should be indulged often enough to prevent psychotic implosions. I've seen enough unnecessary stoicism backfire to value the healing power of tears. Wonderful post!
Emma your emotional description of a process that is both
cleansing and healing was excellent. Smokey is da Man.
@MiddleAgedWomanBlogging: Just don't wreck your makeup with all that crying! It's hard to reconcile the sweetness and "purity" of Faithfull here, especially her voice, with what she is now. How things change.

@Susan: Thank you. We shouldn't let ourselves get "backed up."

@midnite toker: Smokey is da man. Truer words were never spoken. His voice still makes me swoon. His, and Jackie Wilson's.
Might I suggest some Little Anthony and the imperials.
I spent some time in my life dumbing myself down emotionally so I would not feel and could move through this bizarre maze of male/female behavior. Then I broke through that and could experience my own emotions better. I felt less plastic, less in control, but more alive. I think that it is okay to cry, to scream, to be the unexpected, because if that is true, it is you. Better to be true and understood than false and misunderstood. R
The term "good cry" at first glance appears oxymoronic, but most of us have recognized that there are times in life when letting go emotionally and literally opening the floodgates can be transformative. A sort of menstrual period for our souls, shedding old hurts, making way for new ones, relishing the brief period in between when once more, so much good can seem possible.
You sound as coming in touch with a kinder side of your personality. A soft is the best treatment for bitterness. R
How long till my soul is purified?

I think tears and laughter come from the same place. You can't have one without the other.

I'm not going mad, then.
I just can't /don't want to hold it back anymore, either.
Last night it was the full moon,
and all those I wished were gazing up with me,
somewhere on this sad, screwed up planet.
It's nearly always something beautiful now,
and I swear the tears taste sweeter.
I'm glad I'm not alone in this.
Similar thoughts Emma, raised to think crying was weak, mom never cried. At some point in my forties, I gave myself permission to cry, to feel, to let go. Or perhaps I lost the reason I was holding back. Sometimes I see very sad things at work, I will just have a cry on the way home, it reminds me I am human, not a machine, I empathize. I enjoyed this post, TY.
To cry is to be human.
xo, Emma. Crying can be cleansing, indeed. Keep feeling deeply, and you'll never have to worry about being frozen.

Let it flow ... the tears will subside when you've let go of the block of grief. You are healing yourself, tear by tear, releasing toxins too. If and when they stop, I believe they will come back when you need them. At least that is what happened to me in chipping at the "frozen feelings."

Great poem and song for this post.
It was inconvenient, but I used to cry when I was hurt - especially when I was surprised and hurt. Life has taken that away from me. Now I wish I could cry. It would be a release. Age has something to do with rawness. Some of the older men in my life now cry at the drop of a sensitive moment - men who used to make me cry. Karma.
A thought provoking post to which I relate. I remember wondering where my emotions were, had I hidden them or simply never had them? It took a long time for me to feel comfortable letting go, crying, sobbing... and now it feels cleansing. It doesn't make anything different except for me and that is enough.
Oh my Emma. I was reading OS tonight, and I thought came into my mind, "What's on Emma's mind lately?" I read this post and it moved me deeply.

I haven't been able to access the crying release. I'm so glad that you have...

You've inspired me to work on it.

I'm happy for you.
What a wonderful story. I too went years without real crying. During my divorce, I would intentionally put on the saddest song I knew to get started, to touch the grief rather than holding it at bay. Recently, after surgery, I cried in pain, which worried my husband. I assured him it was all right, the tears allowed me to relax into the experience rather than resist it. Thank you for this post.
I remember this one . . . it had a profound effect on me at the time, and continues to resonate.
I recall that there was a short-lived movement, the later 70s maybe, where "they" tried to promote the notion that it was OK for men to cry. Part of the sensitive man movement. Soon enough that got mocked but it didn't disappear.

We may have sports to thank as you sometimes see seemingly macho athletes in tears if they've won or lost a big game. For me, movie scenes like the Marseilles in Casablanca or the closing Xmas tree scene in It's A Wonderful Life do the trick.

Your position was different. Around the sensitive man era, there was a countervailing trend that professional women should act more like a man. Do you think you were caught up in that?

Anyway, glad that you've put those artificial constraints behind you. And thanks for the Marianne Faithfull vid. I loved her version and her voice and as for her looks, well, she was one of my three adolescent fantasy loves from the 60s. The other two were Mama Michelle and John Steed's sidekick from The Avengers.
One of the ONLY routines Dane Cook has done that stayed with me is about that really good cry we all need. He talks about going home and just letting it all go...and how it feels. And you can feel it as he does it. It almost makes you want to go somewhere and shut the door and DO it. Being that vulnerable, if only for a few minutes, says and does so much. But then...I cry about such inane little things, it's easy for me to say. I like it, though. When people see my eyes tear up, they think more deeply about whatever it is that's making me do that. So...that's my gift to the world, I guess. A little more thought about the little stuff...
Nothing like a good cry to cleanse the soul and the heart, this was lovely, Emma. Being in touch with your emotions is a gift.
There is no way you will freeze and revert to the former state. Keep a kleenex handy. Great writing.
I cry at what ever....not sob cry but I always cry at great beauty,or a great great song..like Eva Cassidy Somewhere Over The Rainbow that Matt Praust turned me on to.I'm going to read this again.Love your late great kitty's name.Going to see Toy Story today with my grown daughter and her grandmother......three generations and we will all be wiping tears im sure.....thats how we roll.
I cry almost every time I shower. I'm not particularly upset or unhappy, but there is always something I can cry about, life being what it is. It lasts about 2 minutes, and after that I'm good to go. Whatever niggling sadness I might have been barboring is washed way. It's a proven fact (somewhere) that a good cry actually makes you feel physically better. I'll Google it if I have to : 0

I have no patience with the politics of when or when or who it is proper to cry in front of. Tears are natural. People who are uncomfortable with tears frustrate me. I am not a fan of the "Suck it Up, Stiff Up Lip" School of Thought. Like anything else, crying can be overdone, so tears should be judiciously applied.

I have missed this kind of discourse. That you should pick, and then write so well about, something as emotionally charged as crying, seems appropriate. You seem to both have politicized and personalized it at the same time, something you do to enormously good affect. I've missed you tender smarts. It's reallly good to catch up with you.
Now Emma Peel, this is the first time I read you, and you are a damn goof writer
Glad to find your post --- tears are necessary...enjoyed reading!
I've cried so much the past couple of years, I needed to buy an dehumidifier. Happy to report I'm done now...you brought much to think about in this post, and I so related to it! I'm late in finding you and reading, but my eyes are dry enough to read you now!
Thanks for the post - Smokey's voice is just the sweetest thing! I'm glad that tears for silly little things are near the surface these days. It used to embarrass me, but now I think it is one of the healthier things I do.
Wonderful topic, wonderful insights. I spent some serious time with the poem. Man oh man, could that chick write. That poem...wow. I felt it down deep. It's chilling, isn't it?

I hear you re: moving past the emotional frigidity. And may you never get a grip!
I am so happy for you. What a triumph.

What was it that made you so sad in childhood?
And excellent writing.