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,
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.
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.
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