Lately I’ve Been Thinking About Tears . . .
. . . feeling them stream down my face and having the sensation that my tears are somehow different now. Rather than tears, they feel like mountain streams with inadequate dams to hold them in place. The tears come without warning and they flow in a way that I judge is somewhat alarming to those who witness the dam breaking.
Crying is not new to me
As a small child, and throughout my entire life, I’ve cried easily and often. I cry happy tears, sad tears, frustrated tears, and at times I’ve cried myself to sleep.
Tears are inconvenient. No doubt. Particularly if you are crying in public. They are also inconvenient when driving (interfering with vision), when reading a book (since you can no longer see the words), or when you are in a doctor’s office and you are crying because you’re mad that you are feeling completely misunderstood (because it feels weak, and that’s exactly what you don’t want to exhibit in that moment). But these days tears have a mind of their own. They come when they will and that’s that.
My ability to cry feels limitless. I cry at television commercials; when I hear a sad story; when I’m in the grocery store witnessing a child crying for what feels to me like a very good reason, although their caregiver does not seem to agree. There are big cries and there are little cries, which is deceiving because a little cry can be connected to a huge loss and no one but the crier can verify that truth. Beware judger of tears–tread softly.
In a moment of recalling the gift Dan was to me, my eyes immediately fill with tears. When I recall his devotion and how his love came to me as pure gift, the tears fall every time. When I am listening to a story from the bardo where illness and dying filled our days; when I look at a photo of us dancing at our favorite haunt; when I imagine the feeling of his strong, safe arms around me, I sink underwater and swim in the tears of sweet memories.
These examples fit with my previous way of being. As a person who experiences life through the lens of feelings I have had plenty of opportunities to come to terms with my tendency toward tears and have made peace with them. I hold no stigma against tears.
Then what is so different about my tears lately?
The only way I can describe the difference is that it feels like someone has poured extra tears inside me. In the past I could expect tears under certain circumstances. Now weeping arrives out of nowhere without any logical connection to the present moment. Rather than teardrops, streams of water pour from my eyes. I no longer know where the spigot is located to turn the tears off.
Words fail when I try to explain the difference. I feel somewhat disconnected from the river of tears that come my way these days. As if I’ve never been to this river before. I don’t know where I am. It is a strange, new sensation.
That may be it. The truth is that I have never been to this river before. This river that rushes upon me with an intensity that feels foreign IS foreign. I am in a new land. The land of grief.
Look up at the sky and remember it is okay to cry.
There is much to learn in this widowed life. While I believe that tears are a gift that serve to wash away trauma, my point of learning is coming to terms with the headstrong nature of these new kind of tears.
When I am alone, I am mostly comfortable with letting the tears flow until they stop. Releasing fully. Letting go.
In public, well, I am still figuring out how to extract myself from the awkwardness of unexpected tears.
In the meantime, as I make my way through the landscape of grief, I am reminding myself to look at the sky when the occasional summer storm comes my way and to remember that it’s okay to cry.
Remembering that is enough for now.