An Uncapped Pen

January 22, 2008

Bouts, Fits, and Jags

Filed under: About Me — cindylv @ 8:56 pm
Tags: , ,

I’m warning you right now, if you dismiss this post as yet other menopausal diatribe bemoaning the “natural” symptoms of diminished estrogen levels in my blood, I’ll cry.

For several years (okay, maybe it’s more like 25 or 30), I have shamefully tried to hide my ocular incontinence. (I thought I made up that term, but it already exists in Googleland.) I’m talking about spontaneous tears, emotional lability or crying for no apparent reason.

I handled this phenomenon the same way I usually handle any sort of problem in my over-intellectualized, over-compartmentalized and discombobulated life. I researched it. A guy named Tom Lutz wrote a book called, “Crying: The Natural and Cultural History of Tears.” I read about the physiology of tears (lachrymology), the psychology of tears, the manipulation of tears, and the social dimension of our eye’s natural lubricant. Go ahead and google “spontaneous tears” and you’ll find more articles about episiotomies than you ever thought possible. Yeesch!

I cry when I’m under too much stress, as a pressure release.
I cry when I’m really angry.
I cry when I’m sad, or happy.
I cry when my legs hurt.
I cry when I’m just driving down the road and the sun is shining.
I cry when I think about my deceased parents, the soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the babies starving in Biafra, or mistakes I’ve made along the way.
I cry when I’m reading or watching TV or when I look at a photo of The Pieta.
I cry on Tuesdays and sometimes on Saturdays.

Sometimes I just pull a dark cloud over my head and weep. I don’t seem to be able to wail, keen, moan or bawl. Snivel? I can do that one. I guess I can understand crying because I’m hurt or sad or mad, but those seemingly random Tuesday afternoon jags frustrate the hell out of me.

So where is the shame in crying? I guess I feel that tears signify a loss of control over my own emotions. As a child, I remember being punished for crying. As an adult, I’ve learned that tears are an expression of emotion, a moving of energy. By punishing that expression of emotion, I was taught to disconnect from the original feeling that created the emotion.

When I find myself about to cry, I immediately cut off any connection to what I’m feeling and struggle to hold back my tears. The harder I try to stop, the more I need to cry. Pressure builds up inside. I choke. It hurts. I mean, I hurt — my muscles, my throat, my heart, my belly, even my breasts hurt. The painful feeling comes in waves and spirals through me, knocking me down inside. So what is my response? Squeeze my eyes tight and hold back the outward manifestation of that feeling — the tears.

The feeling gets squelched, but it doesn’t come out. I can imagine all those disconnected schnibbles crashing around inside me, knocking into my organs and pinching against my nerves. Or maybe they just sort of rise like helium balloons and bounce around my throat trying to get up to my brain.

Pat Torngren writes that the human mind protects itself. “Memories of pain and unmet needs are repressed or “gated”, so we won’t get overwhelmed and die. Once the danger is passed, the mind allows it to reconnect to the consciousness for healing.”

This sounds hokey, but in reality it is similar to the way my body tries to heal itself by fighting infection or clotting blood. Maybe my mind is trying to allow some unexpressed feelings to come out and make room for something else. Like joy, perhaps? Torngren goes on to say that feelings of being stuck or sick may be our pysche’s way of leading us to a healing point.

In other cultures, such as the Andaman Islanders, tears are seen as an expression of collective loss. They celebrate a reunion with a loved one with a ceremony or ritual wailing, called the “Welcome of Tears” to express the sadness from the time spent apart. In Greece, Italy, Eastern Europe, China and the Pacific Islands, ritual wailing is common. Crying can be seen as nourishment, tears as a gift. Students of women’s mysteries believe in the beauty and sacredness of tears. For only $12.99, you can buy a CD of women wailing. Don’t laugh, but I considered clicking on the link.

Somewhere in the middle of this post, I decided to try a new tactic. No more shame associated with crying. My tears may be a signal that I feel safe enough to open up and heal old wounds.

I suggest we all buy stock in Kleenex.

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