The Good Cry

Esther - Reading, Massachusetts
Entered on April 19, 2009
Age Group: 30 - 50
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I believe in The Good Cry. I grew up hearing the mantra “Don’t cry”. Well-meaning, but misguided souls drilled it into my psyche and tattooed it on my brain. Even so, when circumstances draw tears, the psychological drilling proves ineffective. But the older I get, the harder it is to cry. I armor up with years and then haul around oceans of unreleased tears.

That disturbs me. Crying releases fear, hurt and anger from the past. The salt water cleans the psyche as it rolls out of eyes and down cheeks. After the Good Cry, I discover a clearer mind and lighter body. After the Good Cry, my body no longer holds tidal waves of salt water.

Crying is a display of vulnerability. Tears indicate a tender heart. This strange world doesn’t often reward the tender hearted. Evidence indicates that mean spiritedness, deception and spin can produce great reward. Thus I have learned to at least pretend I am untouchable.

Some days I’m aware that oceans are building. But instead of releasing them, I drag the unnecessary weight with me on my commute, into the cubicle, through daily interactions; as I hold it in, it holds me down and steals my energy. I work to appear “fine,” while muscles tighten, breath shortens, and a brick weighs down my chest. This effort to veil vulnerabilities is an odd type of self-inflicted suffering. It is a façade and not a very convincing one.

Despite my efforts, I cry — sometimes very easily. Recently a news story made me cry: One man killed 14 people at an immigration center in Binghamton, New York. I picture a group of hopeful people sitting at desks, taking the citizen’s test, jostling the nervousness, anticipation and excitement of embarking on a better life, only to be gunned down by a man who can no longer contain his rage – at whom and for what, we don’t know.

If our hearts beat, how can they not break at such a story? We bear witness to so much anger and senseless loss. The more senseless the loss, the more anger it generates. The more anger we generate, the more senseless losses we accumulate. If humans didn’t fear their tears, we wouldn’t store so much anger inside. We would have compassion for ourselves and for each other. I believe that the need to strike out would not be so prevalent and pervasive.

I want to be able to cry. This week, doctors diagnosed my father with Lymphoma. A mass in his esophagus limits his ability to eat. He battles a wracking and persistent cough. His doctors have told him that his time here is short. Nothing has been better for our strained relationship than to sit and cry together. I take his hand, while he faces that which we mostly avoid at all costs – death. He talks, I listen and we both cry. I have never felt closer to my father. Perhaps if we’d cried together previously, we would have had this closeness long ago. But because we cried together now I have a gift that no one can take away, ever.

The Good Cry is a gift. It is not something to fear or avoid. As human beings, we are designed to release our pain through tears; each of us owns a personal rain cloud. Why do we have this propensity to deny our inborn humanity? Is it not this same humanity that inspires volunteers to bring meals to elders, or teach illiterate adults to read, or perform any other of a million tiny acts of kindness? I believe that acts of kindness reverberate. Several small acts of kindness could send out big echoes of compassion. Big echoes of compassion could perhaps create a collective symphony of kindness. Maybe, compassion could counter cultural trends that reward the worst aspects of human nature.

I believe that when the tears call we should answer. Cry and find kindred spirits who can hold you while you cry, emotionally, as well as physically; a personal meltdown brigade who will say, “I’m glad you cried. We all need a Good Cry. ”

After all, what real reason do we have to store tears? Why and when did humans become so afraid of releasing droplets of salt water? Do cry. Cry and find the peace in heart, mind, body and spirit and the compassion that comes with letting go.