Here’s something strange — or at least it strikes me as strange, though it may be perfectly normal. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed more of a physical sensitivity to crying. It feels almost like an allergy — in fact it’s almost exactly like what my allergic friends say happens to them when they eat an avocado, or a pine nut, or whatever it may be. I notice that I can’t cry as hard as I used to without feeling the consequences. Now ok, I can understand things like playing hockey taking more of a toll on one’s body as one gets past one’s twenties, but crying? Come on!
It’s true, though. The other day I was having a cry. It was some combination of hormones and life, and I was just suddenly tired of holding it in. But as I was crying, I actually stopped to consider whether I really wanted to do that or not, knowing that I could expect something like a hangover afterward. It gives me pause, anymore. These days if I cry for more than a minute, I have a headache afterwards, sometimes even the next day. My eyes get crazy puffy and that lasts, too. My head feels like a bunch of heat built up inside that can’t be released — it can only very gradually cool down. An ice pack feels very good at these times.
Maybe this is something other people are used to experiencing when they cry, but I’ve only just started feeling it. Maybe this is making me sound like a crazy person who cries uncontrollably. Is it nature’s way of saying, “Grow up, for crying out loud!”? I do cry when I’m upset, and I just think if that as part of my personality, part of being an emotional and dramatic Cancer-Leo, but now I wonder if it’s just weird.
On this particular occasion I decided to just go with it. For better or for worse. I thought it was ultimately for the good, even though I had very puffy eyes for the next two days. It just felt right to release my emotion through tears in that moment. Did I cry for too long? Why would I ask myself that? I cried until I felt done, and ready to move on, and lighter and more hopeful than I had before.
I guess now when I cry, because I can either feel it or literally see on my face for so long afterward, I really have to be aware that it is my choice to cry. Or maybe it’s the choice to continue to cry when tears arise spontaneously that I am becoming more aware of. I can’t really believe that I am anyone’s victim; I can’t help but remember that I am choosing my feelings. Still, I don’t think these feelings I am choosing are necessarily bad, even though I feel them as pain. I may not know why I choose them, but I accept the responsibility, and I try to value my sad emotions as much as my happy ones. I believe they are both important parts of life.
Hazrat Inayat Khan taught that “The heart is not living until it has experienced pain,” according to the Bowl of Saki the other day. It’s always seemed to me that one of the purposes of pain is that through it, one may learn empathy. I don’t think that’s its only purpose or that there is anything that can be learned only through pain, and I can imagine a future in which we’ve collectively evolved beyond the need for that particular teacher. For me, though, for now — call me old fashioned — I’m still learning from my pain, my occasional sadness, and the difficult feelings still lodged in my heart that have been there, underground, for years. Sometimes those difficult feelings just heal up and leave one day. Maybe they all will eventually. They’re part of the family, though, for now, and so I do my best to accept ’em. And help them pack their things when they’re ready to move on.