I cry easily. And increasingly, I cry about apparently nothing.
I wish I more often had some external trigger to explain the reason for my tears. Sometimes they feel inexplicable, even uncalled for.
At times, I begin to cry when sadness within me feels so vast and so deep that it escapes from my eyes, like the hissing steam escaping from a pressure cooker. It used to happen at goodbyes, when the sorrow of letting someone go seemed almost too crushing to bear. Recently, the sadness-triggers tend to be more ambiguous, often nothing more than a vague recognition of the tragic absurdity of my life and the lives of those around me. With all of the goodness that is in my life, and there is an abundance of it, I am increasingly aware of how tenuous and impermanent it all is.
At other times, I cry when love and joy feel so overwhelming they involuntarily spill over. Like when I look into Ed’s clear blue eyes and see what I feel is my soul reflected in them. Or when I witnessed the birth of my two healthy grandsons.
And sometimes an unconscious mingling of sorrow and joy brings on my tears. I remember when Ed and I stood at the foot of the Yguazu Falls in Brazil a few years ago, in the midst of throngs of humanity around us and beneath the grandeur of the thundering “Devil’s Throat.” In the face of that great torrent, I experienced my own insignificance and the illusion of signficance and permanence most of us cling to. In that moment, I felt, inexplicably, the existential pain of all of those happy strangers laughing, pointing, shouting and taking photos. I also felt a holy bond uniting all of us on this journey. I wept when I let in the pure sadness and joy of it all.
If you’re at all like me, you know that crying this way makes us vulnerable to potential ridicule. We live in a culture focused on constructing a kind of perfect bubble, complete with constant access to cell phones and our extended social networks that “like” us, which insulates us against the emotional turmoil that may produce tears. Because of our many social connections (read: social network friends), we imagine ourselves as always connected.
But are we kidding ourselves? As John Gorman said in a recent post on medium.com, “Even as it’s become harder to lose people, it’s easier than ever to feel completely lost (and alone). We used to know our friends … now we just have them.”
When I cry vulnerable tears that are about nothing other than feeling the weight or the lightness of the world around me, I am more completely connected to humanity than at any other time. I cry happily and sorrowfully when I recognize, deep down, that every true connection I make in life is as precious as it is impermanent.
Do you cry? Why do you cry? Or maybe, why don’t you cry?