“The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.” – Isak Dinesen
What, in your experience navigating life, tells you you are feeling deeply? What is your relationship to crying?
I’m a world-class crier. I’m like a needle on life’s record, producing variations on a theme of deeply felt things. For as long as I can remember, where-and-when-ever I feel deeply, the tears are right there–happy, sad, hurt, scared, or mad. It’s fairly inconvenient, this aspect of my being human.
I’ve cried in front of paintings. I’ve cried from simple moments of awe and wonder. I’ve cried in cadence with the moon and waning hormones. Birthdays, weddings, and funerals all add up to tears at some point. Speaking from a place of truth also activates the lacrimal glands, making it hard to speak clearly (which gets even more awkward). (Which is why you read me most often, hiding behind this newsletter, pouring out communications of the heart seemingly dry-eyed.)
Animated movies with characters named Bruno? Lots of crying. Witnessing a woman Vice President sworn into office? Sobs. The random call late on a Friday saying a loved one is suddenly in the hospital and won’t make it through the night? A soup of feelings in a broth of tears. Listening to the news? So much to feel (and, as of late, so much shock).
This feeling deeply is at once a curse and a boon. For me, it’s a bookmark of moments of beauty and truth–and connection. I feel it all deeply from the inside out, but I wouldn’t want to navigate life any other way.
Recently at my favorite local farm-to-table restaurant, I arrived feeling the emotional weight of a few hefty feeling tangents hanging on my mind and heart. It’s challenging to be in public and feel emotionally frail, like a weathered piece of rice paper shredded by a light breeze. I let our waiter know I was having a rough day, but that he was making it better. “I hear you,” he shared. “When I’m in all the feels, I go down to the creek and let it all out. That’s where I was earlier today.”
Welcoming in tears is an indicator of deep feeling, that place that — like all emotions fully felt — brings us back into connection with ourselves and into a place of wholeness. It helps us navigate a world in which everything happens, and no platitudes can wipe away the track of life’s record that the needle is vibrating on. Logic and rational ways around our deep feelings often serve to burrow them for days when our stoic faces are relaxed enough to drop the act. When the performance of ‘keeping it together and moving on’ is over, we can process our emotions in the fullest somatic sense. Only then is there an ease that comes to us.
Yet feeling all the things is hard to do when you’re moving fast, ill-equipped, shocked, or otherwise shut down. It’s also hard to live truncated from your feelings. “Crying becomes that reminder that we are actually still together, that we are actually still linked to one another, even in those moments when we are cast outside of what is comfortable or what is familiar,” author Ben Perry reminds us in his conversation with Jerry in this week’s podcast episode.
“One of the things that tears do is expose that lie: that lie that we are all living isolated and alone, where our success is not connected to our neighbors, that our thriving is not interlinked. When we cry, it is this visceral, somatic affirmation of our interconnectedness. …When somebody else is crying, our own spirit is disquieted. We see that really clearly in little kids. …If you have a whole group of toddlers and one of them starts wailing, it’s only a matter of time until the rest of them do because they have not had that instinctive response to somebody else’s suffering acculturated out of them.”
We are all worthy of a full emotional life. Feeling fully, and being an embodied human in this world, is part of fighting the good fight against the forces that try day in and day out to keep us disembodied, severed from ourselves. Living attuned to our emotional states grants us alignment and freedom, individually, and greater connection interpersonally.
In this episode, Perry leaves us with a benediction, hoping that we find our tears again, and asking us to “Hold each other fiercely, not to build a future where every eye is dry, but one where we weep copiously from the joy and tenderness of living.”
Think about your relationship with tears: