The daily news is enough to make the most stoic among us weep. And I often pray, cry, seethe, worry and some combination of all of them upon hearing it. But today, it is not that. Nor is it the storms that knocked us over this week.
Nor the fact that I lost a tooth a few days ago. Broken clean off at the gum. Or that I'm trying to cut out my dear friend, Lovely White Sugar (which is depressing.)
This is the worst part: I'm not even sure of the source of the spillage. I have my suspicions (hormones?)
It's tempting to be frustrated and angry at my body, my female-ness. When I was a girl, I wanted to be a boy. I was a good boy: I was tough, strong, I made fun of girly-girls (who made fun of me) and I seldom cried.
But I'm smarter now. I do know that some amount of tears bring a purging, a catharsis. Researchers tell us that emotional tears contain a natural painkiller that's released when the body's under stress. Numerous studies have shown that crying really does relieve stress. Which led me to this thought: Perhaps I should start a Crying Club.
Japan already has them. They're called "Rui- Katsu" (tear-seeking). Takashi Saga started them in 2011. “Crying does not have a good image in Japan,” says Saga. “People believe you should not cry in front of people, that it is weak.” But he cites Japanese research that concluded that stress relief from crying can last as long as a week. Why waste good science? So people gather, hankies in hand, to watch sad movies, read sad poetry and cry together. Most of the criers are men. (Women don't usually need classes in this.)
I find this a bit sad. (But not pathetic enough for tears.). That some people have to learn how to cry again. That it must be contained and confined to certain hours and places. That a professional must run it. All of this makes it more appealing to men, I suppose, who cry far less than women. (Boys and girls cry equally until age 12. By age 18, women cry four times as much as men. Here are the Top Ten Things that Make Women Cry.)
And this is when I ponder that age-old belief that women are weaker than men---because they cry. When Hilary Clinton teared up at a campaign event in 2008, it made international news, leading many to publicly wonder if she had the stuff to lead a nation. One minute tears, the next---who knows! Nuclear warfare during a menopausal hot flash?
But we are not weak because we weep. Even if we cannot always name what melts us. Even when besieged by hormones that unseat us. Still, we are strong enough to dare to feel. And If we stagger at times, we stagger under the weights we are given. We carry the beautiful weight of our children in our own bodies, then in our arms. Then we shoulder their growings, their grievings and then finally their leavings. We lift the weight of parents still with us or fading or lost or long gone but never gone . . . . We feel the blessed weight of spouses, sometimes limping through unequal courses. We carry siblings whom we love stumbling under their own breaking loads. We carry friends in prison, cancer-ridden, refugees . . . And through all of this, we carry monthly tides that course through our own rivers, rising and falling.
Yes, we bleed, we weep, we melt, we leak, we feel.
And so we are alive.
None of this is faulty biology, female or otherwise. Our bodies take us somewhere. In all of it: menstruation, pregnancy, adoption, nursing, nurturing, menopause, we ride saltwater waves that are meant to sweep us near to God, who too, bore children, who wept and bled. Who births and bears us still.
I am at peace with my tears, however they come. I only ask this:
Dearest men, When you see us tearing,
don't call us weak.
Call us instead fully alive.
Call us Courageous enough to feel,
Call us Brave----and happy
to laugh and weep with you,
just as you need.
But most of all,
call us Women.
And let all of us be glad.