Full disclaimer – I cry, a lot. I entered this world bawling my eyes out, and 19 years later I still can’t fully control the tap. I finally came to terms with it a few years ago when I realized I would probably be better off making cracks about my frequent tears rather than denying them as a part of who I am.
“I cry a lot.” That’s one of those things that you can shamelessly joke about when you’re out getting waffle cones with your BFFs and there isn’t a single cloud in sight. Or when it’s someone else who is sobbing and you quickly assure them, “You’re not alone – I cry a lot too.”
But for as long as I’ve accepted that crying will probably always be my number one pastime, I still instinctively feel the need to hide my tears every single time they come. In theory, I know there isn’t any shame in crying, and that it is a very natural part of our existence. Yet I’m still the one making a beeline to the bathroom before anyone else notices me expressing – God forbid – normal human emotion.
Crying compels us to be vulnerable, to show others a side of us that we’re not completely comfortable with. Vulnerability is the unlocked door, the rolled up sleeve, the drawn curtains, the open diary. So when we cry we quickly shrug it off with an embarrassed laugh, as we use our sleeves, our fingers, anything, to get the tears off our face.
Frederick Buechner offers a different approach. “Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention. They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are, but more often than not God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from.”
I’m guessing I’m not the only one so preoccupied with cleaning my face immediately that I forget to think about why I started crying in the first place. But reading this quote led me to reflect on some of the times that I remember crying:
I cried when my roommates and I were in the car together, singing our lungs out along with the radio, because my soul hurt from how much I love them.
I cried when I heard Sufjan Stevens’ album Carrie & Lowell, one beautiful quivering whisper of regret and gut-wrenching honesty.
I cried driving through winding mountain roads in Wyoming as I stared in awe at the indescribable beauty around me.
I cried when my grandpa was telling me stories from his past and I saw sadness in his eyes, full of nostalgia and remembrance.
Time Magazine observes, “While most other animals are born fully formed, humans come into the world vulnerable and physically unequipped to deal with anything on their own. Even though we get physically and emotionally more capable as we mature, grownups never quite age out of the occasional bout of helplessness.”
We shed our tears because we need each other.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)
So, cry. And be comforted.
words by Petra Lee and photo by Ivy Hansen