I don’t think I cried much as a child, or at least that’s what I remember. I rarely got spankings, but the threat was always there. Then when I was 12 or so my mother hit me across my back and the yardstick broke. I laughed. No more tears.
I suppose I must have cried from childhood injuries, but the tears I remember were from emotional pain, just like now.
When I was in first grade, I urinated on myself in class. A little girl made fun of me, and I cried. Hardly anything seems less important now, and I still remember it more than half a century later.
I was crying at my father’s wake when a friend of mother’s told me to stop and be a man, which, as you can imagine, was just what I needed to hear. I don’t think I cried again until I was in my 50s and too depressed to do anything else. I guess I was being a man.
My first wife left and divorced me, and I never shed a tear. My tear ducts damn near atrophied until the early ‘90s. Then I remarried. I’m not suggesting there’s a connection, but it seems a lot of my tears have involved women, one way or another. Of course, most people are women, so that makes sense.
The last few years—pretty much since I moved to Chico, now that I think of it—I’ve cried a lot, sometimes for what at the time seemed like the most unlikely reasons. Over the years I’d cried at some movies, including Ben-Hur, A Patch of Blue, and The Bicycle Thief. Last week I cried at The 40-Year-Old Virgin. I’ve come a long way.
I used to think of weeping as a sign of weakness and to be repressed no matter the cost, including happiness and honesty. Now I don’t care. I’m so old nobody expects me to be strong, so I cry whenever I feel like it, which is fairly often nowadays.
My life’s turmoil keeps my innards churned most of the time, and emotions are bound to show up one way or another, so now I try not to get in the way of things, in hopes of relieving the repression before something metastasizes.
Crying brings relief, too, at least for me. This is no news to most women, I suppose, but it was a heart-wrenching revelation to my dumb ass. After rolling my eyes at the phrase all this time, finally I understand “a good cry.”
I’m beginning to think that sobs can be enjoyed. I can’t say I’ve reached that level, but I think now that such a level of attention is attainable. No emotion is bad, and my goal is to be as present as possible, so it seems to me there must be a way to enjoy sadness, or at least appreciate it. I’m getting plenty of practice, and my mind is so open you can hear the wind whistling through it, so I expect I’ll get there sooner or later.