I’ve had this experience a few times lately: I’m talking with a dear friend, listening to her troubles. I’m touched that she’s sharing. I’m mindful that this isn’t the sort of talking she does with everybody. I’m feeling humble, and I’m hearing that it’s hard, what she’s experiencing.
I notice a sliver of a puddle above her lower lid, and then one tear tips easily over her lower lashes. She wipes it away, continues talking, the skin beneath her eye now damp. My chest is opening, expanding into my belly, my throat. I’m still listening.
First and foremost, I feel lucky to be here with her right now. Second, I’m amazed that she’s telling me what’s hard for her, without closing up. Third, I don’t yet comprehend the way the tears come easily for her, and without shame, and I admire that. A lot.
My own tears are hard to come by these days. It’s something that happens when I’m on Zoloft, as I have been, off and on, for years: I’m mostly free of depression, but it’s pretty difficult to cry. It’s also hard when you’ve been told your whole life to stop crying. When the moment presents itself, and crying is exactly the thing you want to do, the thing that would let the sad or the mad or the frustrated run its course, the conditioning kicks in and you just can’t do it.
Before the Zoloft, my tears were plentiful. I sometimes feel like I spent all of high school crying over any grade that wasn’t an A. That’s the thing, though: I was crying over grades instead of the deeper, harder stuff. I was crying over the things that were easy to cry over.
There have been deep dips since then, the times that always led to trying to get into a psychiatrist’s office as quickly as possible. Those were the times when I’d do everything with tears streaming down my face. I’d walk down the streets of Manhattan, drive over the 520 Bridge, go to the bathroom at work, feeling like my eyes were two inconvenient waterfalls. There was nothing I could do about it; nothing at all.
So now I’m learning to strike a balance. To tread a line where my emotions aren’t so far buried that tears never come, and expressed enough that the ones that spill are meaningful. I don’t expect to ever find the “perfect” balance, and that’s fine. For now, I’m grateful to be there when my friends spill a tear or two. I appreciate them. And I learn from them.
How close to the surface are your emotions? How do you feel about this?