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I know not what they mean,

Tears from the depth of some divine despair.

Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes, . . .

Listening to k.d. lang’s version of “Hallelujah” at the Canadian winter Olympics and crying my eyes out. No surprise. Loreena McKennit’s “Lady of Shalott” does the same thing to me. The Tennyson version, yep. LOTS of Tennyson (quoted above, ironically), which in this modern day and foreign country is supposed to show my bad taste in poetry.

My YouTube channel is in my blog roll; go there and you’ll see other things that made my fat little chin quiver uncontrollably. (The Marines lip-synching “Hold it Against Me”? Oh hell yeah!) The Muppets singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” probably holds the gold, though. And I don’t feel too bad about “Where the Hell is Matt?” because it does it to at least one of my friends as well.

Times I have cried in my current therapist’s office in the last seven or eight years: 1. I don’t understand this. Strangely, I used to cry at the therapist all the time. Then I found the one who (for lack of a better word) cured me, and after she left–not so much. I have a more collegial relationship with my current therapist, working in mental health as I do. Maybe that’s it–although I’ve cried in front of colleagues. We showed The Pursuit of Happyness at my center one day. I was a soggy tissue basket case. People were polite and did not notice, but I felt kind of stupidly naked.

Indeed, Lord Tennyson, I know not what they mean. Did you?

There are three different types of tears: basal (lubrication), reflex (onions), and psychic (Tennyson). Also known as stress tears, these last release leucine enkephalin, a neurotransmitter and painkiller. Maybe my crying fixation is similar to a bulimic’s vomiting–I feel cleaned out and better after a good cry. (Good cry is defined as one that I don’t try to choke off and which happens by myself–my family knows all about this peculiarity, but it’s still embarrassing.) I have long lashes, and when sodden with saline, every blink deposits a tiny drop on the inner surface of my glasses, like snowy flyspecks. I feel a minor shame and an infinitesimal bit of anger when I clean them off: They are evidence of a behavior I do not understand.

What interests me and confuses me most about my tears is that they are usually evoked by the profoundly beautiful. I remember choking up at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on a school trip in high school. And let’s not forget perhaps the high point of this: The time I tried to explain it.

It was during that big pre-qualifying exam crunch read in grad school, so I was already under even MORE stress. My (now ex-)husband came into our bedroom and found me sobbing hysterically. I jabbed a finger at Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn, and blubbered, “All the little people have left the town, and they’re never coming ba-ack!” Amused, my scientist said, “Yes, dear. Would you like some coffee?”–this being the only possible logical response. Damn thing still makes me cry.

I can’t read moving poetry aloud. Sometimes in choir I have to make my mind a blank while we sing certain passages; I think music is what makes me most susceptible.

I am hereby positing a theory about what I’ll call my idle tears: Although my life is pretty stable right now, it wasn’t always so, and my excellent curative therapist only had two years, so we only scratched the surface of my PTSD from all that childhood trauma. Said trauma was pretty severe–I score a 19 out of 20 on a professional scale of childhood suckage–and maybe it’s still all in there, buried too deep to dream away, but not to cry out.

I just wish I could control them. But maybe the whole point is that I can’t.

 

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