Tear tanks

Many of you will have heard of a love tank, I would think. If you haven’t, in short, the idea is that you have a metaphorical tank in which family and friends pour into by bringing love, support, goodness into your life. I wonder, though, will you have you ever heard of a tear tank? I only ask because this weekend I was compelled to think of mine, and how very unendurably full it had become. Maximum occupancy full. Don’t think I could have fit one more itty bitty tear in there.

And so . . . I overflowed.

I’ll back up a bit.

By now, if you’ve been following this blog for any significant amount of time, you will have discerned that I am rather sensitive soul. Occasionally I can be maudlin, but mostly I just feel things very deeply. Deeper than most, I would dare to say. My formation is God’s numinous mystery, but I might venture to say that growing up under adverse bullying will have played a vital role in my empathy for others.

I’ve always found it rather strange that while I’m reduced to weepy sobs at diaper commercials and stray animals, I’m not a particularly lachrymose woman. I think those in my very close circle of friends would label me a sentimental person. I find sentiment in everything; in mementos, in spontaneous laughter, in a perfectly timed song on the radio . . . It doesn’t take much, honestly, and then cue the waterworks. One would think, then, that it would take very little in the way of real life situations to get me blubbering. Not so.

When we are very young — babies through elementary age — our tear tanks fill and empty in one fell swoop. We injure ourselves, we cry. We’re overly hungry, we cry. Someone won’t share, we cry. Our feelings our hurt, we cry. It’s a healthy progression of incurring and purging, back and forth the pendulum swings. Children don’t revere stoicism, nor do they see value in “putting on a brave face”; they experience each respective moment for what it is, and depending on whether or not the moment brings them joy or sorrow, or something in between, they react. This is appropriate behavior, generally and collectively accepted world-wide Children cannot help but be honest in their feelings. No pretenses, no misinterpretations, no forced laughter or gracious smiles in response to a blow to their esteem. They won’t smile graciously on the outside, while on the inside fume and begin plotting to have their vengeance. Sound and moral parents will guide and instruct their children to deal with their emotions, offering words of sympathy and validation, and encouraging them toward authentic restitution. I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a parent tell their son or daughter this: “Well, sweetheart, I know that little boy just stomped on your toe for no good reason, but how about you just smile and pretend like it didn’t bother you, okay?” If they did . . . Well, I’m not entirely sure I would be able to keep my mouth shut.

As we enter into adulthood, just like our growing bodies, our tear tanks mature. It takes more than a mean face or paper cut to commence wailing — as it should. (I am in no way advocating that we resort to juvenile hysteria every time we’re hurt, bodily or emotionally.) We learn to temper our irrational anger and maybe take a few hits before taking the time to recognize that we’ve been assaulted. The rate in which men and women’s tanks fill will differ vastly, but they are in no less danger of imminent combustion than women. It may take quite a bit longer, but it’ll happen and it’ll be just as messy. Maybe even messier. As adults, we suppress and we stifle, and thus we spill harder and much longer than children.

I’ve been fighting something — many somethings, actually. Had they the decency to unfurl on me one at a time, well, then maybe I might have been able to duke it out mano-a-mano. With time to process, then progress, I could have held out longer, I suppose. Oh, but when it rains it . . .

Yeah, you know.

I don’t do phony well. My emotions, every single one of them, are right there on either side of my nose. My eyes are huge and incredibly telling. I’m happy, you’ll know it. I’m sad, angry, bored, well, you’ll know that, too. When the occasion calls for courtesy or patience, I can seek a Higher standard and submit self for a short time, but eventually the piper comes a callin’ and a payin’ I must do.

Over the last month, Life decided to give us an upgrade. Buy one torment, get one free. Normally I believe we (Michael and I) would have been able to work through them, but with him starting a new job and me editing, burning through my day’s allotment sanity like a chain-smoker cigarettes, we weren’t at our best, to say the least. The result was an enormous, invisible chasm between us. We slept beside one another, we ate at the same table, and that was it. A married couple reduced to roommates. You add Life’s begrudging offspring on top of that and you’ve got yourself a hurricane brewing, gaining force and momentum with every additional disappointment and failure.

My tank was growing rapidly by now, the surface creeping toward the top in a game of “Tag, You’re It”.

Last Friday afternoon — I long since gave up trying to edit for the day — I perched on the end of my bed, my face in my hands, unable to cry. I wanted to — badly — part of the problem, I think. With no tears in sight, I decided I might as well do something productive and set out for the gym. I had a horrid workout. You do not know heavy until you are wearing it around your shoulders like a burka made from bricks. Trying to run on the treadmill with that thing on wasn’t going to happen. When I’m very upset, sometimes it masks itself in anger. Being in a public place, I opted for this instead of sorrow, and tried to channel that anger. It didn’t help. The harder I worked out, pushed myself, the more I felt like kicking in the walls.

Driving home, I could feel it coming. I had a small before-shock in the car, but the Big One came when my husband came in and found me sitting numbly on the bed. I took one look at his face looking at my face, and just . . . exploded. The tears were coming so fast I was dehydrated within a matter of seconds. He rushed to bathroom, grabbed a wad of T.P. and squatted down in front of me, clumsily wiping the tears away too hard. It made laugh. Then it me cry. I cried for a while. I switched to sobs for a bit, then transitioned back to crying, then a gentle trickle, then back to crying once more. I cried out every single grievance I had with life until I could think of not one more thing to cry about. When I was done, my tear tank was completely empty. It was blissful. Still is. God met me in those tears, gobbled em up, put em in his tear jar, watered His  plants, I don’t know . . . All I know is that I felt better than I had in months. I needed that cry like a diabetic does insulin. Why, for Heaven’s sake, had I gone so long without one? I think maybe I might start penciling these in, scheduling them like I would oil-changes. I’m bound to need one at least once a month.

I’m at peace tonight, friends. My heart is full and my tear tank is empty. I thank you for listening to my story. You know my aim is to be Light, to allow God to do His will with me, however that may look. Of course I want to encourage you to let the Light in, too. Absorb as much as you can, then give it back to anyone who will have it. If you’re feeling a little heavy, like maybe perhaps you might be on the verge of overflowing, go ahead and surrender. You will eventually, anyway, and the sooner the better.

My prayers are with you.

28 thoughts on “Tear tanks

  1. I clicked the LIKE button, Cara. But, wished you had a LOVE button in its place.

    I’m so glad you shared your story with me. I never thought about children and their ability to cry and move on. A burden we carry for growing up? I don’t know.

    I know I wish it had been possible to be there, drag you off to a quiet corner in a tea shop, and “listen you to tears.” So glad you got them out of your system.

    Thanks for the wonderful lesson. I’ll carry it with me always.

    • Gloria,
      You’re one of those people who, no matter what it is they say, you know it’s spoken straight from the heart. I think I would have liked sitting down with you and crying it out . . . Thank you, friend.

  2. oh i do so well relate to you–my aunt once said i had bladders for tear ducts–lol. but truly, i understand. while it was a painful place to be, sometimes we have to go there–that releasing all that we are allowing to bind us and control us–crying is like relinquishing control, that innermost outpouring of need and acknowledgement of pain that we shove down below the surface. but just like a buoy, it WILL pop back up. thanks so much for sharing your heart!

    • Bladders for tear-ducts, lol — that’s hilarious and pretty darn good! While I refuse to think of crying as peeing on myself, I see the connection, absolutely! That really is a great way of putting it . . . There is pressure building constantly and your body alerts you that it’s time for a release. If you don’t, you’ll end up wetting yourself. Better to do it before it gets to that point!
      Thank you for your thoughts 🙂

    • LOL, You are so faithful to invest in people, supporting and following them on all social networks. I think this must be the third time you’ve inquired about not following me. You won’t find on on Twitter, only because I don’t have one 🙂
      Thank you for tweeting out the post. You really are such a wonderful person, Gloria.

  3. Your openness is inspiring to me. I tend to lock my hurts, sensitivities, and anger in a lock box and through away the key. But I agree, once the tears come, it is hard to find a dam that will stop them!


    loved the photographs….perfect

    • Thank you, Elisa. It’s not easy meeting our hurts head on, and if we were never shown how to do so properly, than all the more so. Even when I’m aware someone has said something to hurt me, or it’s just been an awfully horrendous day, I’ll try and go around that mountain in my path, rather than walk straight up over it. The flat land is appealing in its obviousness, but we miss all sorts of opportunities to grow and develop our muscles. It’s only by risking the climb and the fall that we truly heal.

      Blessings to you, Elisa!

  4. Tear Tank. What a fabulous concept.
    I so get the pent up feeling, Cara. When tears get really stubborn and I need release, just thinking about a scene in the movie, My Girl, is enough of a kick to get me bawling. Yet I find a good belly laugh until I ache is good, too.
    Crying, like laughing, is a release that soothes the soul.
    Perhaps that is why they both come with tears.

    • Well, thank you, Sherry 🙂

      Oh, you are so right. Movies are just the ticket — Lol, no pun intended — to getting me to a place of vulnerability. I can’t tell you how many times the husband and I sat down to “watch a movie” and by the end I was crying, of course, but somewhere along the way a gateway was opened and all the hurts stuck inside began flowing out. Like yourself, I enjoy a good laugh more than anything else. The post a couple weeks back “The Best Medicine” was one near and dear to me. You are exactly right; “Crying like laughing, is a release that soothes the soul.” I won’t try and say it better than that because I don’t think it’s possible 🙂

  5. Cara, Thank you for sharing this… beautifully written….I too was always the child sobbing; adult sobbing,…during a movie, all of my family turns to look at me to if I am crying ~ yet, as they know i will…I seem to “feel” every thing…Jess

  6. In reading this post, I hung on every word, so afraid it was going to end in something terrible (I’m such a pessimist, it’s one of my worst traits that I constantly try to overcome). But in true Cara fashion, you left me uplifted again.

    Thanks for sharing this!


    • Lori! That breaks my heart. To remain fixed in a state of anxiety the whole time while reading, oh, that’s just awful. My dear mother-in-law is much of the same way, always thinking/assuming the worst is going to happen. And while her tendency to revert to the negative is saddening and at times frustrating, it carries no reflection of how kind, thoughtful, and wonderful she is; though I have wished on more than one occasion that I could help her change.
      My personal battle is a unique form of pessimism where I take an ambiguous situation or comment and assume the person meant to hurt me with their words or actions. Luckily I have Michael to offer me a little objectivity, but it’s a lesson I am still trudging through. With the grace of God I am learning to accept this as part of Me, while doing everything I can to become a more positive, godly woman. You, Lori, are a woman with a deeply kind, passionate heart. I can see it and feel in it your writing. I am so glad to have uplifted you with this post, as you’ve done the same for me on many occasions,

      Blessings to you!

  7. I like that I am the first “guy” to comment on this. First off, is there any other kind of bullying besides adverse? If there is I wish it would have found me just to have broken up my the day a bit in my youth. Anger is so easy for me, yet when I allow myself vulnerability tears come much easier than vitriol.
    I was moved at the end of the Harry Potter films the other day and do not ever play amazing grace in my presence unless you have a handkerchief. My grandmother may be the strongest person I have ever met and at the same time she is one of the most sensitive. She mixes laughter and tears like MOBY mixes samples from 80s pop. I have never thought tears to be weakness and I love your affirming this. My wife cries infrequently for a female and far less often than I do. If I found her coiled up on the bed and losing it, I am sure I would think someone close to us was dead. However, I wish sometimes she could just let it go and tell me why I am a moron. I know she must often think I am stubborn, selfish, and reasonably unfair yet she does not verbalize it.
    There are volumes of things we could learn from not hiding our emotions. I was always one to share them so readily and I am not sure my life has improved since I have “learned” to choke back my words, bite my tongue, or attempt (vainly) to be cagey.
    Long live the tear tank and may it be rinsed and filled like the baptistery at an effective church.

    • Oh, Blissful Adventurer, I do love your stream of thought comments. It’s like the window is lifted and not even glass stands between you and the world.

      Well, if I am being honest, yes, there are other kinds besides adverse. Maybe a better word would have been “relentless” Bullying takes on all sorts of levels and degrees, and it looks different depending on the target goal that individual has. Some aim to tease, to elevate their esteem by squashing yours. Some hope to subvert you with actual physical abuse. There is a fine line between the naturally jocular kingdom children exist in as they develop into maturity, and villainy — where the cruelty is sought after, planted, and enjoyed. In short, there are pests and there are sadists.

      It doesn’t surprise me one bit to hear that you are the more emotional one in the marriage. I think this juxtaposition is fairly common for those of passive personalities to gravitate toward those with more assertive demeanors. This dynamic works extremely well, except when it doesn’t 🙂

      Okay, really, who didn’t well up when Snape’s tentative character was revealed and we find out he really is one of the Good guys?!

      While I make no claims to know why your wife chooses to abstain from voicing her thoughts as readily as you, I would purport that likely the reasons why you share and she doesn’t are one in the same. I’ll leave it at that, as nothing irks me more than someone who performs a psychoanalysis based on a few words out of context.

      Michael, as always, thank you for sharing your thoughts. You are dear.

      • I never read the books, but I knew Snape had to be good. Just so you know stream of thought is my flight of fancy. I do certainly agree there are many types and reasons for bullies; I just think it is all adverse by definition. When my 3rd book comes out I will paint some pretty interesting images of bullies in a lawless environment. I do honestly believe that villainy exists far before maturity whether its ramifications are understood or not. Acts of sadism exist even in the young. I likely know many of the reasons why the quiet are as they are and in my world most of it stems from not feeling up to the debate. I sadly have a far greater tolerance for rhetoric and futility than my poor wife (or most normal people) and I am not sure I would tell me much if I wasn’t me. Sorry to turn your comment page into a sounding board from the tortured and the results of it 🙂

  8. I am sorry but when you got to the point when your husband entered the scene I laughed. I could just imagine the look on his face as he walked into the room and you had your moment. Like a wild animal at night being illuminated with a huge spot light! I am sorry you had to go through all the emotions that come with being in a slump in life. It is no fun for anyone and it is not fun for a couple either. Going forward now with nothing but love, smiles, and joy! 🙂

    • I can see how you might perceive my husband walking in on my emotional breakdown humorous, though in that moment I couldn’t see the humor at all. He was well-aware that I was having a tough day, and I’m quite certain expected to find me in such a state. Luckily my Angel did not laugh at me, but held me and soothed me, bringing us closer than I had felt in weeks. God is Good.

  9. I loved this and I love that God has given us the incredible gift of tears! It is such a wonderful release of the hurts, pain, joy that we inevitably face in this life. As always, thank you so much for being open and vulnerable in your writings. You truly are a Light, shining so brightly for Him, and I am blessed to be your friend. Love you!

  10. I think it is awesome that you have retained a lot of your childlike heart. We all should strive to do the same. My wife has amazing parents and it is incredible how childlike she is in her actions in so many ways.

    Being able to release bad feelings pent up in us is truly the greatest gift. If crying does it, it is a good thing. Another finely written article.

    • Thank you . . . I’m not so sure if I have retained as much as I would have liked, but more, strive to reclaim innocence and purity and authenticity in my daily behaviors. I yearn for a paradox: to be both a mature woman and an ingenue, or some perfect blend of the two.

      Again, I appreciate your words and always enjoy hearing from you. Your wife, her family, all of you, sound like wonderful people. 🙂

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