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.