Did you ever think about the fact that the first thing you do when you are born is cry? And that you cry at all of your most important moments in life? It’s one of those very few, special things that you never stop doing or somehow unlearn. (Yes, that’s right. Crying isn’t just for women and babies.)
And what’s weird is that you never get better at it. It’s not like you get especially adept at wiping tears from your face. It’s not as if it gets any easier to hide your tears once they start.
But whether you’re a baby or not or good at crying or not, we all still cry for the same reason: we need something, and we don’t know how to express that need in words.
I mean, when you’re a kid, your mom or dad or legal guardian would scoop you up and shush you or sing you a lullaby when you cry. And maybe that worked. Or maybe they had to give you a bottle or change your diaper. And maybe that worked, too. And other times, you cried for no reason, and nothing could stop you. And that was frustrating, but your parents knew that you had to do that.
Now, that you’re older, suddenly you find yourself unable to hold back tears, standing in your kitchen alone, eating leftovers and wiping your face with dishtowels because when was the last time you bought napkins? What do you really need now (besides actual tissues)? You can feed yourself and go to the bathroom. Why would you be crying as an adult? You think, I have the ability to communicate my needs, but I can’t seem to at this moment.
And then comes the shame. Shouldn’t we be able to express ourselves in words instead of just crying about things? What an unproductive mode of expression! But laughing doesn’t have a bad reputation. No one has ever called someone “weak” for laughing at something. So, why crying?
As much as I love the written language, I think there are always going to be things that we cannot explain in words. The awesome power of the universe is one thing. Love is another. But the reason that tears are shed may be the most important of all. Because in the end, it is not the act of crying itself that is cathartic. Rather, it is the act of giving ourselves permission to feel. And really, we need that capability from the beginning to the end of our lives.