I’m laughing at the title — well, not lol, but, like, that smiling-to-myself-in-irony-kind-of-laughing — because I think I wrote a piece on Medium maybe two years ago where I was worrying about how I don’t cry anymore.
I feel like, a while ago, when I was another person, I wrote about how I used to cry — in the car, at a Dar Williams song (“When I Was a Boy”, in case you’re interested), when an old friend told me he’d had a mini-stroke, when I remembered middle or high school-Gabe, when I looked at a flower, or a cloud, or my hands, and about how, more recently, I was concerned that I didn’t cry anymore, even though life has gotten harder, and heavier, and more painful. Maybe I had dried up, turned into a brick or a desk or a thing on a desk.
I remember, more clearly, several years ago, back when I first started writing on Medium because my old college friend, Jerzy Jung, suggested I should, sitting in a cafe — when we used to be able to do that — writing an essay about my first dog, Finley, and how hot tears were jettisoning out of my eyeballs and spraying against the interior of my eyeglass lenses as I remembered his living and his dying.
I think that’s true. I think I wrote something like that —that I-don’t-cry-like-that-anymore essay. I could go back at my archives here and check, but I’m not much of a fact-checker, I tend to just roll with what I think and feel is true, and let other independent sources verify.
Also, I’m lazy.
American. Fat. Lazy. Stupid. Culturally incompetent. Gross naked. Only slightly better clothed. Brow perpetually furrowed in a state of consternation and constipation and consanguination. Hands in his pockets. Head up his ass. Only his outsized, Semitic proboscis protruding to let everybody know.
And nobody knows, who you really, really are. What you have loved and lost and seen and felt. What you cry about, or wish you could. In the car or in the not-quite-woods. Cry in your pockets now.
I think sometimes people labor under the misapprehension that a forty-year-old man who walks around with depression as his sweater should, logically, be crying a lot. But maybe depression is an inhibitor to tears, and the feel-feels that force them, or nurture them, to pour out. As a suicide awareness advocate, one of the things I have learned about suicide is that deep depression, while many might see as a big risk factor for suicide (and don’t get me wrong, any mental health challenge is a risk factor), it actually can serve as a protective factor in some ways because, let’s face it, the act of killing yourself takes a certain amount of initiative and productive energy and, when you’re in the throes of a deep depression — you just don’t have that. That’s why many suicidology researchers believe that the suicide rate rises in the spring, when the deep winter doldrums have passed and birds start chirping and the sun shines more and the days are a little longer and a little brighter and people start… feeling… just… well…. enough; to take their own lives.
Recently, my tears have been coming on strong. Sometimes it’s seemingly random, but often, it isn’t. After all — is anything really random? The more and more I live, see, and experience, the more I question that. Maybe it is a beautiful thing to feel-feel, and tremble and shake. Maybe I am a beautiful thing, but I question that, too — the more I live, see, and experience. I am definitely a tired thing. Tired of tears, of cleaning the interior of my glasses from spray, of that thick, dry feeling in my mouth and throat afterward. Of not being able to see. Seen.
I find that I am jealous of people who…. I don’t know. What a stupid sentence I was about to write. People who, what? Have their shit together while you’re walking around in an an antique postal worker hat and corduroy coat losing your shit? Nobody has their shit together, you fucking imbecile. Everybody is pretending. Holden Caulfield was right: everybody’s a phony.
Sometimes I feel like crying helps me shed a little veneer of what separates me from who I really want to be. A little bit of callousness falls to the floor. A tiny drop of my whiteness drips onto my shirt sleeve. A scintilla of shame disappears into the crack between two old, scuffed wooden floorboards. And who do I really want to be? And how many tears are there left to shed before I get there? And is there a there there?
I don’t want to cry today. I want a day off. Just one. I was sure that I would cry while writing this essay, because feel-feel, but I haven’t. Yet, and I think the piece is coming to a close, so I may just have gotten out unscathed. Well, not crying doesn’t mean that you got out unscathed. Just like a friend said to me on my last day working at the psychiatric hospital, “Nobody gets out of there unscathed — not patient, not staff. Not you. Nobody.”
I didn’t believe her, as she told me that while sitting across a little white table from me at a Vietnamese restaurant on Main Street in Norristown on August 13, 2015. Or maybe I did, and I just didn’t want to.
I wonder sometimes if we’re all just trying to protect ourselves from everything and everyone and every feeling. If the very act of driving a car is less about getting from point a to point b and more about just avoiding having an accident and getting hurt and hurting somebody else. If cooking is less about enjoying a meal and more about not getting canola oil splashed onto your forearm and not burning the house down. If sex isn’t about deep, emotional connection and pleasure and more just about not embarrassing yourself too badly and not hurting the other person’s feelings or your own ego.
Or maybe that’s all middle-aged white man cognitively distorted horseshit that I need to unpack in therapy in two-and-a-half hours with my middle-aged white man therapist.
I’m a little worried (who would I be if I wasn’t?) that this essay maybe inadvertently sends a message that is counter to more recently evolved beliefs about men and tears. Of course it’s good to cry, especially for men. I’m not saying that. I’m just saying that… I’ve had enough, of me, and my emotions, for a little while. I want a break, a day off, a crycation, I want… to not have ended this essay with a disclaimer or a caveat or an apology. I want to do better, and be better, for the human-humans in my world and in my heart, and maybe, possibly, even for myself.