in defense of the tear, especially when it spills in multiples

by bam

it is a subject near and dear to my heart, and i see, here, that it has made front-page news.

the subject, friends, is the tear. the tear in multiples. the tear when it streams and blurbles. makes for sloppy cheeks, runny nose, and eyeballs that run toward rosy-fingered red.

it might, in fact, be the biological underpinning of much of what unfolds here at the table, much of what unfolds in my life. for i happen to be–and my guess is many of you are, too–one for whom the heart and the tear ducts are inevitably, inextricably, inexorably TANGLED.

there is nary a galump in my heart that does not immediately and without notice send dispatch straight to that wee spigot in my eyes, which in turn, does as it’s done since the hour of my birth: it spurts.

yes, it emits droplets that turn to drops that turn to streams and rivulets and sometimes whirling gushing whitewater rapids.

oh, yes, if there’s a talent that i have, a something that defines me, it would be my penchant for the holy blessed tear.

i cry, well, at the drop of a hat.

okay, so maybe falling skicaps don’t cause me to sob and heave in sighs. but i cry easily and freely and without censure.

so, it comes as no surprise that when the news of the day is that droplet dear to my heart, i am all ears. or eyes, as the case might be.

i am riveted (or is that rivuleted?).

i am soaking up the news. (kleenex at the ready.)

why, there on the radio in the squawky pre-dawn hours i heard it, and then again, there it was on the front page of the great gray newspage slapped upon my kitchen table: “In Women’s Tears, a Chemical That Says, ‘Not Tonight, Dear’”


well, if that’s what the headline writers and hard-boiled researchers choose to think, then let them drown in salty sorrows.

that is not, nor has it ever been, the intent behind my soggy eyes and nose and cheeks.

according to the so-called baffled scientists, the perplexing question is this: why do humans, unlike seemingly any other species, cry emotional tears?

and why, after collecting gallons and gallons of saline-stoked specimens (the chemistry flask attached to someone’s cheek, egad!), do they reach the scientific conclusion that to the male of the species the gosh-darn tears are nothing but a, um, turn-off of the sexual sort. and that, at root, is the surging force behind the human rain.

pish tosh, say i.

as a chief proponent and lifelong practitioner of the subject under probe, i am here to tell the scientists to pack up their itty-bitty beakers, their chemistry sets, and go home to take a nap.

there is little science to be had here, this is all heart. it is the essence of empathy, spilled forth.

there are simply those of us who can’t help but hear a tender something, read a worthy tale and suddenly it goes like this: the heart, an expandable vessel if ever there was one, becomes engorged with what can only be termed pure heart, the condition in which one erases the line between me and thee and feels a swallowing up of the whole. we throb with that of which we think. we become the one we read about, we hear about, we see, we touch, we hold.

we lead with our hearts, some of us.

and our soggy eyeballs follow. dripping right along.

our hearts expand, our spigots flow.

no science needed. no collecting tears. no talking to the opposite sex. no hypothesis or hypotenuse need apply.

we, some of us, consider the flowing waters of our heart — the ones that happen to pour from the corners of our eyes — to be among the holiest, most sacred ablutions since creation.

think back to the moments when they flowed: when you skinned your knee. when the girl on the playground called you names. when the bee stung. when you won the essay contest. when at last you walked across the stage on graduation night, and no one thought you’d make it. when the ones you loved hopped in the car and drove away. the night your papa died. and every day after for most of a year.

when the one you loved stood at the end of the aisle, and clasped his hand over his heart as you walked toward him.

when the doctor poked her head in the room and said, “you’re pregnant.” and later, when she sat beside you, took your hand, and said, “i am so sorry.”

just the other day, when your little one, now nine, handed you a hand-drawn card, titled, “the why [we] love you page,” and counted up to 20, the reasons why.

no, my tears have never meant anything close to “not tonight, dear.” and i doubt that they’ve been read that way (certainly, i hope, not by the mailman who saw me dissolve in silent streams once upon a time when he handed me the big fat letter that i’d been hoping for).

no, my tears are pure. and real. and very very wet.

my tears sanctify the moments that matter. they punctuate the ones that don’t mean so much, but still they make me wobble deep inside.

my tears are not a part of me that i’ll plug up, hold back, or brush away.

some of us, dear scientists, were simply born with big supplies of excess on-board waters. some of us have whoopper-sized pumps and pipes that run, direct, non-stop, from heart to eyeballs.

we mean only this when we wash our hours in the tears that freely flow: this moment is a sacred one, and we’re anointing it with the nearest thing to heaven’s spring.

what makes you cry? do you cry easily, or are your tears hard-won?

dear chair people, i am thinking that perhaps it’s time again for the chair to take on a new rhythm, one that flows when the spirit moves. i do love, on one hand, the weekly practice of writing. but i do feel that perhaps the chair has not kept pace with the world wide web that speeds right past it. nor am i certain that there’s a need to write out loud. the dedicated dream to write daily for a year gave way to three more years of writing once a week. maybe now it’s time to write in syncopated rhythm. not merely once a week. but then again not maybe each week. maybe i will record the unfolding of this year, as my firstborn heads toward college, in the quiet of the pages of my journal. maybe sometimes it will seem there is something to say here that i can’t say anywhere else. i know everyone’s lives are busy, and i don’t want to stingily take up air space. as a wise editor of mine said just a few years back when i ran into him in the produce aisle: “everyone’s talking these days, and no one’s listening.” maybe it’s time to listen. and whisper to myself…..