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January 6, 2023

What Do a Ukrainian President, Grieving Friends, and Mary Oliver Poems Have in Common- Tears Of Course!

I finally realized my eyes were leaking liquid love.

I watched this man, this unintended hero, walk up the aisle of the joint senate chambers. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy had come to the United States to speak to our leaders and plead his case to them on live American TV. It was an unprecedented event.

As I watched and listened to his brave words I began experiencing a tightness in my belly. It worked it’s way up into my chest gripping my heart. My hands involuntarily rose to protect my throat from this unexpected display of emotion. But my hands could not stop, only muffle, the gasp that quietly found a momentary release before it traveled up my face and found a slower release through the corners of my eyes.

I quickly wiped the tears away, hoping my family did not notice this weird turn of events. Luckily they were spellbound by the presence and the words of this incredibly strong, determined man.

I was so confused as to why I was having this sort of emotional reaction to something so far removed from my daily life.

But then it happened again a few days later. A dear friend called needing to share a sad family situation and as I listened I felt that same belly tension rising up through my body as I heard the pain in her voice. I did my best to be comforting and reassuring. I was glad we were on the phone as I tried to be strong for her and she could not see my own feelings finding their way up and out of my eyes and stream down my face.

This bizarre behavior continued.

It is my daughter’s family tradition to attend her church’s Christmas Eve service. Although I was raised as a Christian, I identify more as some sort of weird fusion of Buddhist Paganism with an added pinch of Alan Watts mysticism all mixed together.

But entering a church – especially one decorated in all the red, green, gold and silver finery of the season, with candles lit and white robed choirs singing familiar carols, can still create a sense of awe and wonder in me.

As I sat on the pew looking over at my family, it started happening again. The tightness in the belly, the climbing of the emotions up through the chest, unable to find release, making its way to the eyes, where it escaped as tears running down my cheeks. Again I turn my head away, hoping no one noticed.

The following day with the magic of Christmas morning, seeing my grandchildren filled with excitement, laughing as they ripped open their packages , looking over at my daughter, I suddenly remembered her as a little girl, sitting next to me in front of the tree, smiling as she showed me everything Santa had left for her. And yep, you guessed it- the strange symptoms that created those annoying tears came rushing back.

It happens to me often. Commercials, movies, Mary Oliver poems, sunsets and sunrises, and sometimes emotional full moon vibes.

I always glance around to make sure no one has noticed  these embarrassing occurrences. And I am always confused as to why these unexpected tears flow at the most random times.

Being truly moved down to your core is not something we humans have any control over. It can happen anytime, anywhere- alone or in a crowd.

Though I am no expert on these things, I don’t believe it signifies a need for counseling, although we could all use some of that!

I have put lots of thought into this recently as my own experiences with it seem to be increasing.

We are taught that showing emotion is a sign of weakness. These feelings are better kept in check and reserved for late nights in a dark room, all alone.

But why? These tearful displays are often expressions of gratitude, compassion, empathy and love. Why would we be embarrassed to let others see that we are – well- human?

Next time you find your gut clenching, your throat tightening and your eyes leaking during some random fast food commercial or your loved one’s brilliant smile, don’t hold it in. Let it all out! And let everyone around you see it.

And when they look at you curiously and say “Are you crying?”, just catch some of those tears in your fingers, display them proudly, and reply “No, I just have so much love for this moment and it is overflowing through my eyes.” And maybe they just might be brave and share their overflowing tears of love as well. 

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