I recently asked my newsletter subscribers the following question: What are you struggling with right now?
One of our readers, who had apparently endured a major sh*t storm in her life, responded to my question with one of her own: “When will I stop crying over ______?”
I won’t reveal the details of this person’s situation, but I’m sure many of you can relate to the feeling of desperation after too many months or years of emotional suffering.
Our emotions can confuse us with their power and unpredictability. They throw us over their shoulder like a rag doll, and we are at the mercy of their whims.
But when these emotions come in the form of teardrops, it’s my belief that we are especially close to something true and divine. And so it is worth our time to catch each teardrop in our hands, and know them intimately. Name them. This is the only way you can be free from them.
A few weeks ago, I found myself crying in bed for an hour.
Just moments before, my husband had said, in a half-serious, sleepy, mumble to himself, “Maybe we’re not ready to have a baby.” Then he retreated to the living room to play video games until the wee hours of the night.
And he didn’t know this, but just before he made that statement, I had read an e-mail from someone in my past who knew Daniel. (Yes, that Daniel).
Alone in the dark, to the backdrop of video game carnage, tears drenched my pillowcase like they did eight years ago, when Daniel slipped a grenade into my heart.
I’m not exaggerating when I say I silently cried for sixty minutes, non-stop. But more importantly, the tears were a mystery to me, and I knew I wouldn’t fall asleep until I solved it.
I wasn’t crying because I miss Daniel. And I wasn’t crying because my husband had cold feet about having a baby. It was something deeper, something triggered by the combination of my husband not being on the same page as me, and the recollection of a time, eight years ago, when loving Daniel felt, above all else, so easy.
I realized, at the sixtieth minute, that my tears represented a sadness over innocence lost. Love used to fly on auto-pilot, controlled by feelings and hormones. Now it requires constant attention, compromise, plus the inevitable preoccupation with money, our careers, and babies (or no babies).
As I sail deeper into adulthood, things become less certain. Messier. Less about my wants, and more about the needs of my marriage. I’m adjusting.
But that’s okay. Because once upon a time, I cried over my loss. Nowadays, my tears are like the footprints of courage.
My tears tell me, “Love works differently when you are a grown-up. Embrace what is. Life is not always easy or happy, but this does not make it any less meaningful, joyful or rewarding. Hang tight.”
But back to my newsletter subscriber who asked when she will stop crying.
The answer is, maybe in another eight years. Or sixty minutes. Or never. There is no timeline for grief.
But if there is any consolation, it’s this: Teardrops evolve.
What once sprung from a well of unbearable pain, eventually become teardrops of acknowledgement. As Elizabeth Lesser says, “Tears are a badge of how well you loved.”
All teardrops eventually evolve. If you are brave enough to endure the process of grief, you will find that they no longer confine you to painful memories. Instead, they release you into the present, where your chances of making meaning and finding hope are abundant precisely because of the ashes from which you’ve risen.
They are teardrops of the new you. Transformed. Forever changed. Wiser and stronger than the teardrops of yesterday.