A Good Cry

"Happy Tears" by Roy Lichtenstein, 1964

“If you think back, and replay your year — if it doesn’t bring you tears of joy or sadness, consider the year wasted.”

This line was spoken by the character John Cage, played by Peter MacNicol, in the finale of the first season of the television show Ally McBeal. This quote has somehow lodged itself in my head, surfacing in my consciousness every now and then, especially when birthdays and New Years draw near.

Aren’t tears just basically water and salt? I wondered how that brings value and meaning to my year, apart from the catharsis and emotional release that I get. Well, that’s about it, apparently, but that’s a huge thing in itself. We’re not talking about the tears caused by chopping an onion and or those caused by dust getting in your eyes — but those that well up during moments of intense emotions. This latter kind has more protein, as scientist William Frey discovered. He theorizes that certain toxins are released during emotional crying, supporting the idea of “cleansing tears” and bringing new meaning to the expression “a good cry”.

"Tears They Fall", digital art by lexicalpixies

Before the New Year countdowns and revelries come to a dizzying climax, I managed to grab a little quiet time to indulge in flashbacks of this year. The experiences of emotional highs and lows shake me out of day-to-day blah-ness and, out of complacency and routine. I learned a lot and grew a lot from mine this year. Paying attention to the high moments taught me which things truly make me happy, and the painful parts that were filled with loss and longing taught me to be thankful for the things that I was left with. “We can’t have the happiness of yesterday without the pain of today. That’s the deal.” That one’s from the film Shadowlands.

Tears, I’ve had a bit for this year. They flowed freely, yes. And I am thankful for them.

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