09 July 2008

"Tea" Is The First Three Letters of "Tears"

Around noon today, I started sipping a large styrofoam cup of green tea. So what does that mean? Well, I guess I'm not Japanese because I used the wrong vessel and drank my tea alone. And I'm not British because I was drinking the wrong tea at the wrong hour. Oh well.

But I digress (already!). I was at one of the college's computers, working to create some materials that will help faculty advisors advise. I've done the more-or-less interesting stuff, so now I'm into such tasks as making tables and creating links. No writing or thinking involved in those jobs. Somebody's gotta do 'em, I guess.

Anyway, I was doing one of those chores that you don't go to graduate school for, and...what happened? I started to cry. At first, the tears were like the drops of rain that just barely touch a speeding train (think the TGV) because it's going so fast. Then the tears streamed like hot sea water mixed with lemon juice and vinegar. My eyes stung and dripped the tingeing liquid down my eye sockets and cheeks.

The stinging and tingeing actually felt refreshing, in some odd sort of way. It was not the first time my crying felt that way, but I didn't experience anything like it for the first forty-five years of my life. Not that I can recall, anyway.

So, you ask, did I break up with my boyfriend? Am I getting cold feet about the operation? Did someone die, or did I get some other kind of bad news?

No, no, no and no. (All right. It doesn't have quite the same ring as "Tomorrrow and tomorrow and tomorrow." What can I tell ya? I ain't Shakespeare.) Does that mean I have to spend another few hours and few hundred dollars on therapy for the answer?

Another no. And my therapist, doctor, social worker, friends and mother all say so. I didn't talk to all of them--or any of them, for that matter--today. But I've mentioned impromptu sobs like the one I had today to them, and they have all given me the same advice: Don't fight it; you probably need it. And, in fact, the therapist, doctor and social worker all predicted that I would have these low-grade crying jags after I spent some time on hormones.

I've been taking them for five years now. I don't mind the sobbing and tears: In fact, I often enjoy them because I feel so much better afterward. And, sometimes I even feel better while crying than I did right before the tears began to flow. But I wonder if I'll ever get used to it. Should I?

Again, everyone says not to worry. For one thing, I can get away with crying in public now, although I wonder how well it would go over in a professional situation. Today didn't count: I was working by myself. If you cry and no one's there to hear it...

The roses won't tell your secret. This morning, just before I left for work, The Jaynett's "Sally Go Round The Roses" played on the radio. It's my favorite "girl group" song because, well, it doesn't sound like the "I'm nothing without my guy" laments we heard from Little Eva and most other acts of their time. I grew up with that sort of thing. I kinda sorta identified with them because both they and I didn't have the love we longed for. The difference was, they lost theirs and I didn't have--and didn't expect to have--mine in the first place.

But "Sally" is something else. It's more like Sylvia Plath's "Daddy" than any of those other songs. "The roses, they can't hurt you. They won't tell your secret." If you have a secret and no one tells it...what? It means you can stay in the closet until someone outs you. If you have a secret and have no one to tell it to...it's still a secret. But what of it?

Actually, I wasn't thinking that deeply about that song, although it would've been worth the effort. I was simply responding to the feel of it: its obsessive yet subtle rhythm that seems to come out of nowhere, its call-and-response introits and refrains in gentle but persistent voices that don't quite grab you but get a hold on you anyway and don't let go.

But lemme tell ya: I've cried over songs that weren't nearly as good as "Sally." My doctor, therapist and social worker said that this is normal. And, not long ago, my mother told me she sometimes experiences spontaneous sobs like the ones I let out today. Not to seem sexist, but estrogen really does remove a filter between you and the world--one that I didn't even know I had until I lost it.

Mom says she doesn't cry when she's sad, necessarily; she cries because she needs it. That is, her body as well as her mind and spirit must cleanse themselves. You're flushing toxins out of you when you cry, she said. My doctor said something like that, too. The poison has been made; all you can do is let it out of you, mother says. Don't worry so much about what made the poison; it's in your past; it's gone now. "You're close to living the life you want; soon you'll be there. Just do what you need to do--including crying."

And my therapist said something like that, too. All right. So I have a crying spell when I'm alone or among friends; that's OK. But what do I do when I'm on stage, literally or metaphorically.

I guess I can excuse myself and go to the ladies' room. It seems to work for the other women in my life. And I can continue to drink my tea; it helps to bring on--and heal me with--tears.

Is this what the British and the Japanese had in mind? Tea for tears; tears for healing. Makes sense in some weird way.

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