Even when a river of tears courses through this body, the flame of love cannot be quenched.
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.
C’est tellement mystérieux, le pays des larmes.
(It is such a mysterious place, the land of tears.)
Let Me Tell You a Secret
Have you noticed how many secrets there are, for everything that exists, there is a secret to it. A secret to success. A secret to being confident. A secret to eternal youth. A secret to obtaining vast amounts of money. A secret to curing you of all your ailments, addictions, and perceived bad bits. And they are all for sale, at a reasonable price, and surely you would want to own these secrets. Collect them, and put them in a special secret display case.
I thought secrets were secret. Never to be told. Once you reveal a secret it is no longer a secret.
I don’t like it when friends want to tell me a secret. I don’t feel special when someone says ‘Let me tell you a secret’, as though I am being initiated into an elite club. I don’t enjoy keeping secrets. It is a burden which doesn’t belong to me, which I am being asked to carry around for an undetermined amount of time, maybe for the rest of my life. The less I have to carry, the quicker and further I can go, wherever it is that I am going in such a hurry. And I don’t think that sharing the weight of a big secret is helping these sharers of secrets either. In fact several really great friendships have ended because my friends felt the need to share something with me they should not have shared, which they regretted sharing, and then couldn’t face me because they knew I knew this thing about them and it really bothered them. It bothered me too, not because of what they told me, but because it was something which ruined the friendship. They were not bad secrets, as in ‘Hey, btw, I killed someone and covered it up.’, like in the movies. They were actually banal secrets, as in ‘I hate strawberries, but I tell everyone how much I love them so they won’t think I’m weird’. But the people sharing the secrets believed them to be so important that telling it was a confession to a priest, and who wants to socialise with the priest they’ve just confessed their sins to?
The secrets which have been shared with me, are still with me, although, still secret, still kept never to be shared, luckily I have forgotten most of them. That is usually what I try to do when I can’t avoid being the receiver of a secret. Forget it, cast it away and out of my mind. I have enough bits and pieces of my own to drag around, secrets about myself which are secret because they are the parts of me I feel would scare people away if they knew about them, parts which have scared people in the past and now I know they must be kept hidden. Those I can’t forget, they are always there, beneath the surface, lurking like sharks, sharp-toothed and ravenously hungry. They are not bad secrets, they are banal, but when they slip out of the dark and into the light they cause fear because they change how people see me. I don’t deliberately try to deceive people about myself, who I am and what I am like, but I do like to remain elusive, play hide and seek, the shape of a bear in the shadows of the forest rather than out in the open fields where I can be shot by an overenthusiastic hunter.
So, anyway, I’m going to share one of my secrets with you. Don’t worry, you don’t know me, I don’t know you, this is one of those strangers telling strangers things they would never tell their friends. We’ll keep it between us and no one else need ever know because we will never cross paths again.
I don’t cry. I can’t cry. Not because I am lachrymose intolerant, but because, well, there are many reasons why I don’t and can’t cry.
When I was a little child I was trained not to. The training stuck. My trainer was very pleased with the results, and thought that they had done me an inestimable favour. They saw crying as a weakness, and wanted me to be strong. Road to hell, good intentions, and all of that.
The truth is a little more complex. I do cry and can cry, but I do so very rarely, never as much as I would like to, and often the tears are imaginary rather than real, wet, and warm.
I prefer to be alone when I do it, without interruptions, intrusions, or someone there to witness my tears. I don’t want to be comforted, told not to be sad, not to cry, and that everything is going to be all right. I don’t need that. I am a thinker, I can reason away my tears in a split second. If I cry it is because I want to indulge myself with the luxury of rivers of grief and melancholy, to wash away that which cannot be, will never be, and maybe never was. I want my body to convulse with sobbing pleasure, my eyes to turn red and puffy, my nose to swell until I can no longer breathe, and my mouth to emit sounds of unearthly pain. Finding the solitude and seclusion to do all of that is very difficult. The few times when I have been inspired to cry always seem to be the most inappropriate moments, when the presence of people is imminent, or I have to many things to do and just don’t have the time. When I am alone, and know I will be so for a while, I often don’t have the urge, I am too happy to have some time to myself to feel sad enough to unleash the waters trapped in the dam.
Occasionally I manage to squeeze out a tear or two, but it takes an enormous effort, and it is never truly satisfying. And crying is very satisfying when done properly. It is a marvellous stress release. I know this because I went through a wonderful, but very brief period in my life when I cried myself to sleep every night. It felt awful, tragic, and euphoric all at once. I was absolutely miserable at the time, but I had a small ray of sunlight in the form of the tears which flooded from my eyes like a Japanese cartoon character. I was so relieved that I had finally learned to cry, it mitigated some of the horrendous misery of my life at the time. I didn’t realise that it was just a phase. I wished I’d known that then so that I could have cried tears for the future.
This is a banal, yet very awkward secret.
It’s banal because it is not unusual, or shameful, or even really worth keeping a secret at all. I know many people who have mastered the art, if it can be called that, of not crying. Some of them are very proud of their lack of tears. Others just shrug it off. They don’t know if it is a blessing or a curse. And then there are those, like me, who wish they could turn the sprinklers on, but the system is jammed. Some use others to cry for them. But this is vicarious, and not rewarding. That tactic would never work for me, I don’t want someone else to cry for me, I want to cry, for myself and whoever, whatever else, is evoking my desire to melt into tears.
It is awkward because, well, yet again, there are several reasons. Firstly, if I tell other people about it and they don’t suffer from this particular problem, they find it odd, don’t believe me, and, if they do believe me, they try to solve it with solutions I have already tried. I am programmed to adjust, adapt, and change myself to incorporate new data, which means that the things which have caused the tears to flow before, do not work a second time around. Survival skills are very useful, but sometimes they can cause worse problems than the ones they were designed to cope with. Secondly, I find dealing with the tears of others a bit perplexing, and I get rather embarrassed because when a friend comes to me seeking solace and understanding for their sadness, when they cry in my arms, need a hug, need comforting, and words of reassurance that all will be well in the end, all I can think about is how lucky they are that they can cry so freely whenever they need to. And I feel as though I am a bit of a fraud as a friend. I offer them the comfort they seek, yet I am envious of their watery grief.
If you are a crier. I bow to you with respect. You have a great, and very valuable skill. The next time you cry, don’t be mad at yourself, don’t see yourself as weak, or mushy, or whatever negative thoughts you have about such a precious and beautiful manifestation, and, above all, don’t try to stop the wonderfully delicious flood of tears. Enjoy it. Revel in your power. And if you have a little to spare, cry for those who can’t, and don’t know how, because they will appreciate it, even if they pretend they don’t.
These days I use words as my tears. When I am woefully melancholic, I write. It is not as satisfying or as warm, thrilling, and as cathartic as the real thing, but it does ease the pain. Not all my words express silent cries of suffering, sometimes they are tears of joy, of mirth, of the wonder that is just being alive without any reason other than that I am.
So, are secrets still a secret once they are told?