There are several different types of tears. I am a crier, so I should know. There are event tears that spring up at the moment an event happens. It could be a tragic event, like a death in the family, or it could be a happy event, like a new baby being born. These type flow openly and appropriately in the moment. People around you understand these kinds of tears and why they are there. You are supported and encouraged to release the floodgates because it is a known fact, rivers of tears express the emotions of an event.
There are appreciation tears when someone recognizes, acknowledges, and appreciates another person. The one getting the recognition often cries these tears because they never knew anyone was paying attention to what they were doing. These tears are hoped for, because the one appreciating really wants to know you feel their heart of love. The person crying may not feel comfortable expressing these tears in public, but they are validated and so they allow them to flow.
Frustration tears rise up when things are not going well. Homework times come to mind, when a child doesn’t understand and is frustrated to the point of a meltdown. These kinds of tears happen to adults too just not as often, because we try to cover them up. They are not fully understood by others and can be embarrassing. They feel a bit childish, and mostly come unannounced and therefore, are a release of pent up emotion in the moment.
There are Hallmark-commercial tears otherwise known as sentimental tears which are the kind I am most familiar with. They are the ones that seem silly, but are directly attached to your heart. The sweet times, the memories, the touching moments all draw these tears to the surface. Many people make fun of them and laugh them off, some hide them or walk away when the feelings that cause them arrive. It seems a vulnerable type of tear which exposes your tender heart without asking first. Because they show up when opening gifts or birthday cards, they disrupt the flow of fun and seem out of place. Yet, they are real and should be acknowledged as an important expression of a sensitive soul.
As you can see, I am well versed in the tear department, because I have all the kinds. The ones I want to focus on today are the companion tears. Maybe, because they are the least known but the most common. Companion tears are the ones which are right below the surface. They threaten to overflow at the smallest trigger, and they show up to squeeze your vocal cords at the most inopportune times. They walk with you through difficult circumstances which are long term, including traumas, suffering, and ongoing hardships. They remind you that you are alive and that your feelings are too. They are part grief/loss, and part sentiment. The pressure you are under squeezes them out of your eyes to make room for more of them. There seems to be a never-ending supply.
These are the tears I have much of the time these days. At first, I tried to quench them, but stuffing them only makes things worse. In a crisis, they can morph into a full-blown meltdown like I had a few weeks ago. It is better to release them a little at a time when possible, like in the night, in the shower, driving down the road or hiking on a trail. However, there are times, when having conversations about what is going on, they just come uninvited. It is these moments when the embarrassment floods your cheeks as you try to regain control.
At this point, I am teaching myself not to be embarrassed by these companion tears. I am learning to allow them, because they are there for me. The definition of a companion is one who breaks bread with another; or one who spends a lot of time with another. These tears join me on my journey and nourish my soul by being present as a way to express my feelings when I don’t have the words to do so. They break bread with me. They sit with me in the pain. They join me in the pressure cooker. They are the release valve when the stress is too great.
There have been many times in my life where companion tears were my closest friends. I know them well, and I know they don’t last forever. Maybe that is why I am learning to embrace them, because as I age, I finally recognize their value. They are a gift which makes ongoing stressors manageable. They are there when no one else is, in a way that on one else can be. They are in the deepest places of my heart; places I am not always aware of.
If you see me around these days and we talk about my current life, you will likely see these companion tears make an appearance. I give you permission to feel uncomfortable or awkward, but there is no need to walk away. If it takes a minute for me to finish my words because my throat is closed, be patient. I am no longer embarrassed by these companion tears. They mean I am fragile. They are protecting me by allowing me to grieve in bits so my heart will not explode. They are a safety valve, designed by God to allow expression of hard things.
Longsuffering and companion tears are partners. I am attempting to join them in their collaboration for my well-being. On this journey with my elderly family, which seems longer all the time, they are my friends. As the holiday season approaches, I am more sentimental and sappier than usual, which is hard to imagine! Winding down our parents’ lives is causing a new appreciation for old traditions which are being forced to change. Having their generation here, but not knowing for how long, gives me pause to take in every moment. It makes me long for the good old days…ache for them really.
I look at my own children differently now as they are living full lives. I think, one day I will be the elderly parent and they will be the caregivers. See what I mean? Companion tears are walking me through the changing of the guard and the racing clock. Life is shorter than I thought. Living fully is more important than I knew. Embracing tears in all their forms is just as important as engaging in all the different kinds of laughter.
As I write this, MY dad (not Bill’s dad this time) has been transported to the hospital for possible heart issues. I am mom-sitting, while Melinda has hospital duty. I am in the pressure cooker as the sun comes up. (Not sure why these things always happen in the middle of the night.) Companion tears are keeping me company and assuring me they will be here for me as the days progress. I am grateful to them for their presence.