Life is woven with these tiny disappointments that we toss aside in light of our responsibilities – we can’t take time away from work to nurse a letdown; careers are not concerned with whether or not we’ve been rejected by a person, place, or thing. We feel obligated to deal with our problems in a flippant manner to preserve our pride. We need to be strong, because, you know. What would other people think? We ignore the things that upset us because it happens that there’s not enough time in the day to properly address each setback individually.
Occasionally though, our resolve takes a much deeper hit; we find ourselves in a state less like disappointment and more like desperation. The things we’re carrying aren’t just heavy; they’re soggy – dense with invisible weight. What do you do when a burden becomes too much to bear? Well, you leave it where it lies. You tiptoe around it, you get back to the scripted version of your life. Where did we leave off, again? The scene where my emotions and expectations rest idly in a protective bubble, never to be contaminated by reality? I almost forgot my lines, what with all of that scenery crashing down around me. Let’s take it from the top.
But the baggage doesn’t go away. It multiplies. After all, it’s not a backpack that you can slip off and leave by the front door. It’s a tumor, metastasizing until it’s properly addressed. Friends will notice how you’re ballooning with grey-colored gloom, how you’ve got this mass of melancholy hanging off of you like a wet tuxedo. They’ll try making suggestions. Drink some tea. Have some sex. Quit drinking. Eat ten almonds a day. Do those things, do all of them. But most importantly, make yourself cry.
Make yourself cry. Listen to that song, the one you used to listen to when you lay between someone’s sticky arms. Listen to the song your mother used to sing in a whisper, before she left or moved or died. Listen to “Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley or Rufus Wainwright or Brandi Carlisle or Leonard Cohen, whichever one cuts you the most. Listen to “The Only Living Boy in New York.” Listen to your favorite song. The idea that you could like something so much is enough to make you cry.
Think about the things you can’t change, the things that are beyond your control. Remember the last words you said to someone who isn’t alive anymore. Apologize to your body for the things you’ve ruined it with. Think about the lies you took for truths, and get angry with yourself for being so stupid. Know that your mistakes have matured you but resent making them anyway. Cry about it.
Watch something that makes you cry every time you see it. Watch the last ten minutes of Donnie Darko. The last ten minutes of American Beauty. Titanic (maybe that’s just me). An episode of True Life that hits a little too close to home. Anything is fair game, really.
Cry the way you cry when you’re sick and pathetic, the way you cry when you can barely move a limb. Curl up in the corner of your bed and cry the way you did when you were five. Eight. Thirteen. Sixteen. Twenty-one. Twenty-five. Cry like you did after a fight with your parents, after a breakup. Mourn the death of something important. Cry the way you cry when you realize you’re alone, or the way you cry when you realize you’re not.
Think of your eye secretions like they’re every word you’ve held back, every sliver of disappointment you’ve devoured without complaining. Each one of them, spilling out into a mess of tears and snot and makeup on your pillowcase. Dispel of it all, because if you hold on to it, every minor and major disappointment will become a mass of misery so unmovable and opaque that it’ll become a part of you indefinitely, a mutated body part for which modern medicine has no answers.
Eventually, you’ll have to pull it together. Put things in perspective. Understand that there are situations you can’t manipulate anymore but that you’re ultimately the… captain of your own ship, or whatever. Other people’s decisions will affect you, but they don’t have the power to crush you the way your own frame of mind does. Tomorrow can be the start of a new chapter, c’est la vie, all that jazz. But right now, before you succumb to rational thinking, make yourself cry. There’s nothing like it.