I work out of the Centre for Social Innovation and we recently moved into a brand new building. The washrooms are individual stalls and in my current state, I was very glad for this. It meant I could cry silently to myself and no one would know.
This had been happening quite a lot lately, this spontaneous bout of unconditional tears. I didn’t know what triggered them (although I had an idea), at the very least, they didn’t last long. Maybe it was a song that I’ve heard a million times, but it hits me in a completely new way. The lyrics take on a totally different context. Maybe it’s in the shower. I kind of start hiccupping, and it’s difficult to catch my breath. Maybe a text from a friend and at the end of a long chain of messages, they write: Remember that you are loved. Cue the tears.
Maybe it’s because there have been times that I felt unloved (which is really quite untrue, the being unloved part - the keyword is ‘felt’). That is a problem and one that I’ve been making attempts at solving. How can I be at the last Stories We Don’t Tell, looking out over a crowd of fascinating people all talking to each other and excited that we are all here together, and not feel loved? I certainly had to take a break or two during that event.
The tears are for a lot of different reasons, all of them related to my perception of myself. Something has been shifting on my insides and certain internal land masses are breaking apart. I do think this is a good thing, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it pleasant. I wouldn’t say that I’m sad, I don’t think that’s it either.
I will say that I hesitated even writing about this. We’re still living in a world where it is deemed weak for a man to cry. Isn’t this a bunch of bull shit? I feel that we need to get over this already, that we need to recognize that we are just people, and holding all that shit in can’t be healthy.
My decision around this has just been to let it all out. Maybe I’ve been holding it all in? Maybe I have just been walking around, all walled off, not sure what to do with it all? I feel as though I’ve just been on guard for a really long time, too long. I’ve had to keep myself in check and not reveal the true nature of my feelings.
The other day, my brain was especially scrambled and I needed to re-arrange it. My usual approach to getting things arranged is to take a long walk. I went down to the waterfront, through Trillium Park, and crossed the bridge over to Ontario Place. Even though I had been here many times, I had never gone up into the wooded area smack in the middle of the place. I had nowhere to be and lots of time, so followed a stone path to an abandoned area.
There was a bridge that had collapsed, a bridge to nowhere. Further along, I peeked through some trees to a set of old train tracks. A destroyed waterslide ride, dying in the sun. Silos with graffiti on them. I reached the end of the path that had several picnic tables, all in various degrees of decay. I sat on one of the picnic tables, completely alone in a city of three million people, the only sound the wind rattling the trees. The loneliness of the place, the silence, triggered the hiccupping and out came the tears. Big fat tears that I couldn’t possibly hold back. So, I sat there and let them flow. There was nothing I could do about it.
Outside of the park, I walked out on the breakers that run parallel to the shore. I probably shouldn’t have been out there, but no one was there to stop me. I walked as far out as I dare, and when I finally got to where I couldn’t walk anymore, I stopped to look behind me. Water on both sides, if the wind picked up and the waves got bigger, I’d be in trouble. Out here, I didn’t cry, I was all dried up for the moment. I just stood there for a long time and listened to the water roll against the breakers.
Did I feel better after walking out of the park at Ontario Place? Kind of. At least I was feeling something. See, that’s the thing, that’s my perspective on the whole thing. At least I was feeling something. I’d rather be dealing with spontaneous tears, than nothing at all. I’m even convincing myself that I shouldn’t worry about where or why they are coming. Don’t worry, just welcome them. Let them come. Does it mean I am weak? Sure, call me weak then. So, if you see me in the streets and I burst into tears, just give me about thirty seconds, and I’ll be fine.
It had been a few days since any of these outbursts. I was thinking perhaps this strange bout was over. Then I was driving home from Ottawa after the holiday weekend and did my usual stop at the cemetery before leaving the city. I stood at the grave and talked for a while. It was unseasonably warm. The sun kept darting out between clouds. The clouds in various fluffy states. I did not cry. It came when I got back in my car, turned on some music. The Arcade Fire ‘Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)’ started and that’s when I lost my shit. Especially at this point:
I was so disappointed
You didn’t want me
Oh, how could it be,
I was standing beside you
By a frozen sea
Will you ever get free?
Just take all your pain
Just put it on me
So that you can breathe
When you fly away
Will you hit the ground?
It’s an awful sound
Gets me every time.