Friday, December 21, 2012

Idle Tears or A Cleansing Cry?


So often poetry or songs (which are poetry set to music) come to mind when I am trying to identify what I'm feeling. This picture is of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom 1850-1892 and one of my favorites. Today it is this poem of his in my memory banks:

Tears, Idle Tears

   Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather in the eyes,
In looking on the happy autumn-fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.

Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,
That brings our friends up from the underworld,
Sad as the last which reddens over one
That sinks with all we love below the verge;
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more.

Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns
The earliest pipe of half-awakened birds
To dying ears, when unto dying eyes
The casement slowly grows a glimmering square;
So sad, so strange, the days that are no more.

Dear as remembered kisses after death,
And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feigned
On lips that are for others; deep as love,
Deep as first love, and wild with all regret;
O Death in Life, the days that are no more!

There were numerable times during the years I was caring for my aging mother when she would begin to cry. She always tried to stop herself, saying, "I don't know what I'm crying for." Sometimes it was when we had been remembering something about my sister, Betty, and I had no doubt about her tears for her daughter's early death.
But mostly, it wasn't so easy to define. Now, when I experience those same kinds of days, as I have been this week, Tennyson's words come to mind: "Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean...."

I don't know why I've been feeling like crying. I've wondered if it is a delayed reaction to the Newtown horrors of last week. When I got home last Friday morning and saw the news online, my reaction was "(Expletive), Not another school shooting." And that was before we knew how bad it was.

My depressed feelings may just be a part of the year - SAD (seasonal affective disorder), although I've been fine until this week. Thank goodness today is the solstice and the light begins to return. A month from today I will already be noticing the lengthening of the daylight.

I know my tears are definitely emotional. Even Aristotle had a theory that crying cleansed the mind and reduced distress by releasing emotion. I have been anti-tears for many years - beginning as far back as age 16 when I bade my Grandpa Joe goodbye - crying beside his coffin at visitation, but promising him "I won't cry at your funeral tomorrow." (I remember telling my Mom the same thing before Dad's funeral.) I guess I've long felt that tears were a sign of weakness and I do not want to be perceived as weak.

But maybe Aristotle was right and all I need is a good cleansing cry. It won't take anything to get me started: thinking about the pregnant young mother killed in the 30 vehicle pile-up in yesterday's snow storm on I-35 in Northern Iowa; the families of the Sandy Hook Elementary students and employees; or even looking at those snow covered autumn fields.

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