What the Heart Can't Express

July 15, 2013

Photo courtesy Melissa Anthony

“Tears are words the heart can’t express.”—Gerard Way

Tears have been on my mind lately. Though I don’t break down and sob very often (thankfully), I tear up easily. A touching commercial, passionate conversation or beautiful performance can all start the waterworks. Frankly, I should just carry a package of tissues with me at all times. I grew teary at my son’s graduation, at my stepfather’s funeral, and I’m attending our niece’s wedding in a couple of weeks where I expect multiple incidences of tearing up. The wedding will be so fraught with emotion: excitement, happiness, nostalgia (for her growing-up years and my own long-ago wedding), there’s zero chance I won’t cry at least once.

Tears are actually quite interesting. There are three basic types of tears, according to Wikipedia: basal tears (tears that lubricate the eyes), reflex tears (those caused by irritation of the eye or actions such as yawning), and psychic tears (tears caused by emotions—both positive and negative). Emotional tears are made up of different chemical compounds than those caused by eye irritants, including leucene enkephalin, a natural pain-killer, “which is suggested to be the mechanism behind the experience of crying from emotion making an individual feel better” (Wikipedia).  

Tears can be the result of sorrow, grief, wonder, admiration, pleasure, passionate feeling, even prolonged laughter. While it’s true that you can laugh till you cry, it’s also true that you can cry until you laugh! Sometimes you have to go through the suffering (instead of avoiding it or “stuffing” it) to get to the happier “other side.” Crying it out can be a therapeutic way to take a step towards those happier times. (Maybe we should buy stock in Kleenex?)

One interesting thing I’ve learned about happiness since beginning this blog is this: I need to feel and accept my feelings—all of them, not just the “happy” ones. There will be very happy times and some not so happy and they’re all a part of a happy life. There will be tears and laughter (sometimes at the same time) and that is the way it should be.

What makes you tear up?

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  1. Lately, it's been allergies that have made me tear up. However, a sad story of profound loss or pain is a sure fire way to bring tears to my eyes. The same could be said for extreme joy and happiness.

    As for the wedding, just be sure to take waterproof mascara!

  2. Laure--Well, that's no fun. You're not even getting the benefits of the pain-killing component!

    Yeah, I'm thinking I'll have to invest in waterproof mascara. The regular stuff doesn't stand a chance and I'll walk around looking like a raccoon.

  3. Very interesting! I tear up easily too; when happy, sad or MAD! (That last one doesn't always work out professionally, but I can't help it.)


    Kathy M.

  4. Kathy--It's certainly frustrating to tear up when you're angry--I've done that before too. Something about intense emotion, no matter what kind, I guess.