The Science of Tears

Since you’ve been gone, I’ve been doing a lot of crying.

And then I got to thinking about tears.

Apparently, there are three categories of tears. According to Wikipedia, these are:

1 – Basal tears. In healthy mammalian eyes, the cornea is continually kept wet and nourished by basal tears. They lubricate the eye, and help to keep it clear of dust.

2 – Reflex tears. The second type of tears results from irritation of the eye by foreign particles, or from the presence of irritant substances. It can also occur with bright light and hot or peppery stimuli to the tongue and mouth. It is also linked with vomiting, coughing and yawning. These reflex tears attempt to wash out irritants that may have come into contact with the eye.

3 – Psychic tears. The third category, in general, referred to as crying or weeping, is increased tearing due to strong emotional stress, pleasure, anger, suffering, mourning, or physical pain. Interestingly, these tears are also very closely linked to the limbic system, because this system is involved in the production of basic emotional drives, such as anger and fear. Or to put it plainly – survival. I’m no neuroscientist, but I think one reason we cry psychic tears when we are in emotional pain is that we feel like we are dying inside, and therefore, our limbic system kicks in and starts shouting that our survival is in doubt. It’s fascinating, isn’t it. Way beyond my ken, I’m afraid. But a very small corner of my understanding really does get basic principle of how the limbic system works. And mine has certainly had good reason to be in overdrive.

Tears are good for you. The first two categories of tears serve to help to maintain healthy eyes. Some people have trouble producing tears and end up having to buy them over the counter in small expensive bottles. I don’t seem to have that problem. In fact, I can produce so many, I could probably bottle them myself, stick a fancy label on them, and make a fortune. But maybe that project is for another day.

As for the third category, I wonder whether these tears are also designed to help to cleanse us from the pain we are experiencing, whether that be emotional or physical. Apparently, emotional tears contain hormones that act as a natural painkiller, which goes some way to explaining why people can feel better after a good cry.

I wish I could feel better. I’m not sure I’m getting enough of those feel better hormones. Oh yes, I think I have all sorts of other hormones in super abundance. Hormones I could really do with settling down and leaving me alone. But the ones that might help? I think they might be having some sort of holiday, because nothing’s helping. Nothing. There is only wretchedness. And while I can look to the future and see all sorts of things to keep me busy, make me smile and even offer short term happiness – everything is blanketed in a thick layer of grief. And tears.

Stay gold.

There It Was – Gone

Since you’ve been gone, today has been so empty.

Everywhere I look, I expect to see her, curled up in the corner, or sitting with her ears pricked up as she watches the squirrels in the garden. No more do I have to step over her as I go to draw the curtains, or have to ignore her pleading eyes as she watches me eat.

I didn’t have to go out in the rain today, or undertake the wet dog challenge upon returning home. I didn’t see her lopsided smile, tongue lolling out of her mouth, as she bounds in from the garden and gallops, literally horse-like, to the kitchen for a long drink.

A submissive underbelly was not presented to me for stroking. Nor was there a persistent nuzzle against my hand, requesting – no, demanding – to be loved.

There’s no comforting figure asleep on the floor beside my bed, and the gentle sound of her dog tag tinkling against her collar as she shakes herself – that’s gone too.

I can’t stop thinking about where she is and what she’s doing, and can only hope that she doesn’t feel as desolate as me. I hope she finds a wonderful owner soon. One who deserves her. Not me. Not a failure.

None of these feelings are new to me. This is just another loss adjustment that I will have to make. One day something is there, something I love and in which I find much pleasure and fulfilment. And the next, it is gone. Perhaps there is a lesson in all of this. A truth that I must learn. But for now, all I know for certain is that I miss, with a great, deep, yearning ache, how it used to be, and I mourn for what once was.

Reality Bites

Since you’ve been gone, I’ve had one of the worst weeks of my life.

And considering how many bad weeks I’ve had over the years, that’s really saying something.

Accepting that I not only don’t come first, or second, or third… that in fact, not only do I not get a place on the podium, I’m not even in the race – that was really hard. But I guess I finally did it. And in the spirit of the theme of running, knowing that I’m not IN the running has helped me to create some distance. It stings. Not in the same way as muscle cramp or physical over-exertion. Actually, that would almost be easier, because that kind of pain lessens over time. I don’t think this burning sensation will stop, no matter how many warming down exercises I try. Or how much I sit in a comfortable chair. Still, I guess it’s not a totally bad thing. It will act as a reminder of how stupid I have been – and indeed, can be – and guard against me being an idiot again. Well. One can hope.

Coinciding with this epiphany, in the vindictive way that these things happen, you know that ‘kicking you while you’re down’ way of the universe, a series of events led to having to lose Milly.

She has always been difficult around other dogs. Over the time we have had her, we have increasingly had to keep her away from other dogs, avoiding them on walks and in the park. Despite trawling the internet for ideas and paying a dog trainer for help, we could not get beyond the almost workable arrangement where we walked her in certain places only and never too far from home. This was never ideal. She is a big dog who needed more than she was getting. However, she was also content with us. And so sweet natured. And we loved her.

There were a couple of close calls. I was bitten on a couple of occasions. Not because she was aggressive towards me. I was just in the unhappy position of being between her and the dog she wanted to ‘talk to’. We did our best. We were as vigilant as we could be. We thought we were doing OK.

But on Tuesday morning, she escaped from the garden and ran across the street to attack another dog. The dog’s owner intervened and was bitten on his hand. I can’t tell you how devastated I am for the animal and his owner. I feel so bad, so guilty, that this happened to them. The trip to the vet concluded superficial injuries. The trip to a walk-in clinic found a few puncture wounds to the man’s hand, one of them painfully deep. In one sense, it was a blessing that it wasn’t worse. Both of them will recover with no lasting ill effects. (Although I’m sure the trauma of what they went through will never be forgotten, and leaves me feeling sick at the thought of what their memories will never let them forget). But the risk of the same thing happening again, with potentially much worse consequences… I couldn’t live with myself if that happened.

There was no alternative but to take Milly back to the rescue centre. The people there will work with her and find a home where there are experienced dog handlers – who will know how best to move her forward and give her the home that she deserves. We were not the right family for her. It was a horrible decision to take. But there really was no alternative.

I took her back to the dogs home this afternoon. It was one of the most heartbreaking things I have ever done. She leapt out of the back of the car, bright eyed and bushy tailed, excited at the prospect of a walk in the countryside. I passed her lead to one of the rescue centre staff and she began to gently lead her away. At first she went willingly. Then she realised I was not following, so she turned around and walked back towards me. I dropped to my knees and she pushed her nose into my hand, leaning into me. Tears poured down my face as I said goodbye. I swear she knew something was wrong and stuck close to me as I hugged her. I think she was actually trying to comfort me. To tell me that whatever it was, it was ok. We’d go for a walk and it would all be alright again. I stood up and walked alongside her as she was taken to the kennel, but there came a point where I had to stop and watch her go.

It’s dark, windy and raining now. All I can think about is Milly, in an unfamiliar place, wondering where she is and where we are. She doesn’t like being left on her own. And nice as the staff there are, she won’t have them around all the time. She will be sad and lonely and will feel abandoned all over again. I can’t bear it.

I failed her.

I know it was the right thing to do. But this is another one of those situations where the right thing to do, feels completely like the wrong thing to do. It hurts, like a thousand dog bites. It hurts.

Reality bites. And then it craps all over you.