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.

What Am I Gonna Do (With the Rest of My Life)?

They say that when you’re happy, you enjoy the music, but when you’re sad, you understand the lyrics. On this occasion, they, whoever ‘they’ are, are right.

There’s something really powerful about music and the connection it makes with our innermost beings. For me, nothing comes closer to echoing the cries of my heart than country music. I’m not talking about the modern pop that masquerades as country, but the classic artists, such as Merle Haggard, George Jones and Kris Kristofferson. Perhaps they’re not quite so fashionable as once they were, but as far as I’m concerned, ‘three chords and the truth’ will always resonate with me and never go out of style.

My heart is breaking right now, and nothing articulates my anguish better than my favourite country songs.

Consider some of the lyrics of:

‘What Am I Gonna Do (With the Rest of My Life)?’ By Merle Haggard
I can make it for a day or two without you
And maybe I can make it through the night
I can smoke I can drink and probably be alright until morning
But what am I gonna do with the rest of my life?

‘Looking For a Place to Fall Apart’. By Merle Haggard
Looking for a place to fall apart
Trying to find a place that I can leave my heart
I need to be somewhere hiding when I feel the teardrops start
Looking for a place to fall apart.

‘He Stopped Loving Her Today.’ By George Jones
He said “I’ll love you till I die”, she told him “You’ll forget in time”
As the years went slowly by, she still preyed upon his mind
He kept her picture on his wall, went half-crazy now and then
He still loved her through it all, hoping she’d come back again
Kept some letters by his bed, dated nineteen sixty-two
He had underlined in red, every single “I love you”
I went to see him just today, oh but I didn’t see no tears
All dressed up to go away, first time I’d seen him smile in years
He stopped loving her today
They placed a wreath upon his door
And soon they’ll carry him away
He stopped loving her today.

‘For the Good Times.’ Kris Kristofferson
Don’t look so sad
I know it’s over
But life goes on
And this old world will keep on turning
Let’s just be glad
We had some time to spend together
There’s no need to watch the bridges
That were burning
Lay your head upon my pillow
Hold your warm and tender body
Close to mine
Hear the whisper of the rain drops
Blowing soft against the window
And make believe you love me
One more time
For the good times.

I could go on and on. There are so many of them. And each of them speaks to me like an old friend who knows every single thought, good or bad, and yet still loves me unconditionally.

The music doesn’t make my pain go away. Just now, I don’t believe the aching will ever stop. The best I can hope for is that I will learn to live with it. But what it does do is to remind me that I am not unusual – I am not alone. While I will never have the gift of words and music that these musicians were blessed with, I can share in their interpretation of what it is to be a human at their most fragile. And more than that, the music gives me permission to grieve.