these are the exhalations of my heart


 I rarely cry in private. At the most, a few tears, when I read or hear something that has apparently stretched out its hand and grabbed ahold of my heart, and there's a moment right before I cry when I feel like I've finally reached some transcendent place of human experience, this ability to feel something, the permission to reclaim myself from the distraction and drudgery of doing and moving and performing. Otherwise, my lachrymatory tendencies are displayed only in close contact with other people, which isn't to say that I am not ashamed of my emotional paroxysms, only that my tears are now more likely to be an immediate reaction to something outside of myself, whether an affront or an onslaught or a catalyst of sorts, rather than an outpouring of things contained within myself for much too long, rotting away like old fruit left out. I used to try to purge away my feelings, especially anxiety and loneliness and worry and indecision and insecurity, to the detriment of my body, whose withering withered my soul, and I was just trying to survive, holding tightly onto anything I could, anything that felt safe, like standing under an awning when there's a downpour of rain, not wanting to step out but knowing I'll have to get drenched if I want to go home--sooner is better than later.

The crying itself, even if only a vessel, is not to be overlooked, despite its implications, which we've all been conditioned to believe: that crying is a weakness (after all, emotion is a weakness, sensitivity is a weakness), that crying is senseless, that crying shows a lack of logic and self-control, that crying is the absence of joy, a symptom of depression. Crying does not exclude any of these things, but neither is it a tell-tale sign, and so often we forget how beneficial it is, how natural and how soothing. After all, crying is our God-given mechanism for expressing discomfort and for channeling an overflow of emotion that we cannot contain, a catch-all for the feelings in us we cannot yet name or rationalize, a release of the adrenaline we chase after in the hopeless addictions that were supposed to make us feel better, momentarily at least. Crying makes me feel better. So it does for babies too.

Over the past few years, I've learned that my heart can contain more paradoxes than it used to, which I hope means I'm growing up, or wiser. That, or what used to seem like a contradiction seems less like one now, because my world has fewer polarities, oppositions, and extremities than before; and there's less tension between what used to feel like opposing forces. Despite the presence of paradox, and the acceptance that all the mess of my feelings can actually co-exist, more things make less sense, and I'm okay with that. I'm more often wrong--about others and myself--than I am right. Never mind that a lot less seems definitively wrong or right in the first place; the legalistic framework I once imposed upon every detail of my life continues to break down. Sometimes details make all the difference, and sometimes they don't matter at all. Wisdom, discernment, and patience become more important than outcomes. Intentions, rationales, and ways of being become much larger in scope than the means and the ends and the places I think I'm supposed to be going. Feeling the ache is better than not feeling at all. Not feeling at all is sometimes the result of doing too much. Doing too much sometimes leads to existing too little, or not existing at all. Sleeplessness is sometimes the consequence of exhaustion. A secret is never really a secret at all. What isn't said is louder than words; what isn't said is a bigger betrayal than telling a painful truth.

Labels and categorizations make less sense than they used to; sometimes, they're entirely irrelevant. "Anti-" feels like such a strong stance, and fewer things have the antitheses that I thought they were supposed to have. Sadness is not the opposite of happiness, and crying is not the opposite of laughing. Sadness is the presence of a feeling, and crying is overcoming the defense that held those feelings hostage. Sadness is not depression, and depression isn't illogical. Nor is it fixable. Many things aren't fixable or solvable. Life isn't a series of equations to solve for, or a line with a slope. Anger is not the opposite of peace. Peace does not contradict the presence of emotion; mostly it is the cork board beneath the hardwood, which cushions but does not negate every emotional vibration. Beauty is not objective; beauty and ugliness are not mutually exclusive. There are splinters of ugliness in every tarp of skin, and my splinters have become more obvious as time has warped me in ways I know not. I have found these splinters, plucked them, driven them deeper into my dermis; I have found that some of these splinters were nothing at all. I have seen beauty in wayward folk, in debilitating times, in downcast faces. What I once thought beautiful was subversively so, what I once thought perfect, merely a facade. Tears have made sense of situations my brain could not. People I thought invincible have let me down. And I have found that feeling is not wrong, that feeling is not weak, that the heart does not betray but reveal, that God does not leave but He gives you a heart to hope. Perfection is a feeling, not a state of being; love is an ache, disregards perfection, supersedes feeling.


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