Sad Feelings =

Different Expressions

To Cry or Not To Cry?

by Kathy Coogan

I came across an old Wall Street Journal article about crying and tears titled, Read It and Weep, Crybabies. After reading it again, I realized that sad feelings don't provoke tears in me. I am not an easy crier. My modus operandi when I am sad is the feeling of choking up. Literally.

Tears come late in the game. When the emotion hits, I get a closed-throat feeling that I am being strangled; that I couldn’t yell, “Fire,” if I was, well, on fire.

I remember when a favorite aunt lost her daughter to the complications of Type 1 diabetes, blindness followed by kidney disease ending in her death in her young forties. I called my Aunt Mary, who lived in another city, to tell her how sad and sorry I was for her terrible loss.

There I was on the phone and when she picked up and said, “Hello,” I could not speak. I was so sad that my throat was paralyzed. She kept saying, “Hello, hello…?” Did she think this was a prank phone call?

I finally managed to croak, “Oh, Aunt Mary.” That was it. She ended up speaking for me. “Yes, honey, I know it’s awful. Yes, I know it is so sad. Yes, I know that we’ll all miss her.” At the funeral, I could only mouth the words to the prayers and hymns.

There have been happy emotional times that I have experienced silently, too. As our brand new daughter was placed in my arms after a tricky birth, the nurse said, “Do you have a name for her?” I could only shake my head, struck dumb, in every aspect of that word, by my relief and joy. Hugging that daughter when she presented us with Ben, our first grandson and Rhys, our second, would have been the perfect time to say, “I love you, Sweetie,” but the hug had to be enough.

I am embarrassed to report that it happens, too, when I am very, very angry. Just when I want to clearly explain the unfairness of it all or defend my argument or state my position, my voice goes away. I feel my throat constrict around my vocal cords which lose all but their lowest register. Think cat coughing up a hairball or Katharine Hepburn cast as the possessed girl in The Exorcist.

I end up bleating words in a shreiky screech which greatly diminishes my credibility and impugns my sanity. My long fuse insures that this happens infrequently but my poor husband can vouch for its unattractiveness. And unknowing people mistake my angry silence for calm restraint.

It has occurred to me that the sudden, momentary loss of my voice would be a disadvantage in scenarios other than sadness or anger. Sudden fear, for example. I walk my dog at night. My imagination can turn the boughs of pine trees into assailants.

I recall that a self-defense instructor, a female ex-cop, promises that your first, best tool against an attacker is a loud, preferably profane, scream. Evidently a would-be rapist is put off by a sudden noisy, “F--- off, a--hole!” I would hope to have a pistol in my pocket in that circumstance, knowing that my unreliable voice would produce a compliant whimper, not a courageous roar.

Thinking about this topic causes me to wonder if this choking-up trait signifies an unhealthy repression. Does a person who sheds tears feel more than a person who doesn’t?

I won’t Google this. I have too many foibles already. I don't want to read in Wikipedia that I am a silent unstable stoic. Instead I’ll go with the flow (no tears) and hope that my eyes, dry though they may be, are windows to my soul even when my voice clicks onto mute.

Kathy writes a fictional sad story

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