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I insist on reading closely people who have opposing views to me, so that I don’t feel like I’m living in my own smug bubble. I’m digesting truths and alternative truths. I’m spending a lot of time crying.
The average woman cries between 30 and 64 times a year, according to a German study. Maybe German women are stauncher? Or perhaps I’m just an ageing snowflake? I’ve used up my entire yearly quota of tears, and then some. I cry like Cate Blanchett in the car in that Bandits movie. I whimper over Lego games, lumps in my throat, humming Everything is Awesome in a pitiful voice. I tear up in assembly at school, for goodness sake, because look at all these bright young things and look at the struggles they’re going to be handed by people in power who’ve forgotten their humanity. I cry me a river. I cry for the rivers. For the climate for the scientists for the women for their reproductive rights for the borders for the stories for the families for the war zones for the men out of work for the kids for their shoes for the factory ships with spotter planes for the stupid insistence on increasing policing instead of reducing the precursors to crime.
For the poor people of Bowling Green. Oh no, OK. Not them.
I know that all this crying is supernonproductive and will never help the economy, which is, after all, all that matters, but you know, feelings have to go somewhere and crying about all the sites of all the power struggles makes me somehow feel more in touch with what matters. And, when the heaving’s stopped, I feel more likely to direct the empathy into action. Even if it’s just talking action. Or writing action. Because you never know. Because someone online might catch a picture of the cardboard sign you make or the poem you wrote about a tangerine gabshite walloper (love your work, Lorna Wallace) and that might have some kind of almighty viral butterfly effect whereby we wake up and cruel and corporate greed have been banished and people remember that our differences are what make us fascinating.
Still, crying, in itself, probably achieves nothing other than a leakage of stress hormones. But I like to think of it as a sort of conduit, to conversation, to change. Because we are not a completely sociopathic society yet. When you’re mid-snivel, people ask stuff like "are you OK?", "why are you crying (again)?" and "what can I do?". And those are kind and valid questions to ask ourselves and each other. And that can open up discussion and you can generate ideas like selling the powers that be the idea that taking abortion out of the Crimes Act would actually lower the crime rate as well as removing criminal stigma, sort of like killing two birds with one stone, although that metaphor upsets me too and I’m off again, weeping.
Crying is awesome as the antithesis to our manicured, screened, onscreen lives. Very human, very frogface, oh so cathartic. Maybe that’s why they call it, "a good cry". Crying rinses us out, leaves space to rebuild our spirit. If we’re going to get all Hawea Flat about it, we could say crying is the precursor to change. Babies cry to show they need support. Tears are tricky to fake. We could choose to see them as a reminder of our human connections, a way to break down barriers, inside us and between us. It’s like Mohammed Hassan says in his video poem, Customs: A Love Story, which also made me cry this week, "You see, I’m just a boy, standing in front of a boy, asking him to let me in".