When I Cry
Written: November 2003 / Published to website: January 2005

Forward:  I don't think I ever intended to publish this essay.  I think I wrote it more for myself than anything.  I find articulating my thoughts and feelings in words to be a very healthy and necessary part of my own self-expression, and this was one of those exercises.  I didn't establish this website to be my ultimate sharing medium.  I decided to put it here after going to see the movie "Million Dollar Baby" with Clint Eastwood and Hillary Swank last night.  It has stirred quite a bit of thought and emotion in me - about life, quality of life, the struggle of life, love, goals, dedication, determination, and peace.  For some reason, this long-forgotten essay came to mind, so here it is.

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  I really don't cry very often.  I don't say that to brag, or as a boast - it's just a statement of fact.  I'll admit that I sometimes wish I cried more than I do and I'm sure I could do it more often if I really set my mind to it..  I'll also admit that the biggest roadblock keeping it from happening more often is me; keeping it all under control is an unwelcome but pesky remnant of all those years of suppressing emotion of any kind.  Kinda like a shrapnel wound  where you just can't remove all the shards.  Boys don't cry, and for those of us who embodied that mentality, it's really hard to totally get rid of it..  In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's impossible.

When I feel all of that emotion bubbling up in me, down in the pit of my stomach, I know where it will lead if I let nature take its course.  And I'll be honest - my first instinct is to fight it back.  Close my eyes.  Turn away.  Think of something else.  Don't let it grow into something I can't control.  It has never snuck up on me yet.  I always know it's coming.

I do take some great satisfaction in knowing that I can cry.  There were years and years when I worried about that - hoping my lifetime of managed emotions didn't somehow extinguish my ability to cry.  Thanks to a mixture of estrogen, a general lowering of the emotional guard, a deep seeded need to allow myself to be vulnerable, and newfound appreciation for general need to release emotional pressure, I learned I can cry in torrents. 

When I cry it's generally not very pretty.  There's a churning caldron of emotion in here just looking for it's chance to escape, a chance to make a break for it when the guard is down - when the sentry's not looking.  There's a lot of hurt - pain for myself and for my son and for my wife; physical pain, mental pain, emotional pain.  There's anger, and frustration, and even a good healthy dose of fear, too.  And perhaps not surprisingly, there's sadness.  Why does it have to be this hard?  Why do things have to be so unfair sometimes?  Thankfully, one emotion in short supply is self-pity.  I won't stoop to that.

When I cry, it all comes out.  It's an eruption.  It's nuclear fission.  It totally consumes me.  It's not like I can cry for a moment, or for a specific thing.  Sure, something sets if off - something particularly sad that touches a deep, deep nerve and begins the chemical reaction that somehow finds it's way past the defenses and out into the world.  Although it may start like a stream, once it starts the floodgates of emotion open wide and it's like a forest fire - it will burn until it runs out of fuel to keep it alive.

It may sound like a contradiction, but there's a tremendous sense of peace in here, too.  It's the Yin and Yang of my world - the balance of my emotional self and my peaceful self.  Both exist at the same time - both are integral parts of a healthy whole.  I've learned that through experience, and I know it's true.  So although it really may be a contradiction, life is full of them. 

Sometimes, crying is like gentle spring showers.  I remember the early days of my transition, as I tried to learn to be alone.  Going home at the end of a long day, turning out the lights, lighting some candles, pouring some wine, putting on some appropriate music, and lying in the middle of the floor with all my pillows.  Tears just came - moistening my eyes to the point of overflowing and trickling down my cheeks.  I'd feel so cleansed and alive afterwards - so in touch with myself and everything I was experiencing.  I've come to appreciate the fact that it was all part of the process....

But generally, when I cry it comes in outbursts.  I can count on one hand the number of major eruptions of Mt. Donna over these past few years. 

There was that hysterical week shortly before my first aborted attempt to transition.  I was lonely, scared, frustrated, angry, lonely, lonely, LONELY.  I really don't include that, though, as I consider that entire ill-fated experience just an unfortunate (but necessary) case of temporary insanity.

There was the weekend shortly after I started to transition with my Big Sister Kate when we took my dad's ashes to Mirror Lake.  I sobbed all the way home - listening to Sarah McLachlan's Fumbling Towards Ecstasy and feeling each and every song deep down to my core.  My lungs hurt for days from sobbing so hard.

There was a time when I went with Kate and Ralphie to see "A Perfect Storm" a couple of weeks before  my SRS.  I really didn't get attached to the crew so much so I wasn't too upset when the boat sank.  But at the very end, during the funeral, somehow thoughts of my father popped into my head and that was all she wrote.  I sat and cried for 15 minutes after the movie ended - I was so unsteady that Ralphie and Kate had to help me to the car.  Jeez, that came out of nowhere.

The most significant recent eruption occurred just recently - at Nancy's funeral.  That really didn't come as a surprise - I expected to be a mess - as Nancy showed me both how to live, and how to die.  I remember the first week that we met, a small group of us all hopped into a cab to go shopping at Nordstrom's in San Francisco.  I held the door for her, and she looked sternly at me - telling me I was going to have to learn NOT to do that.  I remember her genuine bewilderment at the fact that dear friends were avoiding her not for anything that she had done, but because her spouse was transitioning and she was supportive of her.  I remember when she actually thanked her spouse for transitioning, as it forced her to break out of her shell and grow.  And I remember how she struggled with cancer, explaining mental imaging where she visualized the cancer in her mind - melting away.  Nancy was the only person on the planet who remembered the date of my SRS and she called me every year - without fail - to wish me a happy rebirth day. She was amazing.  And now she's gone.

In the days after her death I helped to collect photographs of her life to create collages for display at the memorial service.  And once that got going, that's all she wrote.  I was a mess.  I still miss her, today.

I don't like to cry alone.  I don't like to cry at night.  It scares me to realize that I might cry at work if I got upset enough.  And although I realize that crying is generally one of those spontaneous things that you don't get to plan per se - like a sentimental Hallmark Card commercial that pops on the screen, powerfully moving lyrics of a song, or unexpected news - I don't have many of those sneaky outbursts.  I think it would have to happen at a moment when I'm particularly vulnerable  - and that timing has never really been quite right, I guess.

I really don't think I can say that I've cried out of happiness, or relief.  Maybe I have - it just doesn't really come to mind right now.  I know there have been times when I've been touched to the point of feeling the crying-reflex begin to kick in, but I'm not sure it's every found its way out. 

I'm a good shoulder to cry on.  Others can attest to that.  Somehow my strength seems to calm things, to provide a sense of protection and acceptance.  It's nice to able to share that.  And someday, I may need that support returned in kind. 

When I cry it's my ultimate expression of my humanity.  In a world where that seems to be in such short supply I'm glad to be able share in that.  A good cry and a tight hug are two of the most important things in life, back to our earliest days of life - just out of the womb.  I hope I never lose either of them.


- The End -