I cry a river…

The art of crying is about losing your form — your eyes becoming the primordial ocean of existence and lips twitching and twirling into a knot that keeps you from falling apart — so that you may learn to be able to accommodate more and more.

Why do we cry? Why do we emote our feelings welling up like tides responding to the vagaries of the moon? Why do we let it out by displaying it on our solemn faces?

An international study of criers suggests that the reasons behind crying are often mundane like watching a sad movie or dealing with a small failure and somewhat dependent on previous experiences. I recently cried when I watched Patrick singing a Tina Turner song to David in a Schitt’s Creek episode. I will never call it mundane. *sigh*

It goes on to note, “…for someone to start crying, exposure to an emotional event by itself often does not suffice. Instead, the person may need to be in a particular mental (and/or physical) state and situational factors should not too strongly discourage the shedding of emotional tears.”

I find the privacy of my room the only place where I do not need to hold off from spilling my tears. It is the only safe space as it has been imbibed in me that crying in front of others is not done. It is vulgar and unsophisticated when small streaks of water run down from my long lashes to a scraggy chin. They dry quickly as well, leaving the skin stretched out and clean as if it has undergone some kind of a cosmetic treatment.

“Your skin looks so good,” a friend told me, looking at my tear-worn face. I had not washed it after a small session of inadequate crying. I do not know whether they figured it out or not. Sometimes, I do position myself in front of the mirror when I cry. It is discomfiting, like when others cry in my presence.

From what I found out from the various modern researches on why we cry, some postulated that crying is a form of social bonding — it acts as a tool to evoke empathy and reduce aggression in others. Another suggested that it is manipulative in nature.

For those who still believe that crying is about releasing toxins or controlling body heat during a surge of emotions as has been hypothesised previously, all of it is now disproved. Also, it does not always lead to immediate relief as many self-help articles would say. “But the work that’s been done on this indicates that, if anything, we don’t feel good after we cry,” says Randy Cornelius, a professor of psychology at the Vassar College.

I am not going to delve into the science of it too much as it is still not entirely clear.

I am concerned about crying as a form of self-care. Well, I am having a pretty not-so-okay week, and I have taken many breaks already for some sob soirees in the middle of writing this piece.

Why am I expressing myself and my complicated emotions through tears?

Some of my close friends would know that I am quite harsh on myself; it is sometimes so bad that I tend to feel physical discomfort and even disgust looking at my image and the resulting intrusive thoughts make me almost nauseous. Such an unrelenting attack often leads to days and even weeks of absence from life — forgetting to feel my skin and just following a mechanical routine with no control over anything else — as a form of self-punishment. Therefore, I have realised crying for me is an expression which mellows my response to the situation.

How would you react if you see someone cry in your presence? If you have even a semblance of emotional intelligence, the social cue must make you reach out to them in some way, either through touch or words, to comfort them.

When I am the spectator of my tears, crackling breaths, and gurgling sounds that escape my parched tongue, I respond kindly. I am not that harsh; I seek to comfort and alleviate some of my pain. It does not make it better in a short term but allows me some space and time to recognise (and not antagonise) the cause as well as the effect of crying. It is not self-love but rather self-care that I aspire for and try to achieve at such times.

It is a reaction that I am learning and trying to replicate even if when I cry over the smallest of things. I may even call it a kind of intrapersonal conditioning. The tears accompanied by a debilitating experience act as a stimulant for me to act more gently. I am not self-diagnosing myself with anything, as no one should, and I am not saying that this is the ideal way of going about it.

We do what we have to do, to see through the night to another day and yet another one. Crying seems to be my thing right now.

Agha Shahid Ali ends his collection of ghazals, Call Me Ishmael Tonight, with a short ghazal, which is actually just a couplet:
“If you leave who will prove that my cry existed?
Tell me what was I like before I existed.”

In my case, I want to be the witness of my crying so that I can cogently believe that I am worth something, that my tears have meaning; there was existence prior to the pain, and there would still be one beyond it.

This is the third in my #Trash essay series. You can check out the previous essays here and here. This wasn’t a fun write but it was good for me to navigate through the art of crying and realise some things about myself. Let me know what you think about this essay, why you cry and what it means to you, as well as some book/movie/song recommendations for a good cry. I welcome your feedback and topic suggestions to continue this series.

If you liked this piece or anything I have ever written, I would appreciate if you would share it with others in your circle and show your support by making some contribution at Buy me a coffee (it accepts Paypal as well as UPI payments). Thank you.

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of waiting

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naked. i sit in the bathroom, waiting for my needs to dry and shrivel so that I can take control of my breath again and proceed with my shower. listening to Cyndi Lauper, i wait. i am merging with my immediate emptiness. yet, I keep on waiting…

waiting for things to normalise back to their abnormality. waiting for that dairy milk cake to rise and collapse and harden and soften with time. waiting for ice cubes to melt and burn my tongue further and blister. waiting for the pain to recede and waiting for it to come back. waiting for the silence before the scream to extinguish itself and waiting for the impending scream to crack open the earth. waiting for the food to pass the intestinal tract and waiting for the next unsatisfactory meal.

waiting for the room to start becoming my skin and enclosing my wronged limbs and waiting for it to break me to nothing. waiting for the world to open a star-shaped space for me and fill me with moonlight. waiting for my heart to collapse beneath the weight of my consuming world. waiting for the hunchback sky to turn into that particular hibiscus-red and fall down on me. waiting for the heat to penetrate my shadow skull and open flowerless graves within. waiting for a song that would escape my lips and take my voice and bury it into the ploughed riverbed. waiting to be kissed by a nightmare and fucked by an inconsequential god.

waiting for the wait to end.

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© Anmol Arora

Image source (Tyeb Mehta (b. 1925) Diagonal Series signed and dated ‘Tyeb 76’ (on reverse) oil on canvas 44 x 35 in. (111.8 x 90.2 cm.))

 

of sleep

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i stalked Shabana Azmi’s Instagram at 4:17 a.m. after coming across one of her posts. i got stuck to it and explored her life, as exhibited on the heavy screen of my cell phone. in a desperate plea for sleep, i look for such intervening factors on the social media that can lull me to close my eyes where i can lose the ra(n)ge of my incessant inner-voice. sometimes, it works and i hand over the reins of the internet and breathe deeply into a light snooze. at other times, i realise after long how bizarre it is and begin to make amends, in the form of shallow breathing to trick myself to sleep. when that does not work, i start worrying about the books that i am not reading, the ones i left in between, the ones i do not know of, the ones i could never write (or something along these lines) till i cross the borders (and uncross them) between levity and foolhardiness one too many times.

in order to feel better, i finished the chapter of one of the books that i was reading and watched the first half an hour of a film. then to bed and breaths and buildups. and back to prompt wakefulness.

at 6:37 a.m., i stand up and go for a floating walk. with the sun burning my industrious eyelids, i miss out on the hornet just ahead of me. after a moment’s delay, we both gawk at each other and turn in opposite directions. my sense of direction does not work well in such circumstances and i end up encountering this mischievous creature again. before the sting, the cry of a crow takes my full attention and i manage to escape.

the scrawny black thing has a worm in its mouth, hanging loose like a scarf around the neck (that can well be a noose). it is a morning angel, cawing and cackling and enjoying its breakfast. it ignores the row of six pigeons on the opposite wall, who are the sentinels of this open court.

there is no judgement in the coming. i think of the law and its acrimonious relationship with hope. i think of the absentee litigator before an absent god, i think of a big advocate with a stamp of contempt on his head. what is the law for but to disembowel the mind and tie the tongues into neat knots?

the law is sans justice. the sleep is sleeplessness. with that in mind, i start writing of this vacuum that can contain all of our lifetimes and those that have not even begun yet.

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© Anmol Arora

Image source (Sleeping Effort, 1953, Jackson Pollock, © Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York)

a paean to pain

have you seen the festering wound
with maggots and flea eggs, defining
the scope of pain and hurt as just
a preoccupation? did you pour liqueur
and salt on the scraped skin that has
covered the scissors with a ritualistic
charity, to part with your sadness?

unless there is a scar, no one would
know how carefully you have figured
a way to wound without wanton dis-
charge of pus and blood-filled nerves
that define your convoluted desire
for all this pain and hurt. catharsis is
the name of a tiny hair sprig sprouting
from an open contusion, like growth
in decay. they have restored cellular
activity (godly) in the porcine brains of
the dead. so what are you going to do,
if not pulling it all out with a tweezer
for a microscopic study of metabolic
activity that denotes that life reverses
and re(as)sembles itself, and applying
a gauze to move out, and hide and smile
till it looks becoming on your face?

grief is the name of your eyes that
refuse to cry. loss is the truth of your
lips that cannot remember the sparse
touch of all that you did not say, and
all that was injured by your mistakes.

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© Anmol Arora

Inspired by the Day 18 prompt at NaPoWriMo

Day 18
(Inter)National Poetry Month

personal history

a structure, well-worn & outdated,
knows only of its cracks, broken
tiles and pigeon shit, now a feature
of its scaffolding, defining its undying
form (always under repairs) beneath
a piquant-sunlight —

there is something about the grooves
&shapes rising on/from ancient stone
that matches with the listless lines/signs
on my palm, as if comp(l)eting some
of its shadow, an unfinished myth
bypassing&becoming a history that
i could only carry&know in dreams.

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© Anmol Arora

Day 9
(Inter)National Poetry Month