The tears that do not fall

When I was younger I vowed to stop crying. I was 14 and I had decided that men were not supposed to cry. I can remember the events that led to that decision. I was one of those people who didn't just cry, if I cried it was all encompassing and it just wracked my body.

Not every time, but enough that I felt it in every part of my body. I think that the final moment came as a result of my cousin's funeral. Typically Jewish funerals have a closed casket, but this one didn't. I remember seeing my cousin's body and watching her son cry, he is seven years older than I am and I always looked up to him.

The moment just hit me hard, it rocked my world and I had trouble staying composed. I wasn't scared, just sad, so sad for my cousin and sad for myself. As my grandfather drove me back to the house for shiva I was crying. He didn't condemn me or make me feel badly, he tried to make me feel better. But it was enough that he was not crying.

I didn't understand that his lack of tears was not indicative of a lack of emotion/feeling not to mention that he may have cried, I don't know. But that day I determined that I was through with tears. And for 21 years I have stayed fairly true to that promise.

I was an idiot.

It doesn't take a genius to realize that I crippled part of myself and stunted my ability to mourn the loss of things and people. I am not an emotional cripple or mental midget, so I didn't prevent myself from feeling, all I did was make the process of grieving more difficult.

In the last 21 years there have been a few moments where I shed some tears, but there were not many and it happened when I was completely caught in the moment. As soon as I realized that I was crying they began to stop, I learned how to stop myself far too well.

So now I have been consciously working on reversing this, giving myself permission to cry. I don't want to keep stuffing it back into the cage. I have been known to carry a deep and abiding sadness with me and I think that the lack of tears is part of the reason why.

Some of the women of my past were aware of this and tried to convince me to cry on their shoulders, to let it out. It is not that simple, if it was I could do it on my own. I suspect that some of them were offended that I did not. They took the lack of tears as a lack of trust and I suppose to some extent it was.

But the walls that I built and the towers that maintained their vigil over my mind were not going to be defeated that easily.

I am confident that this is going to change. I think that one of the benefits of maturity and fatherhood is that I see the ability to cry as a sign of strength and not weakness. It still scares me, I haven't sobbed as an adult, but the day is coming.


Rev. Kimberly Rich said...

My grandmothers death unlocked my tears. I have cried more in the last 5 years than I had in the 15 prior. When it comes, hold on, you have alot to release. The power of it will be incredible, but the lightness you will feel afterward will amaze you.

Love and Light

Alice said...

Jack, good man! I support you on this. If you break down the wall, you get to cry out of joy too, which is really fun. This made me think about a lot of stuff. A vicious racist was screwing with me at work for like a year- a few years back. I finally went to my boss and just crumbled as I was walking through his door. I really did not want to react that way! But, he was so touched by my emotions about the situation, as was the next man in charge who was also there, they totally helped me out. It also cemented our relationships in a big way. I thought they'd think I was unprofessional, but it really showed them that I was sincere. So now I know they are two people who will be fantastic references for me. They trust me. And they don't think I'm weak at all.

Jack Steiner said...

Feeling a little bit exposed now, it is awfully cold out here. Hard to put it out there and look at it again.

Alice said...

Hey. No fair. You almost got me with the previous post about your son. No one is judging you. My husband cries. It's no big deal. You are brave and should pat yourself on the back. Right now! Do you want me to make you cry? (mwwahahahah) Go read Hasidic Gentile's Hanukah post.

A Simple Jew said...

Here is a quote on the subject that I thought you would appreciate:

"One sincere tear is a source of salvation in the world." (Rabbi Aryeh Levin of Jerusalem)

Jack Steiner said...

Hi Simple Jew,

I like that, thank you.


Thank you, I appreciate it. It is just a hard topic for me.

Jack Steiner said...

Hi BB,

No problem at all.

Stacey said...

I was touched by the honesty and sentiment in your post (actually, in both of the last 2).

I hope that you are able to eventually let go and let it out.

I do not cry often, but unlike you, I am able to. My problem is that when I do cry I don't usually feel better - often worse. I don't know -- perhaps each of us has our own unique way of displaying and emoting grief and sadness, which isn't necessarily limited to crying.

PsychoToddler said...

I cry all the time now. And like a guy, I try to cover it up as soon as it happens.

I cry whenever I hear "American Pie," specifically the verse that goes: I met a girl that sang the blues, and I asked her for some happy news, she just smiled and turned away (I'm getting misty typing this).

I cry watching Toy Story 2.

I cried this weekend watching Fiddler on the Roof, during the "Do you love me" number. While eating pizza. I told my wife it was too spicy.

I cried during my son's Bar Mitzvah, when he finished layning. People kept coming up to shake my hands. I tried to look up at the ceiling alot.

I think that you just reach a point where you get a lot of emotional baggage locked up inside, and it just takes some key to trigger the tears. For whatever reason, these things work for me. I'm not depressed or anything. It's just a subconcious connection.

Nonedone said...

Hey, great post. Had me glued throughout. Makes a lot of sense. And it's extremely brave of you to open yourself up like that. Very gutsy.

As far as crying or sadness goes. I went through a lot of heartbreak years ago, and I was convinced of "The Beauty of Being Numb". I realised then that it's a ridiculous theory. Surpressing sadness is the same as surpressing hapiness. In a way, it's running away from the negative, instead of taking it head on. Good to know that you're looking sadness in the eye and saying "Do your worst!"

Renegade Rebbetzin said...

Hey, Jack -
Fascinating and intense post. A lot of other bloggers seem to think so too. At the risk of having MOChassid roll his eyes at my Jewish music tastes (I like the "good" stuff too, MO!! OK???), this post totally reminds me of a Journeys song, I think on the second tape (that's Journeys, not Journey, although I like them also :-)), called "The Teardrop" - when you say you are working on giving yourself "permission to cry," it reminds me of the last line of the song, which is "the heavens had told her, it's alright to cry." Now granted, the song is about an elderly, widowed, and destitute Holocaust survivor who never allowed herself to cry because she saw it as demonstrating a lack of faith, but I think the theme is similar to yours. And if you're looking for something to jump-start your own tears, I can offer you the tip that personally, I ALWAYS bawl like a baby when I hear that song!
Thanks so much for sharing. And my personal rule - no crying on Chanukah. :-)

Jack Steiner said...

Hi RenReb,

Thanks for the tip on the music, I appreciate it. I'll have to check them out.

BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

This is my first time posting on your blog.

What a heatfelt and beautiful post.

Sometimes it takes even more time to knock down a wall, then to built it up. I am sure one day, the foundation will crack before your eyes.

Jack Steiner said...

Hi Barbara,


Miladysa said...

The tears will come, it may take some time. I think that tears heal.

Jack Steiner said...

All things in their time,I suppose.

Anonymous said...

This is one of my favorite posts of yours. From a woman's perspective, I was saddened by your paragraph about the women of your past trying to convince you to cry, not because of your reaction, but because of theirs. I learned long ago that many of us, men and women, need to be alone or at least have the illusion of being alone to let those tears out. Sometimes the offer of a compassionate shoulder is the least helpful. Sometimes a loud shower or an empty house is safest.

I'm glad you are coming, or have now come, to see tears as friends rather than traitors. And that they're not the only way of expressing that deep and abiding sadness. Writing is clearly one way you have of expressing it, too.

Thank you for trusting us.

Jack Steiner said...

Hi Rivka,


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