“You better choose how you shed your tears wisely. They soon run out.”
My grandmother was not always the best in giving lovable admonitions but she was great at getting straight to the point. And while her advice was less than scientific, she did have a reason for dishing it out.
See, God gave the women in my family defective tear ducts. We can cry at the drop of a dime or at the sound of babies crying. We are a mess at everything from weddings to kindergarten graduations. We just are.
Now, it’d be easy to chalk all the running mascara and puffy eyes to genetics, but all it takes is one look at my grandmother while we are in the midst of our tear fests to know that that would be a lie. My grandmother told me once that I had a blessed childhood and was lucky to be able to cry at whim. Apparently, when she was younger tears were luxuries. So by my count (I’ve been keeping it since the first summer I spent in Spanish Town) that’s liquor, rice, canned sausages, sardines, Milo, all American goods and tears.
Following my grandmother’s rhetoric, frugality can be applied not only to imported goods but to emotions as well. And while her guidance may have seemed rough around the edged at the time, it turns out she was, once again, right. Reporting on a new study from the Journal of Research in Personality (which actually does exist, I promise), TIME writer Meredith Melnick explains that crying is not nearly as cathardic as once thought. In fact, in the study 61% of the women said that crying did not make them feel any better.
Still, tears serve a purpose, and not in the windshield liquid model my grandmother explained to me as a little girl. They are meant for us to show emotion, they just don’t heal the source of the pain we feel. They are a great indicator of our ability to feel deeply. And as deeply as you can feel pain, you can feel joy resonate through your soul as well.
The poet, Khalil Gibran writes:
“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”
Today, know that tears don’t heal but they can dig a trench. Allow that new space to fill with joy and feel it as deeply as you had your pain.