Happy Tears

One of my students Carie told me recently that happy tears flow from the outside corners of the eyes and sad tears flow from the inside of the eyes. We'd been talking about how crying is such a great release, a natural producer of oxytocin. It's why kids always seem so blissed out after a temper tantrum-- it's because all of that crying has given them a flood of the happiness hormone.

I love learning things like that little factoid Carie shared. To be honest, I don't even really care if it's true that happy tears come from the outside corner of the eyes and sad tears come from the inside of the eyes. If I think too hard about whether it is actually a proven fact, I'll start to contemplate duct location and eye anatomy and that takes the romance right out of the concept. So I'm just going with it.

My friend Kate and I facilitate an annual retreat-- Put Some Claws in Your Pause-- honoring the amazing passage into menopause and we always finish the weekend with a recitation of a poem called Santiago by David Whyte. Santiago is a heartbreakingly beautiful recounting of the emotional and spiritual journey of The Camino de Santiago, a 500 mile pilgrimage through Spain and France. Kate cries every time she reads Santiago.

When Carie shared that little fact about tears, an image of Kate popped into my mind. I could imagine her sitting in a circle surrounded by ten other menopausal-aged women facilitating the final moments of our retreat. Smiling out to the group, Kate begins the poem and as she reads, through a steady stream of tears, she uses the index fingers of each hand to gently wipe the tears from the outside corners of her eyes under her glasses. And when the poem is over Kate takes off her glasses and does one big wipe of each eye, clearing away the tears. There is a brief silence as the poem settles in the space around the room and then Kate smiles big.  The joy is palpable and we all smile back at her. Those are some happy tears.