Thursday, April 24, 2014


Like almost everything else in my life, I do not respond to emotions in the way most people do. For the most part, emotions run roughshod over me. I tear up to music, and to anything I consider truly touching or sad...or joyous. I "wear my heart on my sleeve," as they say, and I puddle up at the most inopportune moments. But interestingly, while my emotions feel free to run my life--especially anger, rage, and frustration--they refuse to respond when I really want them to. I seem to have a built in "kill switch" within me, which totally ignores me when I want to show them.

With every single curtain call of Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake, which I saw ten times, I rose to my feet with the rest of the audience and wanted nothing more than to shout my approval as many others were doing. But I could not. Clapping wildly was as far as my emotions would let me go. At any number of public events, when the rest of the crowd is rocking back and forth, and waving their arms, I stand there. Just stand there. I want more than anything in the world to do as everyone else around me is doing, yet I cannot.

I weep, but I do not cry. My heart and soul respond, but my body refuses.

A friend just forwarded me a video of an English boy's chorus singing "Going Home." I watched it for some reason thinking of my now dead friend and former partner, Norm. I knew, in light of this, what my reaction would be and sure enough, with the first chords, I started to cry. "Started" being the operative word. I wanted to cry; I really did. I needed to cry...I needed a wracking, shoulders-shaking, uncontrollable, gasping for air cry, to wash out all the suppressed sadness and terrible sense of loss, not just for Norm but for all the losses of my life; for all the times I've wanted and needed so badly to really, really cry. But I couldn't. Something inside my brain slammed the door shut on my emotions, and that was it. I stopped crying.

The last real, real cry I can remember was at the funeral of my beloved Uncle Buck, my mom's brother. It was 1953 and I was in college. I got through the funeral with no problem until we got up to file past the casket. I didn't make it to the end of our row before I literally fell apart. It was soul-wrenching, and I've not had another like it since. I suspect it may be because I could not let both my mind and my body grieve to the same degree at the same time. So I simply lock my body out of the equation.

When my dad died in 1968, as I was flying back to Rockford for the funeral, I wrote a eulogy for him, and the tears ran down my face, but I did not truly cry. I was in a public place. Crying is not permitted. Men don't cry. (Of all the lessons our society teaches us, the inviolable rule that "men don't cry" is without question one of the most egregiously foolish and inhumane.) I am fascinated  and deeply moved when I see men crying on the news. I inevitably tear up and experience a lump in my throat, but I cannot join them in expressing their sadness.
The day my mother died, I returned from the hospital and went on with my day. When my roommate/then partner came home, I told him in almost an "oh, and by the way" manner, and we had dinner and watched TV and went to bed. After a few minutes I got up and went into the other bedroom, and I cried.  This was my mother, who I loved more than anyone else in the world. And yet even then the door soon slammed shut on my tears, and try though I might, I could not reopen it.

When my beloved Aunt Thyra...Uncle Buck's wife...died in 1973, I don't remember whether I cried or not. Probably a bit, but far more on the inside. I remember my cousin Tom, about 12 years younger than I, leaning against his car and sobbing uncontrollably. I felt for him. I understood him. I wanted to join him. But I could not.

To this day I have not really cried for Ray, who, despite the softened light of time which blurs the sharp edge of reality that he died of alcohol-induced AIDS some sixteen years ago, I consider to have been the love of my life. I do wish I could.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is also available as an audiobook (


Kage Alan said...

I've cried watching videos of soldiers returning home and their dogs jumping up in their arms, but haven't been able to cut loose about my father's condition, my husband's father's passing, and several others.

I want to. I feel I physically need to, only my body feels the need to deny me that release. Not sure why.

Dorien Grey said...

Thinking it over, Kage, I think that it may be a fear that, were we to let our grief loose, we couldn't control it.