A tearful (sob) tale !

If I’m going to cry I want it to be when I’m laughing. I think that may be one of my favourite pleasures, to laugh till I cry… but it’s not something that can be planned… such moments seize us out of the blue, and swoop down without any warning. And then it’s bliss…I love it – having laughed my way not just to good health but to aching sides and streaming eyes.

Tears come more easily to some than others… my tear ducts are the sort that let me down and embarrass me constantly… it was about the only thing I had in common with Princess Diana, being neither blonde, rich, thin, Royal or any of the other things she was…. but she cried easily… she cried waving goodbye to her fiancée when he flew off to NZ for a couple of weeks, she cried, bless her, when the band played God Bless the Prince of Wales on her honeymoon, and she cried among other times, when she was complimented on her work on the day her separation was announced. By contrast her sister-in-law Princess Anne has only gone on record crying once… when she waved farewell to any more cruises on the royal yacht Britannia as it was de-commissioned.

The tough and the strong are sometimes tempted to despise we weaker vessels, and that’s when tears are so humiliating, if we forget that some of the sweetest moments in life, and the most memorable, are those which move us to tears. Tears are one of the things that make us human beings – though I have watched that heart-breaking video when an elephant who had been starved and beaten for fifty years was finally freed, and he wept – rivers of tears slowly trickling down his wrinkled old grey cheeks -and I wept too.

So yes, tears reveal us as feeling human beings… and though times of hormonal change… those teenage years, pregnancy, post-natal months, menopause, depression, even the wrong medical drugs can cause unexpected floods of tears, nevertheless, tears should not be sniffed at. A baby’s tears are his only means of showing his hunger, hurt, fear, anger, discomfort, insecurity and other problems…. but as we grow older and find less direct forms of communication, tears assume a different place in our lives.

They still mark emotions like fear, misery, anger, grief, hurt, but as we grow older – joy too. So why does our culture sneer at tears and try to train children not to cry, with the jeer: ‘cry baby’ or ‘softie’ being an allowed insult in the playground or even worse: ‘don’t be such a girl’.

When I landed in New Zealand in the middle of winter many years ago, my luggage two small children, tears of fright flowed behind my huge black sunglasses in spite of all my efforts at control. And there have been many other moments since when tears marked unforgettable moments of joy and sorrow… including watching first my children, and then my grand-children’s nativity plays… I cried when I watched my tall, skinny thirteen year old son walking away from his childhood into ‘big’ school, head and shoulders above the others his age… at my daughter’s wedding, and my grandchild’s christening… a perfect watering can.

‘Don’t cry when you say goodbye to us’, my eight year old daughter had said before they took off across the world to see their father. So I smiled and waved, and tried to pretend tears weren’t coursing down my cheeks in great rivers. Later, the exquisite voice of Joan Sutherland singing in concert brought tears to my eyes and to many others. Few of us could define what these involuntary tears were triggered by but they were precious, and the moments memorable. I’ve heard other great singers in person including the incomparable Kathleen Battle, but none of them drew that spontaneous tribute.

When my first baby was born the midwife who delivered her did so in floods of tears… she said she always cried when a baby was born. Now, tenderised by life, I know what she means. I only have to see a new born to feel those tears start gushing. It’s hard not feel embarrassed or humiliated by these ever-ready tear ducts.

I am famous in the family for beginning to cry in the cinema at the beginning of a film. As the credits went up on the film ‘The Young Winston’… the traditional ride of the Adjutant on his white horse, up the flight of steps to the library at the end of the Passing- Out Parade at Sandhurst filled me with such nostalgia for my military childhood that I was lost at the first frame.

And I remember lingering in the cinema loo mopping my eyes with my best friend as we tottered out after Disney’s ‘Old Yeller’ (about a Labrador) had ended, ravaged with tears and nearly blinded with clogged mascara. I can go to a funeral of someone I hardly know, as a courtesy to a family member, and become a tearful wreck… not quite sure whether I’m crying in sympathy with those who are really mourning, whether tears are contagious like yawns, or whether I’m touching into old and forgotten griefs.

In the end it’s animals who really pull the heart-strings and have provoked so many gallons of tears I could fill buckets with them … I was ten when I wept over the shooting of the ponies in the film ‘Scott of the Antarctic’… blow the men dying heroically in the snow, it was the ponies I cried over. The deaths of our fifteen or more rescued dogs and a cat was always a tear- streaked nightmare over the years, and it isn’t just me who’s reduced to an emotional wreck by animals.

On one particular personal growth course, a man who had remained unmoved by harrowing moments supposed to break down our innermost defences, went home one night to find his precious bull terrier fighting for her life, and losing it in child birth. The next day, as he told us all about his beloved ‘Maggie’, he dissolved into heart- broken sobs, as did all the women and most of the strong men in the room. Loved animals in distress can make even the toughest weep.

Broken with grief, this man was then able to do the inner work he had come for, the tears had dissolved his emotional barriers, and he became a softer, kinder, warmer person overnight. So in spite of the superiority of those who have well controlled tear ducts, it does seem that weeping is good for the soul, even though it’s terrible for the complexion. Doesn’t seem to matter whether we’re weeping from laughter or weeping from grief, or weeping from any other emotion, tears seem to loosen us up.

Yet mostly, tears don’t seem to come in the moments of great crisis… then the mind is focussed. Shock and intense attention keep us icy cold, functioning unhampered by anguish or emotion… so maybe tears are a bit like Wordsworth’s definition of poetry: emotion recollected in tranquillity, but in the case of tears: emotion when there’s time for it. I rather treasure the words of Kahlil Gibran, who puts tears and laughter into perspective, as ever… that they are both – in the pompous self-mocking phrase of a friend – part of ‘life’s rich pageant’!

Gibran says: “I would not exchange the laughter of my heart for the fortunes of the multitudes; nor would I be content with converting my tears, invited by my agonized self, into calm. It is my fervent hope that my whole life on this earth will ever be tears and laughter.”

So weepers of the world – unite! Hang onto your sodden tissues, and leave off your mascara. Don’t feel intimidated by the stiff upper lips or cold embarrassment of stronger mortals, our ability to cry at the drop of a hat means that we’re living, breathing, sentient beings,
Yours tearfully…


Food for threadbare gourmets

A friend for supper on a cold winter’s night meant that I wanted to spoil her with comfort food, and what more comforting than blackberry and apple crumble?

I had the apples, and a tin of blackberries, though I prefer fresh or frozen, and also often use boysenberries instead. I tipped the cold, cooked sliced apples and the blackberries into a pie dish, with plenty of juice, and sugar to taste; then the crumble was spread on top, baked in a moderate oven for forty minutes, tested with a knitting needle to make sure the crumble was cooked, and served with cream… delicious and she loved it.
The trick is the crumble… eight ounces of flour, four ounces of cold butter, grated and mixed with the flour, six ounces of brown sugar, the grated rind of a lemon, and two ounces of ground almonds. Mixed altogether, it only takes a few minutes to prepare, and not much more to eat!


Food for thought

All children long for recognition and acceptance of their essence – secretly so do most adults. The insistent question inside all of us is: do you see me, not only my body, but my essence; the gifts, potential, needs, wounds, character and quality of soul that shape me individually?
Professor Richard Whitfield


Filed under animals/pets, army, babies, british soldiers, consciousness, cookery/recipes, family, films, food, happiness, humour, love, princess diana, royalty, self knowledge, spiritual, Thoughts on writing and life, uncategorised

49 responses to “A tearful (sob) tale !

  1. This is so true! Laughter is the best medicine, and we don’t do enough of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a deep and moving post from a very soulful person. Made me teary!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Cindy, how lovely to hear from you.. thank you… I really value those words… you write the words and you have no idea if they will really reach others… so your comment if very affirming…dry those tears.. you don’t want to smudge your mascara !!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Anne of Green Gables: “But pearls are for tears, the old legend says,” Gilbert had objected.
    “I’m not afraid of that. And tears can be happy as well as sad. My very happiest moments have been when I had tears in my eyes—when Marilla told me I might stay at Green Gables—when Matthew gave me the first pretty dress I ever had—when I heard that you were going to recover from the fever. So give me pearls for our troth ring, Gilbert, and I’ll willingly accept the sorrow of life with its joy.” -Anne”


  4. I love your tears. Mine are a blinkin’ nuisance. They stem from a streaming cold but I guess these tears, too, are necessary for healing and well-being.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am so with you in tears – from hilarity to the slightest sad thing. I’m sure I have read something “scientific” about the benefit of tears, their composition and the importance of them to our well-being.
    I have been a “sensitive” type since a very young age…I just figure nowadays it is just who I am. Perhaps we should invest in the companies who make tissues!!!! Ha ha :-)) Thanks for your honest post!


  6. Great to hear from you and know that I’m one of the IN -crowd !
    You’re right, why didn’t I think of it .. when I have a few dollars to spare,( not often ) I’ll invest them in the greatest advance in technology since the sodden handkerchief…


  7. Cry on, such a wonderful release.!
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx


  8. In my youth, when cowboys were the in thing, ‘cowboys don’t cry’ was a strong incentive not to. Or, at least, never to be seen doing it. I would retire in private to listen to Grieg’s ‘Morning’ (still gets to me) or re-read ‘Jenny’ by Paul Gallico (ditto).


    • Paul Gallico, yes… what about ‘The Snow Goose’… and did you ever read Black Beauty – that was a killer for most girls of my generation… not sure about the boys !!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • There was that brilliant BBC dramatization of ‘The Snow Goose, too – a certain tear-jerker. Thomasina also had its moments! ‘Black Beauty’ actually got banned in SA during Apartheid days – somehow I don’t think the censor actually read it!
        Boys of my disposition only went teary at the animal ones.


      • How funny ( tragic) about Black Beauty… I’ve just been reading that HG Wells called Black Beauty ‘ that soundly Anglican horse ‘ which I thought delicious and somehow true !!!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Margot Wilson

    Your blog always reflects a lot of what I want to say but cannot put into words.
    I had a tear in my eye yesterday at my 9 year old Granddaughters summer fayre with her dancing with the group at school who were the winners. I am sure I will have hidden tears when our four year old grandson starts school in September we will miss our Thursdays looking after him. His Granddad might also have a hidden tear, but not Thomas he will be excited.
    I remember starting school at five and being told “soldiers daughters do not cry” so I didn’t. I was told that on many occasions. I did not bring my children up to be like that. I still tend to have a stiff upper lip in public (must be inborn) but my family and close friends know the real me.


    • I always love your comments Margot… they usually remind me of my past too… including the being a soldier’s daughter, and having to be brave !!!
      Make the most of your grandson… I envy you still having littlies… mine are all taller than me now!!


  10. Anonymous

    For my dear friend’s big birthday I gave her a sound tape of different important people in her life talking about how important she is to them. When it became my turn to speak into the microphone my voice broke. I asked the interviewer if I could start again. He said, “No leave it the way it is: it is more real and shows your feelings.” So tears can show your true, unrehearsed, unedited feelings.


    • Dear Ronnie, lovely to hear from you… I am a follower of your blog too, and have enjoyed your insights. what a lovely comment… yes, tears definitely reveal the real person !


  11. You remind me, tears are not for the weak but for the strong. Thank you for the reminder. Loved this one my friend.


  12. I heard the sound of your tears and I cried with you.



  13. I am NOT anonymous, but a long time follower of your blog, Valerie.
    Ronnie Hammer: morristownmemos.wordoress.com.


  14. I am at Starbucks reading your amazing post. And my tears are flowing. Dear old Yeller. Remember the quote by Colette: “It’s so curious: one can resist tears and ‘behave’ very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer… and everything collapses.”


  15. It’s a crying shame that so many interpret tears as weakness. To cry is human and to let the tears flow freely is a sign that a person is comfortable revealing their tender side. That’s courage. And, as you point out with your examples, it’s not always possible to control what we reveal–the tears come whether we want them to or not. I can’t hold them back–whether they are for sadness or joy. They come and I’ve learned to just let them because trying to hold them back is painful and disingenuous.

    Wonderful post. And I have a woman-love thing for Princess Di, too! 🙂


    • I loved your comment, Lorna… so true… and such a g ft to know you enjoyed the blog… You too – re Princess Diana… I still miss all the fun and fashion she treated us to !!!


  16. Dear Valerie,

    Your post literally moved me to tears. I, too, am an easy crier. Thank you.




  17. Thank you Rochelle, we obviously belong to the same club !!!


  18. Sorrow doesn’t easily make me cry, but music can, especially if it means a lot to me.

    I think anyone who doesn’t laugh and cry is not living life fully as humans are meant to. I think of some religious groups (not all – indeed not most) where people are so determined to be happy, it seems that to cry would undermine all they stand for – and I take that tearlessness as a mark of deep error!


    • I agree with every word… I once had to write an essay for my A-levels that laughter and tears are never very far apart… I’ve constantly gone back to that thought in the sixty odd years since !!!


  19. I read this last week when we were traveling, but got interrupted just as I was about to comment. Wonderful writing about a facet of humans seldom discussed and even more seldom, understood. I cry more since the birth of our daughter, 27 years ago now. I especially cry when I see someone in hospital or who is sick, and I don’t know why that is. It makes me feel quite useless because I’m sure they don’t want to see someone crying, but there you are. I think tears are a wonderful, healing aspect of ourselves, and your post a very good reminder. Thank you.


  20. Juliet

    Valerie, what a beautiful eulogy to the healing power of tears. Thank you.


  21. Juliet, how lovely to hear from you.. thank you for your generous comment – as ever…
    Are we ever going to get together again???????????


  22. Such a beautiful post, Valerie…thank-you!


  23. I’m a crier too Valerie – and as you say it’s often animals that provoke the worst tears from me – I avoid reading or watching stories about animals if I suspect there’s going to be that sad moment when the animal is hurt or dies.


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