I was very unhappy when Ward Cleaver announced that he would be leaving blogland. I've never met the man. I only know him from the things he's posted about himself. I know what he looks like because about two months before he left, he began posting pictures of himself. But we were friends. It's possible that he was my closest friend at the time, other than Darrin. I had never had anyone--ever--who visited me every day, expressed interest in my family, career, and personal life, and who shared his life with me equally. Granted, this all took place using pseudonyms in cyberspace, but it became a stable, predictable haven for me as I began a terribly difficult journey.
Ward left because his life was becoming too complicated. He was dealing with personal and health issues which would daunt the strongest person. His psychiatrist suggested Ward had become too involved in the imaginary workings in blogland and needed to invest himself more fully in his real life. Ward agreed, and his blog disappeared. We still keep in touch. Ward emails me occasionally, and I've found him online for a chat once or twice in the last few years. But it's not the same, naturally. We're not friends as we were...but perhaps it was all make-believe anyway. My heart doesn't believe that, but it's easily deceived.
It was completely different when The Late Tolkien Boy told me, last September, he was disappearing himself. My guts twisted and I was angry. I wanted to scream, throw a tantrum, hit something, which was very silly of me. Tolkien Boy didn't even write in his blog anymore. There had been a time when the blog was active and was followed by millions of fans--yes, I was one of those--but for nearly a year it had been mostly dormant. But the blog represented an important chapter of my life and was a symbol of something I cherished. There were a couple of posts in the blog dedicated to me, and a story Tolkien Boy had written for me. Somehow, a part of my soul was invested in that tiny piece of cyberspace. Add to that the fact that Tolkien Boy figured prominently in my own blog and if he disappeared, how would I refer to his real, corporeal person when I wrote about him? It was becoming very complicated.
Fortunately, my friend didn't actually complete his blog demise for a couple of months after warning me it would happen, which allowed me to get used to the idea and stop being angry at him. Please remember, I think logically, but that has nothing to do with my feelings which are completely unreasonable, at best.
I mention these two examples because I believe it's time, at least for now, for me to retire. When I discussed my feelings about TB's disappearance with Jason, he mentioned he might feel similarly if I were to discontinue blogging, and perhaps there are others like him who have become accustomed to my copious ramblings and might be a little bit unhappy if I suddenly create a hole in their blogland routine. And so, I will explain my need to go away.
I realized last week that the place which used to be a playground for my words has become my emotional prison. This has happened gradually and because of, I believe, the intense difficulty of the past 18 months. Recent developments in my life, influenced by some things that are happening in the lives of family members and close friends, have led me to a place where I feel unable to escape. Thursday of last week I hit an all-time low. For those who have been following my blog, you have seen me go through extremely difficult times. Always I have regrouped, bounced back, gathered strength and moved forward. Sometimes that process has taken a long time, but in the back of my mind I've known it would happen when the pain subsided and I also knew I was loved and supported which motivated me to keep trying. On Thursday I no longer cared if anyone loved or supported me, and I no longer have the emotional strength to keep dragging myself up when I'm knocked down. Yes, there was a catalyst to this. No, I won't be talking about it.
As my life became unmanageable this time, I thought about blogging, wishing to draw hope from the encouragement which inevitably comes from stalwart friends who check up on me (by the way, I love you! Thank you so much for helping me repeatedly in the past few years). I thought about, and even attempted to talk with friends. I couldn't do it. Finally, I just sat by Darrin and cried. Nervous breakdown? Maybe. I don't know.
I realized that I, as was the case with my sweet friend, Ward, needed to remove myself from this part of my life for a time. I need to immerse myself in reality--whatever that may mean, however painful it is. I need to laugh and grieve and cry and work, and someday I must sleep again. This is a good decision for me.
Today as I ran, a butterfly joined me--the first one this spring. It didn't fly lightly beside me, occasionally crossing in front of me to flutter along on the other side, but instead it circled me as I ran, nearly touching me with its fragile wings. For nearly a quarter of a mile it did this, occasionally moving to fly beside me, then circling close to me again. I found myself gasping with sobs as memories of the things which bring me joy flooded my mind. I'm still alive--I'm going to make it through this. When the butterfly left and the weeping subsided, I waited for my gasping to regulate itself into my regular running rhythm--it didn't. Finally I realized I was sprinting. I don't know how long I'd been running at top speed, but my first couple of miles happened very quickly. I slowed my pace, allowed myself to find my rhythm and dedicated myself to seeing the beauty of immense stretches of blue sky, vivid wildflowers, new prairie grass, and scuttling insects avoiding my pounding feet.
I've been sprinting for more than four years, aided by the gentle, beautiful butterfly wings of online concern and friendships. It's time for me to slow down, look around me, find my rhythm, and move forward. I may come back here some day. I don't know yet and today is not the day for me to make such a decision.
ScienceDaily (Sep. 7, 2009) — Medically, crying is known to be a symptom of physical pain or stress. But now a Tel Aviv University evolutionary biologist looks to empirical evidence showing that tears have emotional benefits and can make interpersonal relationships stronger.
New analysis by Dr. Oren Hasson of TAU's Department of Zoology shows that tears still signal physiological distress, but they also function as an evolution-based mechanism to bring people closer together.
"Crying is a highly evolved behavior," explains Dr. Hasson. "Tears give clues and reliable information about submission, needs and social attachments between one another. My research is trying to answer what the evolutionary reasons are for having emotional tears.
"My analysis suggests that by blurring vision, tears lower defences and reliably function as signals of submission, a cry for help, and even in a mutual display of attachment and as a group display of cohesion," he reports.
His research, published recently in Evolutionary Psychology, investigates the different kinds of tears we shed — tears of joy, sadness and grief — as well as the authenticity or sincerity of the tears. Crying, Dr. Hasson says, has unique benefits among friends and others in our various communities.
For crying out loud (and behind closed doors)
Approaching the topic with the deductive tools of an evolutionary biologist, Dr. Hasson investigated the use of tears in various emotional and social circumstances. Tears are used to elicit mercy from an antagonistic enemy, he claims. They are also useful in eliciting the sympathy — and perhaps more importantly the strategic assistance — of people who were not part of the enemy group.
"This is strictly human," reasons Dr. Hasson. "Emotional tears also signal appeasement, a need for attachment in times of grief, and a validation of emotions among family, friends and members of a group."
Crying enhances attachments and friendships, says Dr. Hasson, but taboos are still there in certain cases. In some cultures, societies or circumstances, the expression of emotions is received as a weakness and the production of tears is suppressed. For example, it is rarely acceptable to cry in front of your boss at work — especially if you are a man, he says.
Streets awash with tears?
Multiple studies across cultures show that crying helps us bond with our families, loved ones and allies, Dr. Hasson says. By blurring vision, tears reliably signal your vulnerability and that you love someone, a good evolutionary strategy to emotionally bind people closer to you.
"Of course," Dr. Hasson adds, "the efficacy of this evolutionary behavior always depends on who you're with when you cry those buckets of tears, and it probably won't be effective in places, like at work, when emotions should be hidden."
Dr. Hasson, a marriage therapist, uses his conclusions in his clinic. "It is important to legitimize emotional tears in relationships," he says. "Too often, women who cry feel ashamed, silly or weak, when in reality they are simply connected with their feelings, and want sympathy and hugs from their partners."
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Adapted from materials provided by Tel Aviv University.
Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead