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  • She was wrong. Last week, when she lectured me on being strong, she was wrong.

    "Are you drunk?" she asked.

    "What? No," I replied as I wiped the tears from my face and turned back to the band. Not drunk, I was overwhelmed by the world and the weekend that wrecked me.

    "Yesterday, you seemed like such a strong, independent woman and this morning, I saw you cry," she said hours later, shaking her head. "You shouldn't do that."

    I considered protesting but let the feeling pass. It didn't matter. The woman, the girl, did not know me, from whence I came or where I was going. She didn't know why I cried nor did she ask. She simply saw tears as a sign of weakness and I saw that as a weakness in her.

    As a babe, I had surgery to open my tear ducts; perhaps the doctors went a bit too far. Tears come easily to me, frequently filling my eyes.

    Yesterday, I cried over boots and notes left at the base of the Wall. An empty bottle of Mad Dog. A leather jacket. An old, worn hat. I cried over boys barely grown into men and men that I knew, a place that we'd been so many years apart and the people I met there. I cried over the futility of war, of duty and honor and wondering why.

    Yesterday, I cried quietly by myself in a huge group of people at the Wall but I wasn't alone. Others cried, too. It was good. It was right. It was Memorial Day weekend and a time for remembering those who didn't come home. I visited the Wall, the World War II and Korean War memorials. I watched the endless circling of Rolling Thunder's motorcycles, hearing them, feeling them in my soul.

    Yesterday, I walked miles and miles and miles to see the flags at Arlington National Cemetery and the Marines ever righting the flag at Iwo Jima.

    Yesterday, I cried. My nose ran. I ended the day with snot on my jeans, a blister on my little toe and almost too much sun on my face. I felt the weight of the world "for there is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one's own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels with someone, for someone, a pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes," Milan Kundera wrote in The Unbearable Lightness of Being and I felt the weight of the world.

    I bore it.

    Maybe the doctors went too far. Maybe I am "nah am Wasser gebaut sein" (built close to the water). Tears come easily to me, but they do not make me weak. They make me human and in that, in my humanity, I find my greatness strength.

    "If we didn't have strong feelings, how could we love or fight?" Robert Liparulo wrote in Watcher in the Woods and for James Baldwin, "The things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive."

    Yesterday, I cried at the Wall. Today, the tears came with a film about a man taking the remains of a fallen soldier home. Tomorrow, I will likely cry over something else. A beautiful sunrise. Black swans on a lake. The weight of a baby sleeping, her breath on my throat, her tiny form curled into my breast.

    "Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before – more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle," Charles Dickens wrote in Great Expectations.

    I hope I am never ashamed of my tears. I hope that I never take the advice of someone who thinks that I should be. She was wrong.
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