There is a reason I rarely wear eye make-up. Well, besides the fact that I am lazy and hate having to take the blasted stuff off, plus it makes my lashes feel inordinately heavy, which makes me think that it must be time to go to sleep). Mostly, I avoid mascara because, inevitably, it will end up in wet, black tracks down my face. Call it the burden of being an empath.
For as long as I can recall it seems that other peoples troubles weigh on me as heavily as my own. If a friend gets dumped, I grab a pint (of ice cream or beer, I don’t judge) right along with her. When she starts looking for a house, I giddily sign up for house alerts on Zillow. Those closest to me know to never send weepy memes to me without a *Kleenex Warning.*
Yesterday, I made the mistake of reading a mother’s letter to J. K. Rowling. Of course I ugly-cried at my desk and hoped all that walked by might think it nothing more than a bit of spring fever. Even now, when I called my bleary eyed daughter down from bed to read it to her before I left for work, I choked on the words and she had to make an emergency kleenex run before I flooded my keyboard. (I have taught her well.)
This blessing/curse of feeling All The Feelings Ever also happens when I read. As a general rule, I avoid books that contain abducted children for this very reason. (Although I did watch “Room” recently with my eldest child. We both ended up screaming “Jump!” at the screen while we ugly cried together. It was oddly satisfying.)
SPOILER WARNING: THIS THE IS PART WHERE I START TALKING ABOUT OUTLANDER
This All The Feels Ever thing is probably also why I read (and re-re-re-re-read) the Outlander books. It is why I wept mercilessly at the end of Dragonfly in Amber and called over my daughter as I tried to choke through Jamie and Claire’s parting. It is why I rejoiced when they were reunited in Voyager. It is probably why I got so incredibly angry when Lady Sassy-Pants blackmailed Jamie. It is why the sound of the bodhran sent a shock wave up my spine in A Breath of Snow and Ashes. Even now, when I read that bit, I have to read it aloud. And every time, every single time, I get goosebumps:
I sat up, listening hard. It was a drum with a sound like a beating heart, slow and rhythmic, then trip-hammer fast, like the frantic surge of a hunted beast.
I could have told them that Indians never used drums as weapons; Celts did. It was the sound of a bodhran.
What next? I thought, a trifle hysterically, bagpipes?
It was Roger, certainly; only he could make a drum talk like that. It was Roger, and Jamie was nearby.
(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, chapter 28 (“Curses”). Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The All The Feels Ever Thing works both ways–for good and for bad. Sure, after Wentworth I could barely function, but there might have been a good bit or two in the books to help balance that out. *blushes furiously*
*ahem* Moving on…
I’m not sure if the All The Feels Ever thing is genetic or not, but I am fairely sure my mid-kid has it. She recently took to binge-watching Switched at Birth on Netflix. This resulted in her bawling and using an entire box of kleenex when someone was cheated on by someone else. The knowledge that my genetic predisposition would continue on would have been much more endearing if I was not then re-re-reading a certain bodhran scene and had need of kleenex myself.
My husband rolls his eyes at us both and quietly slips off to buy more tissue. He knew early on what he was getting into. He teases me about crying over an old Lifesaver commercial and a certain episode of the Simpsons. Yeah, he knew just fine what I was all about.
I used to wonder about this. This whole All The Feelings Ever thing. But then Outlander, as it so often does, offered me an explanation. In An Echo in the Bone, Claire has to leave her beloved cheetie Adso behind.
“Go on, then,” I said, and set him on the ground. He stood for a moment, tail waving slowly, head raised in search of food or interesting smells, then stepped into the grass and vanished.
I bend, very slowly, arms crossed, and shook, weeping silently, violently.
I cried until my throat hurt and I couldn’t breathe, then sat in the grass, curling into myself like a dried leaf, tears that I couldn’t stop dropping on my knees like the first fat drops of a coming storm. Oh, God. It was only the beginning.
I tubbed my hands hard over my eyes, smearing the wetness, trying to scrub away grief. A soft cloth touched my face, and I looked up, sniffling, to find Jamie kneeling in front me, handkerchief in hand.
“I’m sorry,” he said very softly.
“It’s not–don’t worry, I’m . . . He’s only a cat,” I said, and a small fresh grief tightened like a band round my chest.
“Aye, I know.” He moved beside me and put an arm around my shoulders, pulling my head to his chest, while he gently wiped my face. “But ye couldna weep for the bairns. Or the house. Or your wee garden. Or the poor dead lass and her bairn. But if ye weep for your cheetie, ye know you can stop.”
“How do you know that?” My voice was thick, but the band round my chest was not quite so tight.
He made a small, rueful sound.
“Because I canna weep for those things, either, Sassenach. And I havena got a cat.”
(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE, chapter 12 (“Enough”). Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Maybe I can’t weep for my husband’s heart attack and the resultant health problems. I can’t weep for the mass in my mother’s lung. I can’t weep for the heart tests that my eldest daughter is enduring. If I start, I don’t know that I can stop. But I can find some escape, some joy, and the release of some much needed tears between the pages of a book. And, for that, I am so grateful.