Published in The Kathmandu Post
I missed it, that sensation of immense relief, the loosening of inner muscles, the flushing away of months of toxic hormones that life deposits inside you.
It was during my nineteenth year that I first noticed a change in pattern, in the pattern of my crying. It happened at an age which is marked by great upheavals and transitions anyway. And in my case, there were two: displacement (from Nepal) and loss (my grandmother’s death). After a prolonged sickness, my grandmother passed away in May and I left for the United States three months later, in mid-August. It had been a summer of mixed emotions; the death further complicated the departure.
Perhaps because there were so much internal chaos to deal with when I started college life in a new country; perhaps because, during the day, everything I experienced - people, places, events - was so new and so confusing, my body found its release at night. That was when the crying took place. Night time crying is nothing new, you might say. But the way it happened was rather remarkable.
I clearly remember the first time. I woke up suddenly inside my American dorm room, after seeing my grandmother in my dreams, and promptly started to cry. The tears seemed to come from a distant, unknown place, just like the images that had visited me at night. It was as if the tears were some kind of mysterious messengers, conveying more than a reminder about my grandmother’s life. For example, the messengers didn’t emerge out of a particular emotion, like sadness, or an erratic event. Their message wasn’t totally clear, but they provided comfort, a gentle relaxation. So I was grateful for them. After a series of sobs and sequences of sighs, I was even able to go back to sleep.
This pattern continued throughout college, this pattern of random, unexpected crying, when biology collaborated with emotions to flush out my heart and mind. It was sporadic, but the crying happened always in the middle of nights, always in response to dreams, dreams that often featured my grandmother.
Then there was another change. I moved to New York and got a job. Real life started. I worked, I played and I drank. I also stopped crying. There was a particularly prolonged period, a period that lasted for maybe three years when I didn’t cry even once. I was, after all, a man fully in charge of my own life, too busy to pay attention to my emotions. It was also easy to look outward rather than inward. I was, after all, living in a big city. There was entertainment everywhere. There were all kinds of distractions. My schedule was set. I managed my life well. I didn’t have time to cry.
What was happening was a complex intermingling of habits and lifestyle, an increasing reliance on drinking and night-outs and a gradual suppression of darker emotions that bubbled inside, beneath all the noise and laughter.
“Alcohol cements negative emotions,” a friend told me a few years later. It was true. I drank whenever I felt stressed, sad or lonely. Alcohol made life fun, socializing easier, but on the other hand, made it equally difficult to look at my blossoming adulthood and plan ahead, to face uncertain situations or disturbing emotions. So the emotions that needed release sank further down into my organs, making the fibres harder, almost brittle, making me unable to cry.
I missed it, that sensation of immense relief, the loosening of inner muscles, the flushing away of months of toxic hormones that life deposits inside you. I yearned for tears, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t cry. I had forgotten how to. It was as if I had lost an intricate password to my inner self. So many years of hiding under alcohol’s thin, sparkling veil, years of quick-fixing and self-medicating my fears and anxieties had disconnected me.
I am reconnecting and relearning. It started with my decision to return to Nepal, to swim through cold, giant waves and rest for many hours. To sleep long and dream. To gift myself many solitary afternoons and quiet, sober nights. I do drink now and then, but it is not my default choice. I do share wine and whiskey with friends, but I don’t rely on alcohol to feel better. I have found ways to find peace solely with myself. It is only in this state of clarity that I have been able to get a closer look at the battles raging inside me.
When I do encounter patches of emotional chaos, I know that it is also a part of a process. Sometimes it is my body refusing to do the long, hard work of letting difficult feelings pass through; sometimes it is my mind wanting to relapse back to old, easy habits.
But it happened recently. A few nights ago, the crying happened after a dream. It was a dream that provided glimpses of my previous life in New York, evoking, once again, a sensation of loss and displacement, in the same way that my grandmother had done during those college years.
The tears came, those dear messengers. They returned, carrying once again, mystical messages, messages that came from deep distances, announcing, perhaps, the start of a new season, some kind of new beginning.