cheese barely staying on cracker



Event: Hear the song “Fireflies” on the radio in car. Remember Lucy did her first ice skating recital to this song, dressed as a firefly.

Reaction: Break down in tears and bonk my head on the steering wheel

Event: Watch Mac Rogers play Frankenstein Upstairs where main character says, “Oh yes, death is the enemy. We love it when we vanquish our enemy.”

Reaction: Silently fight back tears in audience, furtively hunt for Kleenex

Event: Contestant on “So You Think You Can Dance” finally makes it into the Top 20 after her family gave up everything to get her to the audition

Reaction: Hang back behind stairwell so Tessa and Lucy don’t have to deal with me crying

Event: Watch the Symphony of Science video “We Are All Connected”:

Reaction: Eyes fill with tears wondering how close I might have been to being utterly disconnected from the universe

Event: See entire episode of Treehouse Masters where Pete Nelson builds an Irish cottage treehouse for a couple in Orange County, CA.

Reaction: Cry because the woman does when she finally sees the finished product

Event: Seeing my daughter utterly engrossed in the audiobook playing on the car stereo, leaning on my mom’s dog Hildy, completely mesmerized by narrative fiction as she always is.


Reaction: Feel lucky I’m wearing sunglasses so nobody can see the water coming out of my eyes as I think how unbelievably lucky I am

Event: Alone in the car with my wife traveling up the BQE, she tells me about the conversations she had with my parents as I worsened in the hospital.

Reaction: Cannot speak for sobbing, still so confused about how to go on from here, still so overwhelmed, wondering when I won’t be such a quivering mess anymore


21 thoughts on “cheese barely staying on cracker

  1. Laura

    It’s All Right to Cry – Free to Be You and Me
    [Performed by Rosey Grier]
    It’s all right to cry
    Crying gets the sad out of you
    It’s all right to cry
    It might make you feel better
    Raindrops from your eyes
    Washing all the mad out of you
    Raindrops from your eyes
    It’s gonna make you feel better
    It’s all right to feel things
    Though the feelings may be strange
    Feelings are such real things
    And they change and change and change
    Sad ‘n’ grumpy, down in the dumpy
    Snuggly, hugly, mean ‘n’ ugly
    Sloppy, slappy, hoppy, happy
    Change and change and change
    It’s all right to know
    Feelings come and feelings go
    It’s all right to cry
    It might make you feel better
    It’s all right to cry, little boy
    I know some big boys that cry too

  2. Alyson

    That is so hard, when your urge to cry is so close to the surface. It happened to me right after I had my daughter. I know some of it was hormonal, but some of it was just from having been in that space where life begins. I can imagine that being at the other end of that space can do that, too. I wish I could help. I can only tell you that when you are crying at So You Think You Can Dance, I am probably crying at The Next Food Network Star at the same time. Go easy on yourself. It’ll get better.

  3. Salem

    Sure, but it’s so much easier to sob when your lungs work. Might as well take’em out for a spin. :)

  4. Emily D

    I agree with Alyson; going through childbirth changed me from a person who rarely cried to someone who finds herself on the verge of tears (most often happy/grateful ones, fortunately) at least once a day. I think it must be a response some of us have to coming so close to the perilous border between life and death, and gaining a firsthand understanding of just how fragile this all is. The effect is still with me after 2 kids and over a decade of parenthood, though it has definitely tempered with time.
    Finding oneself crying over a FB post, song on the radio or the latest “It Gets Better” video on YouTube does take some getting used to, I’ll grant you. It’s always good to have waterproof mascara and kleenex on hand. :)

  5. Stooly Drumpy

    Ok, I wants to play.
    Event: Eat lots of beans all at one time.
    Reaction: My butt has a toot parade! Toot toot!

  6. Tammy

    When my dad finished all his chemo and radiation after beating back lung cancer the first time, he cried almost continuously for at least a month after it. He wore dark glasses a lot, which he never did before. It did subside, and he moved into a more joyful place where he embraced all the opportunities he had to live his life–to appreciate it more than he had before, as we all did. We were all so thankful, especially him. He appreciated life in a way that most of take for granted everyday. Namaste.

  7. noj

    re: crying…i have spent the past 10 years or so discovering my inner crier. having kids is what set me off. i literally had not teared up for 10 years prior to joslyn being born. now i’ll tear up at unlikely songs + movies twice a week. i just try to think of it as flexing my long-since-atrophied crying muscles and try to accept crying as a fundamental part of the human experience.

  8. m.e.

    Dearest Ian,
    What a wonderful gift you have given us with this post. I will be sharing “Symphony of Science” for sure.
    The other comments so far are so wise and heartfelt.
    I sit here reading what you write and remember the years I couldn’t speak about anything meaningful without crying. You may remember I got choked up during the time my piece was “workshopped” in Positano…So I am your sister in blubbering.
    But I am also a practitioner of 5-Element Chinese Acupuncture and without going into the cosmic explanation, our Lungs are part of the Metal element which connects us to the Father and the Divine Sparkle within. The ability to grieve and to connect comes from this aspect. In Chinese medicine, the skin is considered the third lung…..hence, “thin skinned”? Having gone through such an extreme event as your acute pneumonia, none of what you are describing, the tears, fragility, exhaustion, wonder and more, is surprising to me. As I have said before, I would love to get my needles into you to support and coax you in your recovery. But it will happen. Knowing you, this is a period of enormous learning and life-changing perspective, even if you feel at times that you are stumbling blindly along. You are a prince and we are all learning so much from your sharings. Do let me know when/if you are ready to be guided to a practitioner of 5-E medicine. “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” ;-) xoxo

  9. Fred the Rabbit

    I guess the profound question is, what do you do with this newfound knowledge… this uninvited perspective… this eye-opening, life-changing, life-giving experience?

  10. CM

    Cheese on the cracker is highly over-rated! For some of us, cheese anywhere near the cracker is a hit. Emotions being so close to the surface is a wonderful thing ~ embracing your loved ones and fully drinking in your own humanity is a valuable experience. You will heal, but you will never be the same. Make art!

  11. jje

    I admire your honesty. I still have faith that you will be coming back to us, with New Radiant Action.
    And now I’m crying over the Grier singalong going on in my head. Love F2BU&M. Long live the crazy kids of the 70s!
    And yes, cheese near the cracker is a fine, fine day.

  12. Joanna

    I started crying a few weeks ago in yoga. Not just the normal inconspicuous tearing up during savasana, but streaming tears during sun salutations. I debated whether I could wipe them away and control myself or should book it to the bathroom before anyone noticed. And then. I rose from my forward fold, “reach up, arch back,” to meet the eyes of the woman across the room from me (2 sides of the room face each other in my class). She, too, had tears streaming down her cheeks and I can’t explain the comfort, the “okayness” I felt at that moment.
    Your sharing has given that comfort. I am SO sorry you are going through this, but as long as you are, there is immeasurable value to others in your honesty.
    Life is wonderful and it is awful and sometimes more one than the other, but always both. Rather than assure everyone that we’re okay, that all is fine, it is so refreshingly true to admit that actually a lot hurts. Thank you, sweet Ian. I hope your time with friends and family this week helps you feel the wonderful a little more. XO

  13. Meredith

    I have not paid much attention to my RSS feeds in anticipation of Reader being put to sleep. Imagine my surprise when I opened it on Sunday and found 16 posts leading up to and detailing your illness.
    I am so sorry. I cried at Tessa’s heartfelt updates and felt her pain through her words.
    I have nothing to add, no grand gesture to make except to say that I am glad you are ok.
    I found this today and thought of this post:
    PENSILENT (Pensive + Silent)- adj. disinterested in explaining to another how you are feeling. via @TheEmotionary
    Best Wishes.

  14. Katie in NC

    Ian, I am one of those long-time readers whom you do not know (you know my husband).
    A long time ago I looked death in the face when I watched the person I loved most in the world suffer and die.
    For a long time afterwards I pictured my unbearable grief as an unruly octopus-monster that I was trying to subdue and trap under a piece of tarpaulin. The tarp was too small – arms kept flailing out in every direction. I could never keep the thing truly hidden. And to function in society you gotta try to hide most of the octopus, at least the scary looking bits with the googly eyes.
    Over time, The Octpus Of Grief flailed uncontrollably a little less, and then a little less. And I learned what triggers were likely to make the arms knock me for 6 ( a piece of music, or a smell). But I got to the point where I realised: there is just no way to keep that thing hidden completely with this piece of tarp I have here. And so, you know, you learn to live with the thing showing bits of itself all over the place, arms sticking out from under the Tarp of Normalcy as long as you can keep it mostly subdued. You take care to learn when it’s going to flare up and smack you. And you coexist with the damn thing forever.
    It’s not the most elegant metaphor, but grief is a monster.
    It has been 20 years and I can still be paralyzed into tears at a moment’s notice. But it’s OK. I made it part of who I am, who I became, and there it just *is*. Your grief is no different. And while I wish for you and your family that you had not had to go through it, what I wish most for you is that you find a way to keep it mostly hidden when you need to, but peace with the fact that it’s there.

  15. Suz

    What you’re going through is perfectly normal. You’ve been through a life-altering experience and all are thankful you came out of it alive. You should not feel guilty about allowing the tears to flow and instead be glad you can feel your emotions.
    I enjoy reading your blog and was praying for you during your illness. Thank you for sharing so much. I know I am eternally grateful to read your words and appreciate your snark. You are a blessed man to have such a wonderful wife, daughter, family & friends.
    Enjoy your rest and recovery period as someday soon someone will ask you to do some kind of nasty chore or favor for them….

  16. susannah

    You know how people will sleep 10 hours and then say, “Wow. I must have really needed that.” Well, that’s you now with the crying thing. You need to cry, so cry. A month ago, you were on death’s door – give yourself some more time. We will be waiting patiently. Love to you, Sus.

  17. Anne

    I am glad to know a man who cries for all the right sentimental reasons.
    Also, you have walked through the fire and come out the other side. Expect to have post-traumatic episodes for quite a while.
    And your world view has been altered forever, IMO. This is your new life. How lucky for all of us, especially Lucy and Tessa, that you are starting again.
    (P.S. After my dad survived a heart attack, he became very sentimental. It was a lovely change!)

  18. Lizzie

    Love this post, Ian. The phrase “healing is a journey” seems so trite until you live it. You’re on a ride now and the crying is a good thing.Think how many unfortunate people go through their whole life w/o feeling this level of emotion.
    About music bringing on the tears: When I was following Tessa’s blog updates, each time I listened to “Love Has Come for You” by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, I became all teary thinking about your family. It reminded me of the deep love for Tessa and Lucy that you conveyed while in Positano and then of Tessa’s love and fear for you while you were ill. Man – you scared us, Ian! I’m going to go listen to it now and cry all over again.


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