I don’t know what my problem is. I’m sitting here on flight AA70, Dallas to Frankfurt. Tears are quietly running down my cheeks. The flight attendant just tapped me on the shoulder: “Are you alright?” She followed up with a “Would you like some tea or coffee?” so I’m not sure if she noticed the tears or not. I’d like to think she didn’t.
I’ve never been one to be shy about crying. To be completely honest, I love the sensation. I love the dry eyes afterwards, the salty cheeks. Whatever emotional weight might exist seems to pour out of my eyes, relieving me of mostly unknown pressures and stresses. It’s cathartic for me. That’s probably why I used to force myself to cry back in college. I’d make myself sit and think sad things, or I’d purposefully put on a sad movie or reread a favorite, sad book of mine. Watching my tears falling onto the open pages of a book—it felt good. Weird, but good. It was always a private experience. And yet, these days, I seem to cry exclusively on airplanes.
Maybe it’s the thought of coming and going that makes me sad. The movement between places can be trying, not to mention physically exhausting. Regardless, when I’m on a long-haul flight, I often find myself watching movie after movie. I don’t go for the comedies, but rather the dramas, the intense films that spark some passion of mine. And whatever the film, I tend to cry.
Other times, I just play an album, my over-the-ear headphones plugged into either my phone or the in-flight entertainment system. The music blasting through, blocking the buzzes and rumbles of the planes’ engines. The music flows through my mind, and with a bit of a disconnect, I’m able to make my body feel as if it’s a part of the music. And I cry.
These aren’t always sad tears. Just tears. To be honest, I’m not really a sad person. I’m an eternal optimist, always hopeful and generally I’m emotionally ready for whatever might come. And I think that’s why I like to cry on airplanes. Up in the air, I feel powerless—often without wifi, without electricity, wholly dependent upon things way out of my control. It feels good, this disconnect. And yet as disconnected as I might be, I somehow find a way to connect: with the sky, the sounds, the feelings of dependency.