There is a new product on the market called 'The Butterfly.' It is a subtly named body liner designed to prevent 'accidental bowel leakage.' And no, I haven't started using product placement in my writing, though given the contents of my April blog, I'd probably do well to buy some stock in the company.
Allow me to be a little more high brow than that, please. The ad got me thinking about all the ways our bodies give out as we age. Though our knees can ache and other parts drift southward, nothing leaks away faster than the stiff upper lip.
I'm not sure what the trigger is for men, but for women its mostly menopause. I didn't even know I was stoic before until, suddenly, I wasn't. The problem started in my late forties. First, I was crying during a poignant television commercial. Then the news that an acquaintance was moving away made me morose for days. I stayed away from sad books and learned to watch a lot of comedies.
However. What the body wants to spill, it will spill. The things that have made me grieve have been so minuscule, I feel embarrassed to admit them, even to myself. Thank goodness for this handy blog.
Here is a short list of sadness triggers for me:
1. Bird song late in summer, (because its a mating call that was never answered.)
2. PBS's nostalgic Saturday night concert series; anything from doo wop to John Denver. It's always a two Kleenex event.
3. Reunions. I once had my eyelashes dyed so I could cry freely.
4. Seeing other people cry. This is a guaranteed trigger, even when it happens in movies. Maybe especially in movies.
5. Songs like K'naan's 'Waving Flag.' I'm not sure if its the combination of rap and choir, or the fact that it was the first song our town danced to in the very first Culture Days. Weepy, weepy.
The list is fairly short, but you get the idea. One thing I've noticed, though. When life became harder and things happen that are more serious than a sad songbird, heavy, depressing literature makes a come back in my life. A well written, deeply moving and morose novel can cheer me up immensely. I have no idea why, nor do I care. This also applies to sad movies.
My aha idea is this. When serious leakage begins, forget the butterfly application, the cheery slogans and uplifting comedies. Instead, lean into it. Indulge yourself in whatever manner is required. For me, it is giving myself permission to watch Romeo and Juliet (the 1969 version) or reread a real downer, like 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles.' Perhaps misery loves company. I think its all about perspective. A thirteen year old stabbing herself to death for love makes my John Denver concert seem pretty chipper. The worst of situations is a walk in the park when compared to Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road.' Things might be tough, but at least I'm not being chased by cannibals.
For minor leakage, please insert the butterfly. For major events, lean in and let 'er rip. You'll feel a lot better. I promise.