My mom used to watch TV shows that were sad and use the word "cathartic" to describe why she enjoyed watching them. I don't remember understanding the word until later on - and I don't remember feeling the need to get emotion out through an outlet like a song, book, or television show until much later on. But such is life as a kid - if you're mad, you yell. If you're sad, you wail. If you're frustrated, you cry. You don't need a mask to feel.
Now I'm a champion seeker of the cathartic. I have my weekly tear-jerker shows. And on nights when I'm feeling melancholy, I listen to my set of sad songs. They seem to bring the emotion out in a way that doesn't feel hysterical. A quite cry to Parenthood or tears from the beauty of a nostalgic Bright Eyes (Lua, anyone?) song, it feels so much more elegant.
I'm often uncomfortable when I see displays of emotion on others in a public setting, but people are going through these unknowable things every single day. Last week at work three people had their dogs pass away (me included). Someone told a story of their favorite puppy and teared up. I saw a woman on a cell phone boarding a bus crying. Someone left work in a mess of tears. There's a whole world of emotion going on out there, right under the surface of the people we see daily.
Sometimes I feel overwhelmed when I imagine what everyone's going through around me. I came across a blog the other night, routed through an unbelievable chain of links from a friend of a friend of a friend. It was a blog written by the boyfriend of a twenty-nine year old woman (that went to my alma mater) just diagnosed with a very tough cancer to beat. His blog was about her struggle only in context. - it was really about his absolute love for a woman going through an awful thing. And it was peppered with photos of her in the morning light in her hospital room, his captions always about her beauty and spirit in the face of such despair.
I forwarded it to a friend who is going through some similar struggles that I am and we were both struck by how perfectly lucky we are. We have loving homes, health, happy parents, warm rooms to sleep in, and jobs that pay our bills and then some. We have so much that we take for granted on a regular basis, and out there in the wild world, there are some great struggles happening. It felt selfish to complain when reflecting on the blog we'd read - for a couple going through the unknowable, their heads were held high in morning light, content to talk only of each other's love and beauty, no complaints but that the days weren't longer to spend together.