Guest Post by Jennifer Luitwieler: “Emotional Constipation’s Uglier Cousin”by Chad Thomas Johnston on Dec 7, 2011 • 7:47 am 3 Comments
One of the reasons I adore Chad Thomas Johnston and think of him as a brother from another mother is his affinity for stories with a fecal undertone. I was introduced to Chad’s penchant for potty humor through his post on a snow toilet he built with his sister in their yard one winter. They filled it with Mt. Dew. (Editor’s Correction: It was, in fact, Dr. Pepper. Because we wanted it to look like diarrhea. Because we were disgusting. That post, aptly titled “Snow Pas: Walking in a Winter Blunderland,” is here. If you need still more scatological humor, you may also want to read “Nightmarriage 7: Putting the ‘Die’ in Diarrhea,” or perhaps “Unable to Call for Help When Urine Trouble: Another Toilet Odyssey.” You may also enjoying reviewing the key words I have attached to this particular blog post.)
I knew I had met my brotherly match when I shared with him the story of how The Dog continued to poop under my sewing table, no matter where I put the sewing table in the house. To use phrases like “laying pipe” and “pinching off a loaf” in public was a whole new level of glee for me. My mother is so proud. (She is, but not of the poop jokes.)
I have this theory that our inner lives are a lot like our bowels. (Still here? Still reading?) Buckle up.
Not that my husband and I ever argue. We are far too perfect for that kind on nonsense. But let’s just say, for kicks, that he and I disagree about something. And he’s all, “I will fold the towels any which way I want.” And I get all, “No. You’ll do it this way, because when you do the double, double, tri-fold thing, the ends align so prettily when I put them in color-coded order in the linen closet so I can enjoy them that way until one of your children (they belong to both of us) can rip my pretty semblance of order apart.”
To which he would reply, if we were ever to have such an impossibly silly dust-up, “Fine. Do it yourself.” And then the real reason for our argument, hypothetically speaking, is revealed. Because I would then reply to his reply, “Oh, no. This is just like that one time when we were in Colorado, ten years ago and you said that one thing.” And then his eyes glaze over because he can’t remember what he had for lunch, let alone something he may or may not have said on a trip we may or may not have taken to Colorado. (We’ve never been to Colorado.)
I like to call this fun little bit of actualization through argument “emotional constipation.” Perhaps you’ve heard of this before. For me, it refers to the complicated machinations we employ to avoid feeling what we feel, and our ability to avoid talking about said feelings by all means necessary. To say it is to feel it, and to feel it is to hurt. So we stuff it down.
Its corollary, of course, is exactly what you’d think, in this little theoretical world of mine: emotional diarrhea. I find this usually happens after a particularly lengthy stint of emotional constipation.
When one of our children was 3-years-old or thereabouts, she had impacted bowels. This surprised me because she – ahem – was still using the bathroom with regularity. The doctor helpfully explained that the only thing that could escape was the soft stuff. (Still here? Still reading?) For a month we fed her mineral oil and orange juice, paid particular attention to her daily “production,” and were especially vigilant of her cheese intake.
So, hear me out. When we are trying to put the kibosh on our feelings, it hurts us, but we kind of leak out bits of anger or frustration or hurt. It’s unavoidable. Just because we’re not thinking about it doesn’t mean it’s not there, doing very real damage.
And then, during an actualizing argument (at least that’s how it goes in my house) I realize what I’m really mad about, which leads to the evacuation of any all feelings and thoughts related to said emotion.
In other words, when I finally figure out I’m still mad about that thing he said that one time in Colorado, the dam bursts. I admit that it was ten years ago, that it hurt, that I feel goofy that it still hurts, that I’m still thinking about it, and even goofier still that I didn’t say anything at the time. Suddenly, because it all makes sense, we can’t help but take a load off, if you will.
Jennifer Luitwieler, my newest client (yes, I pretend I have clients), wrote this post because her book, Run With Me: An Accidental Runner and the Power of Poo, is about poo. When she’s not busy running with her dog in hopes that he will poo somewhere besides beneath her sewing table, she is writing elsewhere on the Internet about poo and/or running, or she is running whilst thinking about poo and writing about poo. Occasionally, she is also a devoted wife to one Kurt Luitwieler (math wizard) and mother to three children, all of whom have been known to poo. When she gets mad, she stomps her feet. It’s funny. Follow her on Twitter at @jenluit, and visit her on the Web here.