Inspired by Armistead Maupin's The Night Listener: A Dedication to Mourning

Cover Art for the Novel The Night Listener by Armistead Maupin
I think Armistead Maupin wrote in his novel, The Night Listener, that sadness can be a physical thing, “wet and woolen” — he called it, a tangible entity that clings to us, heavy and damp. This poetic imagery captures the essence of how grief and sorrow manifest not just emotionally, but physically as well. Our bodies become the canvas on which our sadness paints its hues—sometimes subtly, sometimes glaringly.

I have never known sorrow to be such a physical thing, an actual presence that weighed on my limbs like something wet and woolen.
Armistead Maupin, The Night Listener, p. 13. 

The connection between grief and the body is inextricable. Why is it that when we are sad, our bodies can hurt? Or even worse, we don’t connect the hurt that is in our heart to the body in pain? Once upon a time, I knew someone who embodied this phenomenon.  They were shrouded in a kind of sadness that was almost imperceptible, like a thin layer of frost on a windowpane. They didn't recognize it themselves; they were like a walking enigma, a puzzle even to their own being. When asked if they were sad, they'd offer a puzzled look and a dismissive shrug. But their body told a different story. It was as if they were perpetually on the edge of something—of tears, of breakdowns, of revelations. Their posture was slightly slouched, as if carrying an invisible weight, like a small, shiny sheen. If you had asked them if they were sad, they would say, “What do you mean?” and look away. 

Their eyes were the most telling. Eyes that should have been windows to the soul were more like mirrors reflecting an empty room. Something akin to 'nothing'. They spoke volumes, not of what was, but of what was missing. It was a silence that screamed, a void that weighed more than presence. This is the "wet and woolen" sadness that Maupin spoke of—a physical manifestation of an emotional void, a tactile experience of an intangible loss.

The connection between our emotional state and our physical well-being is not just poetic but profoundly human. It serves as a reminder that to heal the soul, we must also tend to the body. And sometimes, the first step in that journey is acknowledging the weight of our own "wet and woolen" sadness.
PDF Copy for Printing

No comments:

Post a Comment

Be courteous. Speak your mind. Don’t be rude. Share.