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The Midlife Sage Says: You Can Balance Tough Lady With Bawl Baby

My two-month-old granddaughter cries for three main reasons.

Either she’s hungry, she’s tired, or her diapers are dirty. I don’t need to be changed, but I could really use a sandwich and a nap. Maybe if I cry out loud…

I was raised to be tough, and crying wasn’t allowed in my childhood home on the farm. That’s why as an adult I never shed a tear giving birth to an 11-pound baby or while speaking at my father’s funeral. But lately, I start weeping at the simple vision of a rainbow or the sound of a children’s choir. And, a sappy television commercial can send me over the edge into my own private pity pool.

Blame it on menopausal hormones combined with the emotions of the Christmas season, but I’m not sure how to handle this new fluctuation between Iron Woman and Middle-age Milquetoast. The recent death of a dear friend exacerbates the mental upheaval because I’m still mad that she’s gone while there are so many healthy jerks walking around annoying people. She was the Dragon Slayer but she lost the final battle to breast cancer.

I’ve been known to walk out of movies that portray women as weak tools or to throw down books, such as the bestseller “Eat, Pray, Love” that insult my female warrior.

The author describes lying on the floor sobbing in a fetal position. For crying out loud, she was in Italy! Get up, go outside, visit a museum, light a candle in a Cathedral, or find a quaint sidewalk café and have some crusty bread, soft cheese, green olives, and red wine. If you really need a reason to wallow in pity, try growing up on a pig farm in southern Idaho!

Here is an important caveat: I realize that depression, mental illness, and anxiety attacks are serious issues, and I don’t mock those who suffer from those afflictions. I advocate treatment, counseling, and a lifetime focus on healing for those who suffer from depression. For the rest of us, it’s okay to experience the occasional meltdown and unleash the tears.

After all, research indicates that emotional tears contain more beta-endorphins that make us feel better and are a natural way to relieve mental and physical pain. So let those tears flow and wash out the toxins and stress. Then blow your nose, run outside, and play with gusto as you slay some dragons.

Margaret Crepeau, Ph.D., professor of nursing at Marquette University, believes that healthy people view tears positively, while people plagued with various illnesses see them as unnecessary and humiliating.

She notes that well men and women cry more tears more often than women and men with ulcers and colitis. At Marquette’s School of Nursing, students and professionals are urged to avoid tranquilizers and to allow tears to do their own therapeutic work. My advice to young women is to listen to your body: It’s saying, “Stop biting my lip!” and just enjoy a good cry.

After several decades of eating nails for a snack, I’ve decided to change the menu. I’m tired of being brave all the time so I’m choosing to put down the sword and pick up a glass of wine. I’ll be tough again tomorrow. Maybe, as a true test, I’ll even watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” again tonight. Where are those tissues?

Elaine Ambrose is a contributing blogger for JenningsWire, a blogging community created by Annie Jennings.