The photos were amazing. One friend, fresh off a PCS move to Germany, shared how she’s so quickly decorated and made their place a home. Another friend, her husband retired for many years, hugged tight to our mutual, still active-duty, Army spouse during a visit. A new grand baby was shared. First day of new school photos were viewed.
And I am filled with joy.
I am also filled with a touch of longing: of missing them, of wistfulness at the fickle Army fate that has so many of my beloved milspouse friends so far away.
All of these emotions can reside in the same heart, often at the same time. They all have a place, name, and reason for being.
It is true that some emotions are definitely more comfortable than others.
Wouldn’t we rather be happy than sad? But sadness lets us know when the light comes in; anger lets us know when we need to fix something or make a change; longing for someone helps us remember to prioritize people and time while we are able.
Feeling lots of things and not sure how to name them? You aren’t alone. In her podcast, Unlocking Us, Dr. Brene Brown shared that most people can only name three emotions that they feel. Angry, sad, and happy. Three.
In her book, Atlas of the Heart, Brene delves deeper into emotion, putting language to 87 of them, winnowed down from many more. The richness of life and depth of experience that gets missed by not acknowledging (or having words for) more than three emotions is staggering to me.
I am a big fan of naming and normalizing the breadth and depth of human emotion and mental health.
We can feel multiple things at once, but sometimes that flood of emotion can be really confusing and overwhelming. In 1969, Fred Rogers petitioned Congress for better television for children. He specifically said, “If we in public television can only make it clear that feelings are mentionable and manageable, we will have done a great service for mental health.”
Mentionable and manageable.
Another blogger I follow, who has had her own mental health battles (as well as battling against inequities and straight up bigotry with her local school board), has taught me a great deal about “Both/And.” Life isn’t always “either/or” – sometimes we experience things in two or more different ways.
So here I am: looking forward to time with family, feeling proud of my adult children, and enjoying retirement with my husband. But I’m also missing my Mom who would usually be there, mourning a bit for the babies who are now fully grown, and envying the PCS to Germany and the opportunities my husband’s career didn’t afford us. I am grateful for our home and our community, and also frustrated by the civic decisions that have arisen lately. It’s a lot.
It’s OK to feel all the feelings.
They may inspire you to act, to love deeper, or to move on from something that no longer serves you. We suffer when we push down and ignore the feelings, when positivity becomes toxic. As mothers, we are allowed to say “Whew, this stage is rough and I do not enjoy it one bit.” Our emotions may be challenging or enjoyable, but they are all part of us. Once we understand and label them, we can decide for ourselves what we want to do with them in a healthy way.