When Molly got a job, I was so excited for her. I was so proud of her! And yeah, I admit I was excited to have a second income.
But there was something else nagging at me. It took me a while to figure it out but finally, I realized I also felt something other than excited. I felt sad.
That didn’t make any sense! How could I possibly be sad? I was excited. I was relieved. How could I be sad at the same time?
Then I felt guilty. What kind of person was I to be sad when she had accomplished so much? She had gone to school, she had graduated top of her class and now she would be working in her chosen field. What was wrong with me??
Sitting in silence, letting myself feel what I felt, I realized I was sad that she would be gone during the day. I was used to going to her whenever I wanted. I was used to knowing where she was, how she was doing, and going to her for comfort when I was having a bad day.
I was sad, but I was also glad for us and proud of her. How could I feel two opposing feelings at the same time?
At one of our talks on supporting loved ones struggling with mental health shared:
“I was so scared when our son disappeared. He just left. One day he was staying with us and the next he was gone. We didn’t know where he was and we still don’t.
Eventually, I recognized that I also felt relieved. The house was calm. My days were peaceful. It took a long time for me to realize I felt relieved, because it made me feel so guilty. Didn’t this make me a terrible mom?
Now I know I can feel all the feelings. I can live in the moment: I can feel peaceful when I feel peaceful. I can worry about my son and miss him so much it hurts. It’s all ok. It’s all valid.”
Like this wise woman, I had to make room for both my excitement and my sadness.
Ee are infinitely more complex as human beings than we sometimes think. We can feel a multitude of feelings at the same time – even feelings that seem contradictory. We have words to describe contradictory feelings: words like bittersweet, nostalgia, or ambivalence.
Sometimes feeling two opposing feelings is confusing. It feels like they should cancel each other out. Or that one feeling must be a mistake.
We can feel sad but also peaceful. We can feel disappointed but also hopeful. We can feel relieved but also anxious. We can feel angry at the person we love most in the world.
The good news is, we can allow ourselves to feel everything we feel. We don’t have to judge ourselves for what we feel. we can embrace all the feelings. Feelings are neither right, nor wrong. It’s all ok. It’s all valid.
What opposing feelings am I feeling that I am questioning?
What do I think it says about me to feel these feelings?
What would it feel like to give contradictory feelings room to be?
This week, I will allow room for feeling all that I feel.
For example, right now I feel __________________
I will remember that feelings are neither right nor wrong. They are all ok. They are all valid.
For more reflections and journal prompts, check out my latest book.