I’ve always believed that happiness equated to success. If you are happy, you are successful in life. Joyfulness, without a shadow of a doubt, means that you are rocking this thing called life.
The theory fits pretty snugly into everyday life. When we are feeling cheerful, we sit on top of the world. Nothing shakes us. We are firm in our resolve that if we can keep up this feeling of euphoria, then all will remain right in the universe.
However, therein lies the problem — we cannot be happy all of the time. Well, at least I, for one, can’t. It’s exhausting. I have hundreds of moments throughout the day where stress showers down on me—periods of heartache and disappointment from the many unforeseen experiences of everyday life. There are times when a myriad of emotions will whitewash me, and I will be left with this astounding feeling of nothingness.
It drives me to believe that any emotion other than happiness means I am not doing “it” right. Right? Where did that idea come from? Why do I feel like I am somehow failing when I am anxious? Why do I expect some foreboding disaster to appear when I’m sad? Why do I liken any emotion other than joy with negativity?
When did it stop being acceptable behaviour to feel?
It seems that any feeling other than joy/excitement/happiness results in a feeling of despondency. If only I could remedy these woes or push them away, all would be right in the world once more. However, I don’t think life works that way. There will always be sadness and anger and guilt and humiliation. There will always be those uncomfortable moments. If there weren’t, happiness wouldn’t feel so good.
We’ve established that there is and always will be a reservoir of emotions at the stem of our existence, but the question now is what to do with that.
Validate your feelings
What if we were to spread that feeling out thin enough to wrap ourselves up in it? Allowing every inch of our person to understand what it was feeling. To give ourselves time to grasp why the anger was there in the first place. What if we embraced the “bad” feelings as closely as we do the good ones? What if we granted ourselves the time to work through our emotions rather than condemning them?
Let’s look at how we teach our children, for example. When our kids get good marks in school or draw a fine picture, we celebrate them accordingly. There is no time limit on this celebration, only unbridled happiness shared by all. However, when they are angry or saddened by something, sure, we may allow them an allotted period of time to “get over it,” but subconsciously, we are willing to move on and just be done with that emotion. It is unpleasant; therefore, it is unwanted.
This afternoon my daughter Sophie was upset. I could tell by the way she spoke so negatively about her schoolmates and the incidents that happened throughout the day. Sophie tries to be the tough one in almost all situations. She holds back her sadness and makes light of the things that make her feel uncomfortable. She makes light of her sadness.
Instead of humouring her mean spirited sarcasm, I asked her if there was something she wanted to talk about. As usual, she resisted me at first, saying, “No. I’m fine. Why would you think there was something wrong?” But as any mother will tell you, when something is wrong with her child, she knows. I gently pressed her, asking again if there was anything she wanted to talk about. I asked if I could hug her.
That’s when my 10-year-old daughter melted into me. We hugged for a good ten minutes. I could feel her tears dripping onto my shoulder. She was crying and feeling sad and there seemed to be nothing I could do to “fix it” because she didn’t have a reason for feeling this way — or at least that’s what she thought. So I gave her time. It was all there was left to do. Later, when I asked her if she wanted to talk about something, she said, “Mom, sometimes we all just need a big cry.”
We all need a big cry, especially with the stress that every individual feels right now. We are dealing with unprecedented times with the pandemic. My children’s birthday parties have been cancelled. The notion that Christmas holidays this year will look very different than years before has been weighing heavily on our entire family. The stress is unparalleled even for our children. So, as Sophie said, sometimes we need a cry to relieve that stress. That deliverance of letting our bodies relax into someone we trust and releasing everything pent up even if we can’t put words to it at the moment.
And you know what, I think this kid is onto something. This life can be so chaotic and complicated and scary and mystifying that there is no possible way we could move through it with only a handful of “happy” emotions to rely on. We are a complex species; therefore, our emotions will be vast — infinite. We should celebrate these sentiments rather than feel ambushed by them.
So I hugged my daughter and allowed her to cry, and then we talked. I let her know that it is okay to feel those feelings because they are completely natural and normal.
It is what being human is all about.
Previously published on medium
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