There's been a lot in the pop culture realm these days about being happy, being grateful, and even settling. I've decided I'd rather be honest. By freeing myself to feel anger, sadness, and frustration, I found that I love my life. And I don't have to fake it.
There are times that my life feels overwhelming. Between work, raising two daughters alone, and trying to maintain my own sense of self, sometimes I just want to give up. So I find a few moments to close a door and just cry. I cleanse myself of these feelings by just feeling them. And then I take a few deep breaths, open the door, and go back to my life.
Then someone (my girls or my colleagues) will make me laugh. And I laugh hard. I may laugh harder and longer than is called for, but I'm going to enjoy it for all its worth! Life stops feeling so overwhelming.
Of course, I am humbled by the experiences that others are going through: by the friend who just fought and beat breast cancer, by the woman who had to bury her husband, by the victims of Haiti. Sure, my life seems like a breeze compared to others. Still, that doesn't make my feelings any less real. And when I've tried previously to bury them, to berate myself for being selfish, all I've felt is worse. My self-esteem suffers, my patience with my girls wears, and things look darker than ever.
I don't find comfort in the phrase, "everything happens for a reason." I find comfort in venting about it, and moving on naturally from disappointments. Just because something that upset me a year ago doesn't upset me anymore doesn't mean that my feelings weren't valid then; it just means that I expressed them and then I was able to be free of them.
Nor do I want to role model this behavior for my girls. Sure, the friend that said something mean to them may not be the end of the world, but if their feelings are hurt, I can't dismiss that. I can't tell them it doesn't matter, that there are children who don't have enough food to eat, and they should just be grateful that they have friends! I want them to know that their feelings should matter to those who love them. Maybe by giving them compassion, they will be compassionate to others.
I also think that some anger is healthy. Injustice is worth anger, and that anger has sparked things like the civil rights movement, strikes that ended worker abuse, given women the right to vote. Anger sparked me to leave a drug addict husband and demand better for my girls. Anger sparked me into getting my degree, which led to my promotion at work, which means I have more means to care for my children. Anger, when it's not left to fester and rage, when we learn to manage it and use it to work for us instead of against us, doesn't deserve the bad rap it's gotten.
I believe that by recognizing the things that aren't so fair in life, by feeling sad or outraged or simply worn out, I do appreciate the good times that much more. I know in my heart of hearts that this great feeling won't last, so I'm going to revel in it while it does. The moment can be as small as listening to a favorite song, but the smile on my face lingers a little longer. By being pessimistic about the future, I can be joyful in the now.
Originally posted on LA Moms Blog, May 3, 2010.