My daughter’s tiny delicate features scrunch up as her face begins to redden. “You make me sad!” she cries out as fat tears start to drop from her big beautiful eyes.
“Why are you sad?” we ask her.
“I JUST SAD,” is her simple, emphatic reply.
Toddlers are such incredible beings. There is no shame around emotions for them. Even when there seriously ought to be. “Oh, you’re just sad because you smacked me in the face and had to eat your favorite snack? Well you’re insane.” But, seriously.
Except I totally get it. And I’m learning to work through my feelings as swiftly and gracefully as my two-year-old.
Recently I spoke to a good friend and she noted that my energy was considerably lower than my usual perky demeanor. “You definitely sound sadder than you usually do,” she commented without judgment.
“Yeah - I’m just kind of sad today,” I observed from a safe distance with an equal lack of judgment.
Releasing the judgment is key. It leads to the liberation.
What if you were just sad because you were just freaking sad? What if you didn’t need to apologize for feeling any of the human emotions that are literally programmed into your body as a HUMAN? What if my toddler has it right, and we’ve got it wrong?
Sometimes I’m just sad, and I’m letting that be more than okay. I’m letting it BE. More being, less thinking. I’m riding that wave and seeing where it takes me and acknowledging that this is only a temporary emotion of the human experience and it will likely transform into a different feeling by Sunday. I’m probably as moody as a two-year-old, after all. Ask my husband (DON'T ASK MY HUSBAND).
I’ve spent more than a decade hiding from my human emotions. I recall my mother recapping her student teacher conference with my 4th grade teacher way back when. The only feedback the teacher felt compelled to give was, “Gervase is extremely sensitive.”
Well, thanks for all YOUR help, woman. And so I bottled up that sensitivity for the next 20 years, scared that it made me weak, different or "dramatic."
But, really . . . sometimes I just get sad.
Today I’ve been quietly celebrating a big win for me. It’s been 5 months since I weaned off my anti-depressants, and I had almost forgotten I could feel this great—naturally. I feel stronger, happier, more intuitive, more whole and more human than I’ve ever allowed myself to feel. And I’ve released the self-judgment that has historically blocked me from accepting those good and human feelings. I used to think my mind was poisoned. I was born flawed. I had shame around my family’s history of mental illness, even though 1 in 7 women experience postpartum depression and that’s only the number that seek treatment. Every time I felt sadness, I spiraled into deep self-loathing and berated myself for slowing down or retreating from my social life or bringing a different energy to my work and relationships.
What if I had just let it be okay for me to be my sensitive self?
I’m learning to not only love ALL the parts of me, but to also just BE those parts without judgment. It’s the internal commentary that makes us reject certain "human" parts of ourselves. But we are perfect just as we are. Nothing needs fixing. No one is “being” better than another. Especially in motherhood. We’re all just trying to raise tiny humans and be decent grown-ups.
I ask my daughter to put her blocks away. She whips around and says, “Leave me alone!” furious that I’ve interrupted her workflow. My face falls and she can see what I say before I even say it. “It makes me sad when you speak that way, Aria.” She thinks on this for 5 seconds and then pivots and launches herself into my arms. With a huge smile and squinty eyes she squeezes me in the best hug of the day. Then she pulls back and looks at me, “You happy now, mommy?”
Yes, baby. Now my heart might burst.