Daniel Tiger Wisdom
It’s been snowing here. An inch, maybe. Since it’s North Carolina, the kids have had two days off from school. During one particularly frigid morning, we sat watching an episode of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.” There’s always an unsubtle life lesson embedded in the cartoon preschool interactions, with a song to match, usually with the same cadence and rhythm as the other life lesson songs that have come before. This morning, Daniel and his friends sang “Sometimes I have two feelings at the same time, and that's okay.” My husband and I spent the rest of the day, the song stuck in our heads, crooning it to each other as we passed in the hallway, the kitchen, the kids bathroom. We sang it enough that even my two year old was screaming at us to stop. I wish that I could sing it for you now.
We say that we’re ambivalent about something. If it’s more serious than deciding which sandwich to order, we might feel torn, or conflicted. Life with children is often labeled bittersweet – the joy and heartache equally present. None of these terms quite capture what I’ve been feeling lately, though. Daniel Tiger came closest with his song but, sometimes, there are more than two feelings. Sometimes there are 6. Or maybe there are just two, but they’re muddled and smushed together and, as a result, they feel more like six. Or like some blob of a feeling that can’t be teased out and so it sits there, vacillating between heart and head, attempting to figure out a way to extricate itself from those other feelings it shares space with in order to be heard.
I haven’t written for a while, and I’ve had a lot contained in my brain. But nothing fully realized or present, as though if I were to take pen to paper, or fingers to keys as the case may be, what I wrote would look like the QWERTY row duplicated a hundred times over, with expletives and nonsensical giggling (written, of course) thrown in for good measure. Sometimes we just don’t know how we feel.
I took a Kundalini yoga workshop for women in Asheville last spring. Having never taken any sort of Kundalini yoga prior to the workshop, there was a lot of muddle I needed to sort through. The asana was a foreign language and the specificity of movement for particular ailments (sit like this for 10 minutes daily, and wave your arms around like so 17 times and you’ll cure yourself of premenstrual symptoms) was both incredibly appealing and fundamentally distressing.
Sometimes I have two feelings at the same time.
We were taught about mapping our moon cycles. Not the moon cycles that women might ordinarily conjure when asked to do that, with ovulation and menstruation as the benchmarks, but a more ethereal moon mapping. We were supposed to actually chart where our moon was in our body, and when. The instructor, for example, spoke about always knowing when her moon was at the base of her throat because she’d wake up feeling particularly communicative. Or something like that. She asked us to pay close attention to our feelings and toward what we were drawn on any particular day in order to begin to accurately chart where the moon was in our body over the course of the month. Feeling creative? My moon must be in my pelvis. Feeling introverted and withdrawn? My left ear. If we charted our feelings upon waking for a few months, soon we would have an accurate picture of our moon cycle, and, as a result, better understand when it would make sense for creative endeavors, time alone, efficiency at work.
Sometimes I have a hard time discerning whether I’m even fully awake when I wake up, let alone determining whether I am actually having any feelings at all. Just as I'm sitting down to take my emotional temperature/drink coffee, my children awake and my mind loses any ability to articulate, well, anything, as the physical needs of breakfast and matching socks, among other things, become paramount.
Even in the quietest of times, emotional clarity is rarely the rule. Those life events that are supposed to be HAPPY with a capital H (our weddings, perhaps, or a trip to Tahiti), as well as those events that are supposed to be SAD (a funeral, our trip to Tahiti cancelled) aren't even that straightforward. Life is emotional complexity. Sometimes we have two feelings at the same time. Often, actually.
If you're like me, and enjoy control, in all of its beautiful, structured, organized glory, it can be really hard to experience conflicting emotions. Pregnant women are supposed to be thrilled and glowing, hands on a blossoming belly and head dreaming of the adorable bundle you'll soon hold in your arms. New mothers are supposed to hold that adorable bundle and be only grateful (even if it is 3 am and you haven't slept or showered for days) as you gaze adoringly at that beautiful face. When our lives present us with conflicting emotions it can be confusing, even guilt inducing. I'd argue, though, that it makes life much more interesting, yoga that much more applicable, and our humanity much less questionable. It's actually more logical to be both totally and completely in love with your newborn, and fantasizing about running out your front door and never coming back. And after the intensity of the newborn days and months, the complexity of emotion continues. I love my children and, like all mothers I have ever talked to, I both mourn and celebrate their growth. Also, when I hear whining, I dream of Tahiti.
Sometimes we have two feelings at the same time. And that's okay.