On Sunday morning at 8am, Lucia said, "Mommy, this is the best day ever." Four hours later, after brunch with a bunch of friends and a few kiddie-altercations under her belt, she said, "Mommy, this is the worst day ever." What?
In that instant, I thought about, as I often do lately, yoga. I thought, "That's just like in camel pose when I feel like I am going to laugh and hurl at the same time." And, just like that, another moment of clarity inspired by a 5-year-old.
My sister Kat used to describe this emotional chaos as "happy-sad." "Joey is happy-sad," she'd say and my family would know that her son Joey would be somewhere on the emotional continuum for a while. Okay.
When an adult is "happy-sad" they go on anti-depressants. They are a pain in the ass. They are unstable. Adults know better. They have skills, whatever that means. Skills to be completely shut down? I'm not going to go there, but I will say that kids can teach us something with their emotional candor. Not that we should be explosively regurgitating our baggage all over the place, but that there is room for all of it.
I wonder when we lose that permission to move through our emotions. Tonight at dinner when Lu and I were doing our evening ritual of "roses and thorns" (goods and bads of our day), she began to describe a fight she'd had at school and, just as she started to get emotional, she stopped herself. "Never mind", she said, as if it was just too much work. Maybe she was tired. Maybe she wanted to be done with dinner. Maybe she was over it. Or maybe she's already starting to filter, sensing from me that I'd rather hear about the roses than the thorns.
I frequently tell my students, as I look at them sweating, grimacing, struggling, "Get comfortable being uncomfortable." Basically, be okay not feeling exactly right for a moment, and in the next moment, without even knowing how or why, you'll feel okay again. Give all of your feelings, the good, the bad, the ugly, some space to get out of the way and they will. It happens every time.