Feeling Their Joy And Their Pain

I was recently talking to a fellow mom friend about how, once you become a parent, everything you feel is heightened.  Seen and felt through your children’s eyes and hearts, excitement is greater, joy is more palpable, and pain is more acute.  When my kids are happy, the happiness I share with and for them is far greater than any happiness I can ever feel for myself.  When my kids are hurt, the hurt that I share with and for them is far greater than any affliction I could ever experience for myself.  It’s all deeper.  More primal.

As someone who’s already hard wired to feel the outer extreme of every emotion that passes through my heart, this isn’t necessarily a good thing.  I mean, is manic elation or total despair – even when it comes from a place of pure love – ever really a positive thing?  I’m working on it.  But for better or worse, it’s there.  Whatever my kids feel, I feel it too.  And I feel it hard.

These past several weeks have seen some ridiculously high highs and painfully low lows when it comes to the kids, and my capacity to feel both (just as acutely) at the same exact time always amazes me.

Tegan – who’s 8 at the time of this writing – has had a series of events over the past couple of months that have in her own words “made her life complete.”

I am so, so thankful and ecstatic that we’ve been able to make it all happen for her.

First, we took her to Fan Fest to meet her favorite actress of all time, Millie Bobby Brown.  (If you don’t know who this is, grab a cup of your favorite beverage, silence your cell phone, and go watch Stranger Things in its entirety.  Stat.)

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Then, the night before last, we took her to see Adele in concert, making good on a hypothetical promise I made her when she was probably three years old.  (“If she ever does a North American tour again, and comes to Phoenix, we’ll go.”)  We bought the tickets almost a year ago, her first concert was postponed due to illness, and as we finally sat in that stadium on Monday night I couldn’t believe that 1) we’d actually gotten tickets, and 2) we were really there.  Most surreal concert ever.

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And in between meeting celebrities and watching concerts, she was hard at work rehearsing the part of Alice in a local homeschool production of Alice and Wonderland (which wrapped this weekend, and went very well)

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It was an embarrassment of riches in a very short amount of time, and to see her face, and to feel her joy… it made my life feel complete as a parent too.  Pure and total happiness.

And at the same time all of this happiness was going on, one of my boys was experiencing one of the most painful transitions (if not the most painful transition) of his life.  My heart has hurt for him… the kind of hurt that keeps you up at night.  And there’s nothing I can do to fix it.  Nothing I can do to make it better.  All I can do is be there, and be a sounding board, and be a cheerleader, and be a mom who tries to absorb some of the hurt so that he doesn’t have to carry it alone.

Two diametrically opposed feelings, intersecting at that most tender and sensitive part of the heart… the part that I fear may break at the mere exposure of its existence.

I’ve written a lot about thinking too much (and indeed, I do that too), but it’s the overwrought feeling that’s going to be the death of me.  Feeling so deeply hurts.  But the opposite?  Not feeling at all?  The mere thought of a life devoid of emotion pains me even more.  I kind of feel like unbridled empathy is what I’m here for.  I need to learn to harness it, to be sure.  To learn to protect myself, even as I absorb the feelings of everyone else.

But in the meantime, I’ll be over here in my little ball of emotions, swimming in the primal joy and deep ache that threaten to swallow me whole.  Knowing that there’s a balance somewhere, just beyond my grasp, and that eventually, somehow, someday, I’ll learn to embrace it… without taking myself down in the process.

empatheticbadass

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