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Yes...and Also: Dealing with Mixed Emotions

April 19, 2020 | by Shira Savit

During quarantine we can enjoy time with our family members and also feel quite overwhelmed or irritated by their constant presence.

“This is my worst Pesach. Everything is going wrong!”

These were my son’s words after his younger sister found the afikomen instead of him. He went on to relate a long list of everything that was “bad,” including that all of our grape juice was spoiled (yes it was pretty embarrassing knocking on our neighbor’s door asking them if they had extra grape juice while keeping the mandatory two meters’ social distance).

I asked my son if he was able to find any good even amongst all the “bad”. He said, “No Mommy. If it’s bad, it’s bad, and if it’s good, it’s good.”

This child happens to be a very black and white thinker in general, so I wasn’t surprised by his answer. Thankfully, I used the opportunity to have an important conversation with him about the ability to feel two mixed emotions at once. I myself was feeling conflicting emotions during this experience: I was sad to see him so upset and negative on the Seder night, but I was also thankful and glad he was expressing himself, communicating with us, and receptive to an open conversation. I validated that, to him, it felt like everything was bad, but at the same time challenged him to find some good feelings.

Modeling my work in accepting conflicting feelings, I shared with him that YES, I am thankful that our family is healthy, but ALSO feel disappointed that we couldn’t be together with our extended family for the Seder. YES, I felt grateful to be able to buy what we needed for Pesach, and yet I was ALSO frustrated that many stores were closed and getting what we needed was much more challenging this year.

More YES and ALSO examples: during the quarantine period, we can all be enjoying time with our family members and also feel quite overwhelmed or irritated by their constant presence. We can be hopeful and optimistic about the future, and also feel like the whole world is falling apart. We can be doing fun and entertaining activities with our children, and also feel completely burnt out and not having an ounce of energy left to do anything. We can sing and dance and create a happy home atmosphere, and also cry and crawl into bed, wanting to stay there for a long time.

Lately I have been feeling proud of myself for my Supermom capabilities (mother, wife, teacher, cleaning lady, gymnastics teacher, professional, chef etc.) and very guilty, feeling like I am the worst mom in the world (you can use your imagination here).

Experiencing conflicting feelings is part of our life as Jews. We can God forbid mourn a recent loss and be commanded to be joyful on Yom Tov a day later. We can celebrate our son’s bar mitzvah, and also feel pain at the same time that our loved ones are with us only “virtually”. These days we are all experiencing some sort of loss/pain/fear about corona, yet God gave us the ability to also tap into the blessings and experience joy during this unprecedented time in our lives.

I don’t have the happy-ever-after ending in which my son smiled and said, “Yeah, Mom you’re right, there is so much good even with the bad.” But I do have a beautiful relationship with my son, in which there is laughing, sulking, joking, and sometimes all of the above happening at once. This is life, and it doesn’t always feel good, but it also feels great!

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