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Messy Feelings

messy feelingsI’ve been sad lately.  Quite sad.  A lot of things, honestly, have been making me feel this way, but I haven’t had pretty words to dress the ideas up in, and so I’ve let them slide past.

Unfortunately, ideas and feelings never seem to slide past me too well.  If I don’t take them out and dig around in them a bit and get a tiny bit lost in them, they tend to fester.  I can use all of my wonderful coping strategies to get around them and live a normal life.  But then at night, in my dreams, they’ll come out.

Like most dreams, they don’t come out in the ways that I experience them when I’m awake.  Dreams seem to get the facts wrong but the themes right.  And so if I’m afraid of secrets, I’ll have secrets in my dreams.  If I’m afraid of loss, I’ll experience loss in my dream.  And if I’m afraid of hurting people I love, I will hurt them all, in all the ways, in all my dreams.

And while the details and characters in my dreams don’t reflect the details and characters in my daily life, the guilt lingers around for awhile after I wake up.  I might be dreaming that I’m a pregnant chain smoker in my dream, and I’ll wake up in a cold sweat and I’ll lie in bed, writhing in guilt for what seems like an eternity until I realize that it didn’t happen.  I didn’t, in fact, spend the evening sitting on top of a red barn in some field chain smoking Marlboros while talking to other farmers with my big old pregnant belly in the way.

In other words, I didn’t do what I dreamt that I did.  I can let the guilt go.  But by then, my adrenaline and cortisol are pumping, and the hill is an uphill one for the day.

And this is all incredibly draining.

And it’s incredibly absurd.  The things I dream could make top ten humorous lists if they didn’t make the fears I have of hurting those I love the most so acute and so painful.

But it’s not just the dreams that are making me sad.  After all, it’s not the dreams affecting the world; it’s the world affecting my dreams.

Every day I wake up and try as I may to stay away from the media, it seeps in.  And I see people dying.  And I see people protesting.  And I see many, many people using race and the police to make money through sensationalized stories and political influence.  And if this wasn’t enough to cause nightmares, I also feel personal indictment.

Where do I stand on these issues?  Are my opinions well informed or are they the product of insulated communities and privileges that I am barely even aware that I have?

Right and wrong is right and wrong, but sometimes situations and and systems have triggers and effects that are more complicated than pat answers.

And so I lie in bed and I think these things through, and the more I try to make sense of it all, the more lost I feel, and the more lost I feel, the more guilty I feel

And then I hear about politics.  And how do I possibly choose between one candidate who I believe has some of the most horrific positions in modern history on a handful of extremely important issues and another one who might say the right thing on those issues but who espouses such hatred and bigotry and close mindedness and ugliness that to vote for him seems to vote for a perpetuation and an exacerbation of all the evil that has been brought into the world since the very beginning of it all?

And then I look at my girls.  And they are so beautiful and kind and smart.  And I love every moment that I get to snuggle them and protect them and fill their hearts with warmth and love.  But parenting is a bittersweet journey, and for all the longing I feel to shelter and protect them, their hearts were born with a desire for this world created for them.  And they want to run out and explore it and make it their own.  And it’s their right and their privilege and their responsibility to do so.  And it’s my right and my privilege and my responsibility to watch them soar.  Even when all I want to do is pull them close and lock the doors and keep all the bad out and keep them in.

And then for every moment that I spend cherishing my kids and mourning the loss of their infancies, I’m reminded that these losses I feel are normal and healthy and God-given and God blessed.  And then I remember that the losses other mothers feel aren’t bittersweet.  They aren’t normal or healthy.  For some mothers, the losses are brutal and bitter and forever.

And I can’t reconcile those two things – my feelings of joy over my children that I hold close and the empty arms of mothers who can no longer do the same.

And I don’t know how to live in that world – a world that can hold so much pain and so much love, so much beauty and so much brutality all at the same time.

It’s enough to crush.

And so I use my coping strategies, and I become productive, and I get on with my days.

And then at the end of the day, I close my eyes and I dream and I’m back to the miasma my mind creates of light filled with darkness and love filled with hate, and I wake up in the morning breathless from the journey this life gives us.

So yes, I’ve been tired.  And I’ve been sad.  And I have no pretty words or easy lessons for it.

Boyan Dimitrov/Bigstock

Messy Feelings

Amanda Knapp

Amanda Knapp is a mother, wife, writer, former writing teacher, and lover of the written word. She writes for Psych Central, Mothering, Catholic 365, and her own blog, .

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APA Reference
Knapp, A. (2016). Messy Feelings. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 24, 2020, from


Last updated: 2 Aug 2016
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