Emotional Ambivalence

Evan and Marie - HQ-7354
Daniel Swanson Photography

If you asked me how I’m doing, I could give you two honest (and opposite) answers: “I’m great!” and “I’m a complete wreck.”

On the one hand, I love my life. I’m married to someone who loves me, and I never have to say goodbye to him at the end of the day. I live in a darling suburb not too close to the city for excess traffic but close enough to have stores within walking distance. I even have a couple of part-time jobs that I enjoy.

On the other hand, I’m an emotional basket case. I cry over the smallest, silliest things and don’t seem to be able to calm myself down. I struggle with loneliness and often wake up with my stomach in knots, picturing the day ahead with dread.

The best descriptor I can find for my current state of being is ambivalent. Not to be confused with ambiguous, the word ambivalent describes the simultaneous existence of contradictory thoughts, emotions, or desires: like how you’d love to travel, but at the same time you want to stay home where it’s safe and familiar. I am at once contented and desperately needy.

I am at once contented and desperately needy.

I know I’m not the only one living in a state of emotional ambivalence, heart full of gratitude one moment and trembling with grief the next. I happen to know a lot of happy people dealing with enormous stressors. All you have to do is ask someone to pray for you, and you’ll find out that they have their own list of desperations and (perhaps) equally high levels of instability.

The funny thing about neediness is that it shrinks with sharing. I’m not talking about the type of “sharing” in which you unload to another person and expect them to solve your problem. I’m talking about a mutual experience that requires you to share their burden while they carry yours.

For some reason, I always expect to feel weighed down by someone else’s burden. I shy away from the question “How can I pray for you?” because I can’t help thinking, I have enough issues of my own. I want other people to have it all together so they can focus on supporting me. But the moment I start to listen, sympathize, or pray, I find my own sadness slipping away, even if just a little.

The moment I start to listen, sympathize, or pray, I find my own sadness slipping away.

There is probably a Bible verse to go along with the sentiment of shared neediness – Galatians 6:2 comes to mind – but for now, I’ll leave you with the idea that it’s OK to embrace both sides of the truth. I can tell people how thrilled I am to be married and how happy I am with my life, and (when the situation calls for it) I can also acknowledge my horror of transitions and lingering bouts of anxiety. And you can do the same.

Love,

The Reluctant Bride

Evan and Marie - HQ-8671
Daniel Swanson Photography

Maybe you and I were never meant to be complete/Could we just be broken together? – Casting Crowns

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