Feel All Your Feels

Exhausted from a morning of cleaning the house and doing extreme yardwork, Daniel and I collapsed on the couch and turned on the TV. The Pixar movie, Inside Out, was on.  In case you’re not familiar with the story line, in it, the main character, young Riley moves from her home in Minnesota to San Francisco, where her dad has just gotten a new job. She’s sad to leave the only home she’s ever known, as well as her friends and her hockey team. But the real characters in the movie are all the thoughts living inside Riley’s head, and indeed, inside all of us: Anger, Fear, Disgust, Sadness, and Joy, the sunny-colored mastermind trying desperately to control all the other feelings. Joy wants to protect Riley from all the negative things in life, and especially, from the sad feelings that threaten to overtake her. But in the end, Joy learns that Riley needs to feel all her feelings – anger, fear, disgust, joy, and sadness — especially sadness — to be able to integrate these feelings and live a full life.

Sitting there, watching this movie, I was overcome with my own sadness. Our daughter Hannah is one of the Class of 2020 high school seniors who are living through this time. Most days, Hannah and I keep this disappointment in perspective. Dragon only got to experience his Freshman year of high school, so the fact that Hannah is here with us now is the most important thing. Prom is just prom, birthdays are just birthdays… most days, I tell myself that Hannah will have many, many chances to celebrate and be celebrated, and that we can count our blessings because life will in fact go on.

But watching this movie, this movie whose lesson is that it is imperative to allow yourself to feel your sadness, it hit me. The losses hit me. I am sure we have all had those moments during this Corona time — those moments when it suddenly hits you that there are things, tangible and intangible, that we have lost. It hit me that despite how hard Hannah has worked to graduate with flying colors, she will not get to put on her graduation gown, turn the tassel, throw her cap into the air. And selfishly, Daniel and I are robbed once again of not being able to watch our child walk across that stage and accept a diploma. We raised two wonderful kids. But we have not, and now will not, get to experience that child graduate high school in person.

So I know we all have had hard moments, maybe many of them, in the 10+ weeks we have been sheltering in place with COVID-19. We’ve felt fear, anxiety, frustration, anger, sorrow. And that’s okay. Like Riley in Inside Out, we need to feel all our emotions, the hard ones as well as the good ones. Our family has learned that the only way through it, is just to go through it.

I had a good hard cry on the sofa that day. It had been a while since I’ve sobbed like that. It helped that Daniel was there to hold my hand. I cried for myself, I cried for Hannah, I cried for Dragon. I thought about the movie. There’s something else about this movie that gets me every time.

Inside Out was the last movie Dragon watched with his friends before we left for Yosemite. Dragon invited Justin, Andrew, Baolong, Danny, Kayla, Jessie, to go see it with him. They went to Pieology beforehand. Dragon and Justin each got a meat-lover’s pizza piled high with pepperoni, bacon, and sausage. Then they went to Edwards Cinema in the Marketplace and watched Inside Out. Afterwards, they went to Class 302 and got boba. It was a relaxing summer evening, sitting under twinkling lights, hanging out with friends. In the photo Dragon took from that night, everyone looks happy. Dragon and Justin look happy, full of joy. Moments like those are what life is all about.

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