At some point, emotional health was sacrificed on the altar of consistency. What is consistency? Consistency is filming your own abortion and being absolutely, unquestionably, unaccountably, unapologetically certain it was right.
Consistency is the President declaring that America’s private arsenal weapons of warfare have “no place on streets,” while continuing to allow the DOD to reallocate military hardware–specifically “tens of thousands of machine guns–to local police municipalities.
Media “Motherhood Mentality”
Enter Chirlane McCray: published poet, speechwriter, former public affairs specialist, and mother. In today’s cult of personality culture: impressive! Well, mostly. There is that “mother thing.” That “choice” she made (not once) but every day she wakes up, re-choosing to care for and love her children.
What is Emotional Health?
Emotional Health is the ability to experience and express and full range of human emotions, in appropriate times and manners, but not be controlled by them. Chirlane McCray expresses emotional health. She expresses the natural human condition of grief and struggle. A two-dimensional view of human existence says you can’t be happy and sad at the same time: either she’s happy to be a mom or she isn’t. Consistency demands resolution: which is it? A three-dimensional view of genuine personhood says that the joy of beginnings usually ebb and flow along with the sadness of endings.
Why Does Emotional Health Matter for Families?
Culturally, westerners have forgotten how to grieve well. (And, no, this is not a feature of someone’s Myers Briggs Type Indicator.) We can lay the blame for part of this on the decades old stages of grief myth. When there is a school shooting, we get angry. We don’t reflect; we react. We don’t stop and grieve. We ask why. We promise to find answers, but fail to provide comfort. We seek solutions, but skip sadness. This is a point at which we need to be students of other cultures.
When you deny the need to grieve well, you end up with emotionally-abusive fathers telling their sons that “real men don’t cry.” When you have been denied the opportunity to grieve, you end up with under-developed young men expressing their sadness as violent anger. When you lose the ability to grieve, you end up with emotionally wounded young women expressing their lonely isolation as self-destruction. Emotional un-health regularly leads to mental instability, not primarily the other way around. When will we fully recognize this?
Why I’m Thankful For Chirlane McCray
Chirlane reminds us the choice to have children, to be a mother, is a choice that will interrupt and even kill other choices. She teaches us that life isn’t a choose-your-own-ending. She engages with the honest-to-goodness struggle to grieve what she clearly loved–a writing career–to celebrate something she clearly loves–caring for her children. Joy and grief together. Fully human. Whole.
Mothers desperately need to hear this. Because childbearing and childrearing are so completely disruptive, many dreams, hopes, desires, and aspirations will move to the back burner for years, possibly even decades. They might come completely off the metaphorical stove, forever. Doors of closed opportunities evoke sadness and grief. The message from the media is that grief is some kind of evidence you failed yourself. Au Contraire! Honest grief is essential if we are find deeper contentment.
Contentment isn’t Consistency
This is where Emotional Health is at odds with Consistency. Consistency says you never look back, you never reevaluate, and you never change. Emotional Heath says you reflect, you engage, and you constantly change. Considered this way, Emotional Health is actually the truest form of personal integrity. The word integrity comes from the Latin word meaning “whole.”
The problem with consistency is that history shows all kinds of people who were consistent, and consistently wrong. Those blindly committed to consistency as the truest expression of humanity will forever miss the glory of a joyful sorrow. Emotional Health is essential in restoring us to whole persons.
Thank you Chirlane McCray for reminding us that.
Questions for Reflection
- Where am I experiencing sadness or grief?
- How are these feelings of sadness and grief seemingly in conflict with or related to an event which should bring joy?
- Explore the sadness and grief. What losses are connected with those feelings even in the midst of something new and good?
- Who is emotionally mature enough to listen to you express these conflicting emotions to, and then thoughtfully question you about them?