How can I embrace something wonderful during a pandemic?
“During this difficult and challenging time, something wonderful is happening in my life. This dichotomy of emotions within me produces feelings of guilt. While I know that guilt is not helpful or productive in any way, it feels wrong to experience joy during such a time as this. It’s also exhausting to feel so much at once. Any helpful tips would be greatly appreciated.”
Congratulations! If you could hear me now, you’d know that I’m cheering for you. You are not alone in this duality. No one knows how to feel in a pandemic, because no one’s been here before. If you can bear some levity, I see it this way: there are chocolate chips in our trail mix that make the rest of the mess taste just a little bit better. This is a chocolate chip. This is a good thing, even when other things are tough.
I often find myself in similar spirals—I feel guilty for enjoying myself, then judge myself for feeling guilty. Then feel guilty about judging myself? It’s a mind maze that I can’t easily escape. The first thing I’d recommend is to take a pause and to identify precisely where the guilt is coming from. Is it stemming from a worry about what others will think? Is it shame or something that you don’t feel like you deserve? You nailed it when you said guilt isn’t productive, but it’s okay to feel it, and it’s okay to explore it more deeply.
From what I’m reading in your question, it actually doesn’t sound like textbook guilt. Instead, to me it sounds more like a well-toned empathy muscle asking you to also step outside of yourself in this beautiful moment of celebration. Use this empathy as a way to bridge that “something wonderful” with the world around you. By that, I mean find ways to do something that feels like it honors both your celebration and the community around you. Support a local winemaker or bakery if one is available to you and get yourself something tasty. Write letters to your friends and share the news, and invite them to write you back with how they’re enduring this time. Use your joy to bolster you as you support others who are facing an experience without this happy event.
If you’re worried about what other people might think of you feeling joy right now, there’s very little of that within your control. If you share your news publicly, there’s a difference between being joyful and being joyful for the sake of social media “likes” and validation. You sound genuine, thoughtful, and lovely, and I can only hope that your community will rise to you in mutual celebration.
Ultimately, take care of yourself. Protect your joy, and protect your sadness, too. Unless I didn’t get the memo, humans aren’t supposed to only ever feel one emotion. We’re capable of great complexity. On happy days, hold the state of the world in your heart. On sad days, embrace your new joy without guilt or shame. There is space for both.
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Emily Torres is the Managing Editor at The Good Trade. She’s a Los Angeles transplant who was born and raised in Indiana, where she studied Creative Writing and Business at Indiana University. You can usually find her reading or writing, caring for her rabbits, or practicing at the yoga studio.