“I feel lost and confused, but happy and certain. I am like a ball of tangled yarn.” – A.L. Miles

A U.C. Berkeley-related study suggests that there are at least 27 distinct emotions—and they are intimately connected with each other. I’m interested in how we process opposing emotions such as sadness and joy when they seemingly occur simultaneously.


In the midst of this week’s tragedy on Capitol Hill, our family received two pieces of wonderful news: one piece of news I can’t yet share, but the other is that my cousin Father Leo O’Donovan will give the invocation for Biden at the inauguration on January 20. This mix of sadness and joy comprises so much of the human experience, and it reminded me of a long-ago event.


Though I don't watch many awards shows, the 2003 Emmy Awards show has stayed with me. In an “upset win,” according to an LA Times reporter, actor Tony Shalhoub won best actor in a comedy series, yet he was grieving the loss of his beloved nephew, who died unexpectedly the previous day and to whom he dedicated his award. A network president later described Tony as “happy but also completely heartbroken and filled with sorrow.” And the producer of the show Monk said that Tony had “a sense of joy, loss and confusion all at the same time. I could tell this was all a blur to him.”


Journaling about opposing feelings helps me wrestle with such blur and confusion. Because my mind races faster than I can write, journaling slows things down and helps me process news—the good and the bad—separately. It becomes a way to catch up with myself and, in time, move past the blur.


Sunday Journal Prompt

How do you process joyful new and sad news when they seem to arrive simultaneously?


For more information about the emotion study referenced, click here.


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Jenny Patton

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© 2020 by Jenny Patton