Monday, June 4, 2007

True Ambivalence

Many people think ambivalence means a state of not really caring. But those people would be incorrect, albeit by no fault of their own as this word gets misused all the time. In fact, true ambivalence is, in my opinion, much more interesting than mere indifference. Ambivalence refers to a dissonant state of mind in which two opposing emotions co-exist. In other words, to be ambivalent means to be torn.

This afternoon I began going through Eliana's baby clothes, keeping those that I thought would fit Meron and would be appropriate for the season, tossing those that were too stained to feel good about using again, and designating the too-small stuff for either neighbors or the Care Center in Ethiopia. As you might imagine, going through Eliana's old baby clothes conjured up many emotions. A highly diverse group of emotions pulling me in opposite directions. Ambivalence. Or, a conversation in my head that probably verged on an attack of multiple personality disorder.

It started out innocently enough, this attack of ambivalence/MPD. I was looking at an adorable pair of Baby Gap size 6-12 month overalls and thought to myself, "Oh my gosh, these are so cute! I'm so excited to have another baby!!!" Immediately, a raspy, low voice emerged from the corner of my brain where the cynical, sleep-deprived, frazzled and bitter old woman lives: "Are you crazy?! Excited for what?! 2 am feedings? endless hours of stacking blocks? Blow-outs? The freakin' Wiggles for crying out loud?" This voice was joined by the cautious woman inside my head, the one who wants to play it safe and gets neither too excited nor too pessimistic about anything - until she has a reason, of course, and then she totally freaks out. She appeared to be taking the crabby-ass lady's side today. "Seriously, Terri," she cautioned, "Remember how tired you were? How bored you were? While it certainly might be better this time around, it's probably best not to allow yourself to get too excited. You'll only be let down when things go entirely the opposite of what you have planned."

And yet, the optimistic mother in me, the one who truly enjoys baking cookies with her daughter on the kitchen floor, going for super-slow walks, taking trips to the zoo, watching oddly composed puppet shows in the living room, and even has some fond memories of watching 3am re-runs of Conan O'Brien, well she just doesn't want to shut up. She wants to be excited. She needs to be excited. After all, this baby is coming and why not be happy about it? Haven't you seen the picture? It's almost hard to imagine a more beautiful creature, and one who most decidedly needs a mother. It totally makes sense to get really, really excited!!

Of course, as soon as this train of thought gets rolling down the track, the other voices rumble in the background, unwilling to be silenced, having learned from the first child that their concerns are well-founded.

And this, my friends, is ambivalence.

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