In the Spirit of Temba, His Arms Wide


The past week or so, the Star Trek Next Generation episode, “Darmok”, has weighed heavily on my mind. In this episode, Picard heads to the planet of El-Adrel IV to connect with an alien species known as the Tamarians.

The problem?

The Tamarians only communicate in metaphor. Picard and the captain of the Tamarian ship, Dathon, beam to the surface of El-Adrel IV to face a large beast. The Tamarians beam Picard against his will. According to Tamarian metaphor, this action rooted in a significant situation in their past – “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra.”

Darmok arrived at Tanagra alone as did Jalad. On Tanagra, there was a beast which threatened them both. Working together, Darmok and Jalad defeated the beast and left Tanagra together, friends instead of enemies.

Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra could also be a metaphor for parenthood, could it not?

Darmok is a parent. Jalad is a child. Tanagra – life.

Darmok speaks one language, Jalad another all together, one which is not understood by Darmok at all sometimes. The same is true for Darmok – Jalad does not always understand the words he hears or the meaning of the sounds uttered by Darmok as Jalad is still learning the vast meaning of language.

Darmok and Jalad, however, must work together, even in the simplest of ways, to survive Tanagra. The goal is to thrive in Tanagra, to create happiness and joy.

But what happens when the beast of Tanagra is a Perinatal Mood Disorder? Jalad cannot help fight this beast at the start, but as time goes on, Darmok may find a successful source of joy within the simple moments with Jalad.

If the beast of Tanagra is a PMAD, it is a fierce beast with an insatiable appetite for chaos for that is what PMAD wreaks upon Tanagra, particularly with Darmok & Jalad.

“Shaka, when the walls fell” is a phrase used in the episode to admit defeat. There are days when Darmok will scream this with every fiber of her being. Perhaps Jalad is uncooperative, or maybe the beast is ravenous, having not fed in a while. When you feel the urge to scream “Shaka, when the walls fell”, do it. Let it loose, let it escape the depths of your soul, let it run free instead of bottling it up.

Tomorrow is a new day. Start it anew, with the philosophy of finding “Temba, his arms wide” in your life. Open your heart to receiving help and fill your life with people willing to provide it. Start little if you need – someone to help with meals or childcare. Perhaps you need a break from Jalad to recoup and draw up new battle plans. Whatever it is you need, keep the attitude of Temba close to your heart, ready to accept help as you need it.

At the end of the episode, after Dathon succumbs to the wounds levied upon him by the beast of El-Adrel IV, Picard’s crew beams him back to the Enterprise. The Tamarians fire on the ship until Picard hails them and speaks to them in their metaphorical language, explaining the breakthrough to them. The ships then part, no longer enemies. Not quite friends, but no longer enemies.

This is exactly how I feel about my experience with my Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder episodes. We have long parted ways but I now speak the language. We are neither friend nor foes as it taught me plenty, some of which I learned specifically through my experiences with my Jalads on the island of Tanagra (motherhood/life).

Through my experiences at Tanagra, I now am able to carry my wisdom to those around the world with my words, sometimes metaphorical ones. For this, I will always be grateful, particularly as I travel the sea of life together with others who have fought the same beast as I did on Tanagra.

(If you’d like to read a fabulous summary of the Star Trek episode on which this post is based, you can do so here.)

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4 thoughts on “In the Spirit of Temba, His Arms Wide

  1. Geek mom alert – I remember that episode and how much frustration I felt in not understanding the metaphorical language. An incredible episode, and you did an excellent job with the comparison. You got it exactly right! The language barrier between mommy and baby and adding in the beast of a PMAD, it’s torture. Thankfully my battles have become few and far between, but as you said, I understand the language. Thanks for this excellent post.

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