There is heavy stuff going on in my immediate family. I say “stuff” for lack of a better word that doesn’t get more specific than I want to be right now online. Some of this stuff is new, and some has been part of our lives since forever. In the fall, I called one of my closest friends on the phone and broke down after finding out about the newer “stuff.” This friend, who is wiser than she might realize, told me just what I needed to hear. She told me that I don’t have to be okay. I’m not very good at not being okay. I’m good at hiding the fact that I’m not okay until it eats me up on the inside and reaches the outside in the form of messy emotional deregulation. Who knew such a term existed? Not me!
Two years ago, this happened in a yoga class during that end portion when you all lay quietly in the dark and think about how you deserve this moment for yourself. As I hurriedly rolled up my mat with a bright red and teary face, the teacher asked if I was alright. “I’m okay! I’m okay!” is what I said, even if it wasn’t true. My therapist later told me that another choice in a situation like that is to say, “I’m not okay, but I will be.” I like having that phrase in my back pocket now.
Last week I had plans to have dinner with an old and dear friend I hadn’t caught up with in years. That day was an anxious and hectic one, mostly for unrelated reasons. But I couldn’t help but worry that I would go into this dinner a basket-case and make a terrible new “first impression.” I made an intentional effort to remind myself that I didn’t have to be okay. That alone helped enormously, and I had an absolutely wonderful time at dinner. No tears, no breakdowns, no feeling scattered. Even though I know it would have been alright with her if there had been, I was relieved. We talked about the happy things and the not so happy things in both of our lives, and she told me that she couldn’t believe how confident I am now as opposed to when she knew me before. It was a great feeling, amidst the “stuff.” I’m not okay, but I will be.