It’s OK Not to Be OK

We go through our days asking, or being asked, “How are you?” and without a second’s thought, the stock answer comes out as, “Fine, thanks.” Even if we’re not. Sound familiar? In our search for happiness and the perfect life, too often we don a mask, not the one that protects us from disease, but the one that covers more than our mouth and nose.  The one that invites others to believe we’re OK when we’re not.  What if you were to take it off for a while and risk being real? The benefits of this to your mental and emotional health could be immense … and those around who recoil at you breaking a fundamental social rule? Best lost from your group of trust, anyway. Once you find the courage to tell someone your truth, it’s likely that you’ll rapidly find that you’re not alone in your refreshing new honesty. Now is the time to check that your lockdown isn’t a self-imposed, mental one; that it’s not your reaction to a mind telling you that you are not brave, thin, clever, articulate, fit, competent, doing,  … enough to be heard. We’ve all had that A-ha moment round a table with friends, where the interaction leads to a little more depth than the weather and latest food fad. These are the conversations about authentic feelings and heart-felt personal experiences. They all resonate. ‘Me too’ takes on sharp meaning and yet you might still hesitate to share your story. Don’t. It’s OK to be there and to share. Right now, there are possibly millions of us who are genuinely not OK. And that’s OK. You see, eight very long months ago, we and 8-billion others were told to step away from one another, get into our homes and stay there for weeks, which became months. We were told not to touch or trust anyone. We were told we, or our loved ones were best served if we did not go near them. We were told that millions … our loved ones …we … might die sooner than we’d imagined. Fear and anxiety seemed like mild labels for the emotions we lived and breathed. We faced a media barrage of statistics, politics, corruption, inequality, tragedy, poverty alongside the occasional tale of goodness, of people caring and sharing. What were we to believe? What were we to do? What if we did nothing? That would have been OK. It really would. However, our innate need to control our world had us inwardly scrambling for order and predictability. Then came the economic punch: a 51% contraction in our GDP is not OK, but there’s very little you can do to correct that. Your role in this is not to change the status quo, unless you contributed to it of course (buying a new Ferrari or holiday house with new-found wealth because you milked the crisis, is not OK). And now.. the threat of a second wave. Take a moment to consider what is in your control to change – where you can make changes that will benefit your state of being. The answer is: inside yourself. This is a time to acknowledge and care for yourself. You’ve survived the Great Pause of 2020. You’re not out of the woods yet, and that’s OK. Few are. Out of the woods means many things, like seeking the elusive ‘back to normal’. I invite you to find normality in what IS, rather than what was. Create a normality in which you find and nurture your place in this world. Take time to reflect on the positives that you experienced over this unexpected time –  and harness these for the future. Whether you mastered a basic new skill or honed an existing one; worked 16 hour days or binge watched on Netflix – that was OK. Anything and everything you did, was OK, if it provided you with perspective or inspired you, then that’s more than OK.  Your response may also be a tiny clue as to what your future can hold – when you’re ready, that is. Right now your work is to sit back, acknowledge you’ve lived through the unimaginable and that being not-OK is perfectly OK. You’ll step out into the world when you’re ready – and It’s ready for you. My advice, when you do step out, is to take the fabric mask, but leave the social one at home.  Bring your authenticity to the table, speak your truth in conversations: there are meaningful conversations going on out there and you (and those around you) can only benefit from your being an honest part of them. Don’t let anger about what you haven’t been able to control, stop you from meaningfully changing what you can. Let your voice speak and share – the change begins with you – if you’re ready. And if today you’re not ready? That’s OK too.
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