When someone asks me how I am doing, I fight responding with an “I am fine,” because in my head it comes out in a high-pitched whiny sound that brings up the brick wall that sends a message to those who ask, not to ask again. I always feel like we say, “I am fine,” because we think that is what people want to hear and we think we are making it easier for them, or because we just don’t have the bandwidth to tell the truth, which can sometimes be… “I am not fine.”
I have started responding with, “I am okay,” which has evolved into, “I am okay, today. Check back in again tomorrow.” This to me, is the best answer, because how we are from day to day can change, and this isn’t just about loss and grief, it could be about personal issues, friendship drama, work, or life struggles. Relative to loss and grief, how we are one day, will definitely differ from another, and the truth is, at least for me, I don’t want people to stop checking in, and I don’t want to put up a brick wall that keeps people out, even if it seems that way when I respond.
I started to wonder what I would say if I received a response like, “I am not okay,” and I realized that I am more comfortable with that honest response than one that leaves me questioning whether they were being honest with me in the first place. It’s okay to be not okay and I think that is the message we need to send to anyone who is struggling. We also need to practice being the safe place people can go when they are not okay, that they know they can tell us their difficult truth’s and we will stay standing, and not turn around and run away.
Life is difficult, it is messy, chaotic, unpredictable, scary, and many times leaves us feeling very sad. But we are not alone. Every single one of us knows someone else who is struggling… and that person knows someone else who is struggling. And so on, and so on. So, if we keep that reality in our mind, perhaps we will make more of an effort to be a safer place for someone to go when they struggle, but also, our responses to them when they tell us they are not okay, will be an out-stretched hand and a listening ear, which for, at least that day, can change their answer to, “I am okay. Today.”
Moving forward, if you know someone who is having a difficult time, and you ask them how they are doing, add “today” to the question. And if you are being asked this question, only answer it for today, for that moment, and if you are not okay, be honest about that so the people who care about you can be there for you in a way that comforts and supports you.
For those of you having a tough time, it's okay to not be okay. We will check in again tomorrow to see how you are. And if you are still not okay, we will remind you that you are not alone. xo