I have told many friends that I am slightly embarrassed to admit that this hasn’t been a time of great difficulty for me.
But, I won’t apologize for not falling apart during this pandemic.
Not much about my day-to-day has changed, other than not running to the grocery store for every little thing I want when I want it. I know this may ruffle some feathers. And I’m sorry that I’m not sorry, especially knowing that many can’t relate to my perspective.
The truth is, I care quite a bit about how much everyone is suffering and struggling, and I have had many conversations with people who are barely keeping it together. I have called and texted people who I know are doing all they can to put one foot in front of the other on any given day.
I have checked on my widowed neighbor and called my friends on the front lines dealing with life and death and heard their stories. I’m not saying this in arrogance or ignorance of the realities of what has taken place. I fully grasp that this has upended the lives and livelihood of our entire world.
I keep seeing articles that say, “We all Need to Stop Pretending we’re ‘Fine’ & Just Feel our F*cking Feelings.”
So I ask the question, what about those of us that really are fine?
There’s an acronym for the word fine that I learned in codependent recovery. It stands for:
I can laugh about it now, but it wasn’t amusing when it was my reality and the life I lived so many years ago.
Now before anyone stomps off in indignant judgment and condemns me for what is perceived as a lack of compassion and empathy, let me assure everyone that I can empathize, trust me, I really can. I have even questioned myself on if I really am okay, or just not feeling the giant tide of the tsunami that everyone else is feeling right now. So I ask the question, when did it become wrong to be alright?
Perhaps I am so well trained to keep it together that it won’t hit me until this is all over. Maybe I am too sheltered in my everyday life by keeping my circle small. Perhaps, I am always guarded with people and information, or perhaps I prioritize my mental health because I know what life is like when I don’t.
I know the struggle of loneliness and pain and isolation. I know the strain of financial loss and devastation. I have had times in my life where going into subterranean mode was my only way of survival. Yes, I know depression—pull down the shades and shut the whole world out, don’t pick up the phone, and don’t go to that event.
There was a time in my life when depression and despair had become my best friends. I identified with them so powerfully that I could no longer see anything in front of me. All I could see was my pain. I had lost the ability to empathize with others and their pain because I couldn’t see past my own. That’s one of the insidious things that depression takes away from people.
It’s not that depressed people don’t care about others or their struggles, it’s that the lens of life becomes so narrow that the darkness takes over every other aspect.
Then, after a painful and chaotic marriage and necessary divorce, I was forced to take an inventory of myself. Divorce has a way of doing that, and it should. We should take a good hard look at ourselves and determine who we want to be and what we want when we come out of it. We should be asking hard questions of ourselves. Some look at divorce as a loss, while some see it as a victory. Those who become introspective have a far greater chance of coming out stronger on the other side of their tsunami.
I knew I had two choices: to fall apart and wallow in self-pity or get to work making the best version I could make of myself. And I can honestly say, there was nothing pretty about it. It’s like looking for the missing pieces of an intricate puzzle without a picture on the box to show us where the parts belong. It’s like knowing that the tidal wave of the tsunami has hit, but fearing there is another one coming right behind it.
The thing is, if we talk to anyone about life, they can tell us that it comes with beauty and victories to be celebrated, but it also comes with great defeats. It comes with destruction, and sometimes it comes with the absolute unimaginable. It comes with parents who have lost a child, the sudden death of a dear friend’s husband, suicide, infidelity, the loss of a job and livelihood, and a devastating medical diagnosis.
It comes with addiction, obsession, and sometimes it comes with depression. It comes with anger and resentment, but it also comes with joy and forgiveness.
Oh, I’m not going to lie, I have had my moments too. Like the day I ventured out and saw the fear in everyone’s eyes. People kept insinuating that I was afraid because I believed that people should stay home, or that they should wear masks because that is what was being asked of us.
What I was feeling wasn’t fear. What I was feeling was an overwhelming sorrow that this is what our current normal looks like. I was sad that people have to be afraid. Sorry that it could be a long time before we aren’t scared anymore and even more tragic that it has brought an even greater division at a time when we need to come together and show greater compassion and empathy for each others’ plights.
I can also say that I am well trained in how to take care of and advocate for myself after years of not knowing. But that only came after years of believing that I didn’t have a voice and that it didn’t count when I used it.
I learned that perfection doesn’t exist and that I don’t need to please everyone. I learned how to say no to what wasn’t serving me well. I learned to trust myself to know what to accept and what to sift away. To trust my intuition and know that I have everything I need within me when life gets really hard.
I now like to redefine the meaning of the word fine completely: Fearless Ingenuity Negates Everything. It doesn’t mean I am never afraid. It means I have developed the resources to face life’s abundant challenges and hardships. It means I know when I need to seek out a good therapist. It means I know when to turn off the news. It means I know that I need some daily exercise and some form of creativity.
It also means I know how not to take on the weight of the world. It took a hell of a lot of work to be fine.
And now, really, I am fine.