It's Okay Not to Be Okay
I just returned from my local market in the small town where I live. They have put up shields to protect the clerks from potential contagion. Because of said shields, it’s nearly impossible to hear your store club number, which is something we still communicate verbally in my small-town market. I had to repeat it three times. I wondered how long it would take them to make it all automatic so we don’t need to speak at all. Maybe we can set up a Zoom call while we’re in line.
It’s okay not to be okay.
The lady (6 feet) behind me said they just announced locally that schools were out until the end of the year. She didn’t think she was going to make it. She has a first grader with ADD and she just doesn’t understand how teachers have ever taught him anything. Finally, a global appreciation for teachers. I hope when we emerge on the other side of this (and we will) teachers will be paid more than lawyers. I was a teacher and trust me, they should be. Yet even as I type that, I know it’s going to take more than a pandemic to turn that culture upside down and make it fully right. The woman in line looked defeated and unsure of this new unknown.
It’s okay not to be okay.
Honestly, we would do well to get there sooner. Think about it. In our personal lives, if we don’t listen the first time, don’t we consistently get the 2x4 upside the head next? I know I do. I really try with all my might to listen the first time to that still small voice. To organize my life so that I can hear it. That involves a very regular set of practices for me. Right now, I’m even entering them into an app so I don’t get sloppy. It’s called Rewi and it’s part of Yale’s Science of Happiness class which I’m taking online for free right now with my 700,000 strong cohort.
Are you curious about the categories? Here they are: meditation, gratitude, savoring, kindness, connection, exercise, sleep, goals. Each of these categories, every day. That’s what the science tells us it takes to be happy. You can’t just know it for it to work. You have to do it. I would add a few additions: learn something new, push through an uncomfortable personal borderland, and help by using your gifts in any way you can think to do, big or small.
And now you know that when I feel powerless, I find power in my perfectionist archetype, the one with the straight As and overachieving bend because somehow that makes me feel more in control when I’m clearly not.
It’s okay to not be okay, I remind myself.
But what if you do all this, and you’re still swirling? You are not alone. The woman in the store today who told me she’s barely holding on. The multiple social media posts of people revealing a little more truth than the photo-shopped truth usually revealed. The ones trying to entertain and make people smile. The rumblings of people forced to share small spaces they aren’t used to sharing and the memes that go with those relationships. The new daily text threads between friends who previously only spoke on occasion. We muster whatever coping mechanisms work for us.
Though, I need to tell you a secret. While this chaos is scary, and has killed with its air grabbing grip, and brought families and businesses to their knees, it has done something else that gives me peace and hope. This something else, paradoxically, has given us all a chance to breathe-metaphorically, but also literally.
The air is cleaner across the globe. I’m mesmerized by the indigo sky, free of airplanes. I walk outside each day and savor Spring’s white puffy offerings against that magnificent blue. I hear this from people across the world looking up at the same sky. Imagine. If it looks like this in just this short time what it could look like again. More and more are waking up knowing we are all an interdependent One with one sky that we can all see more clearly now.
Not only the sky, but also the oceans. Each time I have dove down into the sea the past two years I’ve seen more and more damage and it breaks my heart. Yet, I spoke with an Australian woman last week who said she has never seen her ocean so pristine. I can feel them clearing, sparkling. And this part of it makes my heart so happy.
I think about all the writers out there finding words because that’s what writers do. I think about my fellow children’s writers 700 strong and growing, all putting in their time to help students out there through free online offerings. I think about all the artists out there pouring their feelings into their creations because that’s what they do. I think about all the filmmakers I’ve been working with from around the world the past month on pro bono projects that are about to birth offerings to help lift the planet. They have pivoted from “what are we going to do?” to “let’s do something great together never done before.” My heart bursts open with joy at these moments especially up against the chaos of the past month. There’s an authenticity here that was missing before and I’ve never seen anything like it in my entire life. A transformation.
This. This New Earth. She makes my heart sing!
It’s time for us to pivot. To look at things a new way. To find the light while embracing the shadow. Both must exist. We must acknowledge both are in the room. To think about what really matters.
If we can’t find this space right in this moment, that’s okay. Change is the only constant and she’ll usher in a new day. The work is already in motion.
And sometimes, we just need to remember: it’s okay to not be okay.
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