It’s Okay To Be Okay, Too

I’m a pisces. I live my life in movie moments, always waiting and imagining for the next big thing to happen, the next exciting event that will change the course of my life forever. I daydream of unknown adventures I know I’ll never take, of futures that I may not even want but that I tell myself is the goal. I have a lofty imagination that I seldom voice to others. And I think this element of mine, this character trait, according to the stars or kabbalah or whatever force you choose to believe in that makes us who we are, is the one thing that holds me back the most. It’s my own fear of not accomplishing the pisce-y daydreams I put in my head. I have constant anxiety of so many things, but mainly of the daydreams that I know I won’t do.

You know when you were a kid driving in the backseat of your parent’s car listening to your music and it’s raining outside and you’re daydreaming and imagining all these things that could or would never happen to you? Like playing a movie in your head? Well as a young girl, I used to picture Some Crazy Big Thing happening. A car crash, an accident, cancer. I used to picture this happening, and I even used to picture losing someone – a sibling, a friend, a parent. I know, crazy right? Blame it on the pisces. My innocent imagination would conjure up all of these horrible different scenarios, and the part that is the most crazy – is that I would imagine the future that would come after as hopeful. I would imagine the worst possible thing to happen to me, and then suddenly, I was different after – I was brave. I was fearless. I miraculously became smart enough to get a PhD, or had enough patience to actually apply for grad school, or brave enough to start my own company. I suddenly met my soulmate and had these amazing children and was full of wisdom and just became a completely made up fairytale character that doesn’t exist. In my own head, I created all of these wild expectations. I instilled in me the dream that something as dramatically positive would happen to me that would outweigh the bad.

I have been waiting for that “positive miracle” or “crazy life changing moment” to show up the day my mother died. And instead, my father died too. And guess what?

I’m still full of fear. Of disappointment and bitterness, of regrets and sadness, of hopeless wishes and stable careers. None of the things I pictured came to fruition. I did not go on some wild road trip where I met extraordinary people and suddenly my life changed. No, my father was on a ventilator, I had bills to manage and things to take care of. And after he died, I didn’t get to run away to some country and create some new life to myself. I had to get an apartment to store all my stuff because I lost my home and thousands of pictures that I never want to lose and countless items that have created a shrine in my home to my parents. Where would I have put all of these things? It didn’t make sense, it wasn’t possible because the death of a parent means the death of your childhood – and with that means all of your carefree, no sense of responsibility self. You no longer have parents taking care of you. You no longer have health insurance either. You no longer have a place to go when you want to just “go home”. You need to create your own home. You can’t travel on a trip and then come back to some place, you need to create that place, and you need to pay the bills to keep that place running, and you better be on top of that because no one else will do it for you. You are now on your own.

I knew all of this and yet I still lived with these expectations, when was I going to go and travel and do something crazy? The craziest thing happened to me, what would I do next? What do I do now? How do I make this all better, more meaningful? How can I turn this horrible painful and seemingly meaningless event into something positive? I must, because how can I live with it if I don’t?

But what if the traveling and the road trip was never the answer? What if I don’t want to be alone but with whatever family I have left, and what if I need my friends to make me smile and my family to keep me going constantly – and what if I don’t want to get rid of my stuff or have to store it somewhere because its all I have left? What if I got rid of these stupid expectations I put on myself for no good reason?

As Tal Ben Shahar writes in his book, The Pursuit of Perfect, “If we give up on our desire to improve. . .we are more likely to have positive feelings about ourselves. Conversely, if we are ambitious, if we constantly and relentlessly increase our expectations of ourselves, we are doomed to low self-esteem and negative feelings. . .So while stretching ourselves, pushing ourselves to greater heights, can be a good thing, there is a point beyond which it becomes a bad thing.”

A close friend of mine told me recently, that we always hear about the crazy loud stories, and the crazy triumphs, and the crazy outcomes. But what about the quiet calm stories? Just because we don’t read about them doesn’t meant they don’t exist. Did you know that there are 166,279 deaths in the world a day? That’s a lot of grieving to do. That’s a lot of stories to be told, and a hell of a lot of ones that will never be heard. So what about those? What about the quiet sobbing, the calm grieving? The soft stability. What about the 9-5 jobs that keep us together as our pieces are broken, what about the consistent dinners we make ourselves cook so we can feed our bodies, what about the order of life – of taking care of your children, of living your every day doing exactly what you need to be doing.

We read a lot that it’s okay to scream. But it’s also okay to not scream. It’s okay to not cry every day too. Maybe you don’t feel this way, and maybe you can’t relate at all. But, in case you do, I am here to tell you this:

Your loss mattered, even if it wasn’t on the cover of new york times. Your grief matters, even if your story is not being published and shared around on social media. Your person mattered. You mattered. And nothing, not a crazy road trip, not a wild bungee roping trip, not a jumping out of a helicopter story or skydiving trip will change that. None of these things will take away the pain from your loss, and they won’t gain to it. Your life is enough, just the way that it is. And there is no reason to believe in any other expectations otherwise. You don’t have to do anything at all. You can cry one second, and forget the next. But of course, this wouldn’t be my blog if I didn’t advise you to cry and write and express your grief as often as you can, so that it doesn’t hold you back or become trapped anywhere else in your life. So that you can feel it and move with it. Don’t abandon it. But back to my original point. It’s okay not to be okay. But it’s also okay to be okay. Just the way you are.

What if instead of those expectations we give ourselves we can use instead to make the small moments that are so beautiful and meaningful into every day moments? What if we could use this pressure to motivate us to cook dinners we enjoy, or watch that movie we really love? If we add up all of these little beautiful moments, it could create a beautiful day. And a beautiful day, is something you can hold onto, during a really bad day.. The photo on this post was taken on a couple really beautiful days with people that I know make up a really beautiful and blessed life.

I’ll end this piece with a quote from my new favorite book, Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaouad, “The idea of striving for some beautiful, perfect state of wellness? It mires us in eternal dissatisfaction, a goal forever out of reach. To be well now is to learn to accept whatever body and mind I currently have.”

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