Just My Thoughts – I’m Fine
February 24 2021
Once I worked in a big fancy office, with lots of mahogany furniture, and a corporate dress code. And every morning, everyone pranced around filling their coffee cups and tossing, “Good morning, how are you?” around like it was a pink packet of Sweet and Low. They didn’t care how I was – or how anyone was – because no one continued to engage in conversation long enough to even hear the obligatory “I’m fine” that was the required response.
That’s when I started loathing the phrase “I’m fine.”
Because – I’m guesstimating here – 95.8% of the time when someone says “I’m fine,” they are, indeed NOT fine.
You just say it as a reflex response. And most time we use the reflex because two words coming out of our mouths is so much more readily acceptable in our society than the 5,397 words of true emotions that will vomit out of us if we answered honestly.
Here we are, at the nearly one-year anniversary of this historic pandemic. And I want to know – How Are You?
Please do not say you are fine. There is no possible way that you are actually fine.
Earlier this month, during a special Saturday morning forum on mental health in the times we are living, the Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe said, “No one alive on this planet right now is actually 100% fine. It isn’t humanly possible.” And she knows about these things. She’s a mental health professional, advocate, and genuinely beautiful soul. If you haven’t already, check out her book The Lifesaving Church or watch the recording of the forum on YouTube.
Let’s just agree that we are all various levels of fine. And each one of us might just have a personal level of fine that changes every day. Sometimes it changes multiple times a day. Possibly it changes several times in a given hour.
Like Katie Miller so eloquently said a couple of weeks ago: “it goes in waves – some days are good and I think ‘wow I’ve got the hang of this!’ And other days I spend hours blankly staring at my phone.” This is true for me too. But, also true is that I can wake up feeling like I’m completely in control of the day’s destiny, and by lunch time can have such an intense case of the “I Don’t Wannas” that I have to force myself to think of something to cook for dinner so that we don’t just have cheese and a glass of merlot.
But, here’s the thing: It’s OK. It is all absolutely, positively OK.
Please stop trying to be fine. We are not fine.
What we are is … resilient. What we are is … tired, nay, exhausted, by this pandemic. But if you are reading this, then that means that you are still here, living out this catastrophic history. Living it as best we can with our uncut hair and stashes of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Because resilience kicks in even when you desperately need a haircut.
Someone on my TV recently, who was talking about the vaccine and what it means for our lives in the coming months, said: “We’re all so OVER Covid, but Covid isn’t over us” so please don’t stop wearing your mask, socially distancing, etc.
I’m pretty sure what the talking head was implying was that even though we are tired, the virus is still very much working at full force and we need to stay vigilant. Great point.
What I heard, however, was more along the lines of the idea that IN SPITE of our exhaustion, the virus doesn’t have to keep a choke hold on our existence.
Yes, wear a mask, get your vaccination when it is your turn, keep your distance at the grocery store. Do all the things that have now become normal.
But also, give yourself permission to have bad days. To have afternoons of exhaustion. To have glorious mornings watching the sun rise followed by an angry outburst when the coffee pot overflows 15 minutes later.
To answer the phone and reply, “Yes, I’m fine, but…” and not allow reflex to take over.
To have cheese and – who am I kidding – a bottle of merlot for dinner.
We are all doing the best we can. We all have completely different ways of doing our best. Don’t beat yourself up for mistakes at work, for shortfalls in parenting, for feeling like a bad friend when joining that zoom social hour just feels like too much.
The super smart psychology people suggest doing or finding one thing – just ONE thing – on any given day that brings or shows you joy. Maybe you are super creative and can make something beautiful. Let that be your joy! Maybe, just maybe, all you can muster today is the fact that your cup of hot tea smells glorious as it steeps. That, my friend is joy.
Write down that joy. Every single day, write down that ONE thing. Start keeping a list – in a tablet, on a sticky note, on the back of the power bill, doesn’t matter – just write them down. This helps your brain better process how amazing life really is amid all of this chaos and uncertainty.
If you have more than one on any given day, congratulations! Write them all down. Reflect on them when your head hits the pillow at night.
Just keep going. Spring is coming, and new life will start springing forth. Easter is upon us, with the reminder of the hope and joy in the resurrection.
If today was abysmal, eat the cheese for dinner, find some joy in doing so, and try again tomorrow.
If on any given day you cannot find one single thing that musters up even the brief sparkle of something joy-filled, please do not sit alone in that spot. It is OK to not be OK. Do not let reflex take over and be “fine”. Let me say that again: it is OK to not be OK. Please just reach out to someone and talk things through. You can call 800-273-8255 to talk to a live person 24 hours a day. Or text HOME to 741 741 to reach someone via text message immediately.