When things are not ok

When things are not ok, we are told to reach out to our friends, our family, to get the help and support that we need.

When things are not ok, we are told to breathe deep, take a step back, try to get some perspective.

When things are not ok, we are told to be kind to ourselves, to meditate, take a bubble bath, go for a walk, treat ourselves out to something fun.

When things are not ok, we are told that the people who love us will be there for us, will hold space for us and love us through the not-ok moment.

Let’s be clear: the not-ok moments are those moments we feel overwhelmed. We feel hurt. We feel misunderstood by or disconnected from those we long to be close to. The not-ok moments can last an hour, a day, or a few days. But we know, we know within ourselves, that they don’t last forever. However, for the time they do last, what do we really want?

cat teddy hugA hug. To be told it will all be ok. To be loved even when we’re messy, falling apart and in that moment, just not ok. And we want the person holding us to have the confidence in us that we will find our way back to being ok. Just right now, we could use that extra burst of unicorn glitter to get through the not-ok moment. We want to know we are loved and lovable.

The last time things were not ok for you, what did you do? Did you meditate and give your body a few good yoga stretches, then go get that Hagen-Daaz sundae and a little retail therapy? Maybe being kind to yourself was curling up on the sofa with a book and ignoring the world around you. Maybe tackled the punching bag or took your pole to the lake. Maybe you did a little bit of all the above.

But did you reach out to a friend and have them hold space for you? Did you make light of your complaints because, after all, others have far worse situations? We tend to belittle our needs, our emotions, and we constantly compare them to what we perceive to be other people’s more serious troubles. So we make our own momentary pain unimportant. When did that ever make us feel better?

Let’s reverse the scenario. When is the last time you truly sat with a friend in pain and held space for him? When did you hear, beneath your girlfriend’s dismissive comments, the very real emotion, and not just allow but encourage her to express it and feel it and let you help her carry it? When did you sit with your heartbroken child and just hold him because if there’s one thing we’ve learned as parents, as people, it’s that there is no way to fix a broken heart? (And my God, as parents, we want to fix that so, so badly).

I am tired of being afraid of the emotions. And I think we are conditioned to distance ourselves from them. Emotions are raw. They are uncontrollable. They are reactions to very real stuff that we don’t want to face – a troubled relationship, an unmet need, an old hurt or unspoken anger. Emotions are at the crux of the not-ok moment and so in that, we must remember: they pass. They do. But in that not-ok moment, we should not always have to be alone.

I am tired of being alone when I am not ok. But to do that – to not be alone when you are not ok – we have to trust. Not just ourselves but we have to trust that someone else is willing to be there for us when we’re not ok. And that they’ll be ok with the uninhibited chaos and sometimes irrational outbursts that come with processing emotions. They’ll be accepting of our anger, our hurt and our sadness, in whichever forms the rawness seeps out of us.

Here’s the thing: I know I can get through the not-ok moment alone. I have before. I will again. You will, too. The not-ok moments are part of life. But where is the rule book that says every not-ok moment must be dealt with alone? Who decided that wanting to be held and told it was going all going to work out, even when it’s an undeniable, impenetrable mess, was weak? Why are we expected to deny powerful emotions and manage life’s ups and downs like it’s all a sitcom, when some days really do just suck? When did it become wrong to need someone else to help you get through it?

There are people in your life whom I know you would be willing to hold that kind of space for, that infinite, compassionate place where you allow the other person to fall apart, and you don’t fix them or change them or say I told you so. Holding space for someone else’s emotions means holding your tongue. You just sit in that messy space with them and allow them to feel it.

When you know who those people are, give them that gift, the gift of being not ok. Because when it’s your turn to be not ok, and you don’t want to be alone, you’ll know whom to turn towards.

And I promise you, one of them will be there to give that gift back to you.

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