Megan Markle recently wrote an op ed for the New York Times revealing a difficult loss she and her family endured earlier this year. In it she advocated for everyone to connect and check on each other. Her recommendation was to make asking “Are you OK?” a habit. Ask the people you regularly interact with and the people you encounter in one off situations.
I could not agree more. It’s important that we support and engage as families, networks and communities. While many of us are seeing ‘our people’ infrequently, we are still in contact using video calls, text, phone, chats or whatever works for your tribe. We still see people behind the masks when we run errands. Make it a practice to ask folks how they are and do it with intention. Mean it when you ask, care about their reaction and genuinely listen or watch as they respond.
The trick to being really effective at this is you need to ask a different question first. I’d like to recommend we go one step farther and begin by asking “Am I OK?” because you need to help yourself before you help others, right? It’s the put your oxygen mask on first scenario.
Now I’m sure many of you will say “I would know if I wasn’t ok” but the honest answer is you might not. You might think you are; you might tell yourself that and act that way when, in fact, you aren’t. That’s through no fault of our own. We are conditioned to convince ourselves and others that we have got things under control. There is this underlying fear and shame that if you admit you are not doing well, in any way, then others will look down on you, view you as a failure or begin whispering about you.
Well, let them whisper.
I can put that sentiment out there because when I posed that question and paused to be conscious and authentic in my answer, I realized: I am not OK.
Yup, it’s true.
The more I considered it the more I realized, how could I be? Like so many I have been impacted personally and professionally. I have experienced loss, setbacks and revelations about myself and others. To say it’s unsettling is an understatement. As the year continued, I went along, in disbelief, as one thing after another unfolded. Until I really couldn’t fathom making room to accommodate one more thing. At that point I looked at myself in the mirror and said out loud, “You are not OK.”
As I did, I was intensely afraid and epically relieved. There, I had said it. I gave myself permission to be not OK. I could draw down the façade and just swim in reality for a moment. And then it was two moments. Then three. Ten. I found I could survive with the truth out there. I could actually exhale fully and breath again.
Even more importantly, now I could get on with the business of healing. Focusing less on defending against what life was assaulting me with. Instead, figuring out how to recover and resume living it – in whatever shape that took, because 2020 was not over and crap was still coming my way. However, by admitting I was not OK I was suddenly empowered and dare I say it, hopeful again.
Let me be clear, this watershed moment did not erase the grief; or pain; or the uncertainty, frustration, exhaustion, overwhelm and incredulity. In fact, the dam burst. I had all the symptoms you read about, sometimes to a level I had never endured before and certainly not all at once. Seeing myself this way was frightening and disruptive.
I wasn’t suddenly fixed, but I was reassured. I knew what was happening. And why. I was getting a handle on the emotional, spiritual, mental and physical aspects of it. I already had coping strategies and resources, I simply had to put them to work for me, aggressively at times. Armed with that I began to chip away at it. And I continue to.
Because I am still not OK. I know that because I keep asking myself that all important question.
It’s a process (I’d even say a journey) and it takes time. But I am aware now and getting better. I have good and bad days. I enjoy wins and then suffer new losses. I’m not sharing a story with an everything-worked-out-in-the-end type of ending. It’s the life I am living right now. Just like the person delivering your packages and the nurse checking your temperature. Just like you.
I’m not entirely able to offer all my support just yet, but when I ask you, “Are you OK?” I truly mean it. I want you to consider your answer. And know this: it’s totally acceptable for you to say “No, I’m not OK.”
So, tell me, are you OK?
#wellness #selfcare #personalgrowth