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Offering an uncommon perspective can feel like a risk but the truth is, it’s often a gift. To someone, if not everyone.
First, a preface: I am currently employed. I have a safe and warm home, where I do not live alone. At the time of writing this, my loved ones are healthy. I have white skin, a conventionally able body, a strong immune system, and was raised by loving parents. I always been able to meet my basic needs. In other words: I am a person with privileges, comforts and resources that are not available to everyone.
And yet, the point of this column is to acknowledge a possibility that might exist regardless of personal circumstances, so let’s get into it.
It is OK if you are OK right now.
Just a few short weeks ago, the “thing to say” to acknowledge someone’s pain was: It’s OK to not be OK. It’s OK if you’re struggling. If you need extra TLC, if you are living with a mental illness, or are struggling to do so. That was true last month, it’s true today, and it’s still going to be true next month, too.
But here’s the thing: that message about not being OK has become the all-consuming story. And like all stories that paint every person with the same brush, it is inevitably leaving some people out.
Articles have already been written about the individual and collective grieving process that so many of us are experiencing right now. While we stay home to protect our physical health, many folks are finding their emotional and mental health is taking a beating. Public health officials and elected leaders alike are acknowledging how delicate our well-being is.
We’re being told to feel afraid for our health, our economy, and our future. We’re being told that we’re all feeling the same way. We’re being told this is harder than anything we’ve ever experienced. But what if everything “they” say doesn’t feel true for you?
What does it mean if on the inside, you’re hanging in? Taking really good care of yourself. Looking for the bright spots or feeling more connected to your blessings than ever. Lucky enough to have a circle of family and friends who are still meeting their basic needs and keeping healthy, at least for now.
And what if you’re not exclusively heart-broken about what has fallen apart in your life? What if you’re feeling defiantly hopeful about what might come together in its place?
The answer is: that’s OK, too.
It’s OK if you’re spending more time with yourself and appreciating it. If slower mornings or quieter evenings agree with you, or if the current pace of the world is more your speed.
It’s OK if you feel strangely free from FOMO and are sensing a new contentment starting to take its place. It’s OK if you’re already losing touch with someone you won’t actually miss, or if your calendar doesn’t have a single “networking” activity in it and you don’t much care.
It’s OK if underneath the unsettling circumstances, you’re discovering you actually like being at home with your kids, when you never thought you would or could. It’s OK if you’ve lost your job and underneath your very legitimate financial worries, there’s a small voice that says: you never liked that job to begin with. It’s OK if the career path that just came to an abrupt halt isn’t the same one you’d choose if given the chance to choose again.
It’s OK if your business is closed and although it hurts you to lay-off your employees and you’re genuinely worried about them, you quietly begin to question if the business is one you’ll want to go back to when this is all over.
It’s OK if going for a walk in the middle of the day really works for you. Or if the real truth is that your body feels happier with walks than with 6 a.m. spin classes.
It’s OK if you’re lucky enough to still have a job and are discovering that working from home actually isn’t so bad. Or if having more time for playing, sleeping, reading, crafting, cleaning, cooking, or relaxing feels good – great, even.
It’s OK if you’re discovering that you like your partner or your children even more than you thought, and spending way more time with them doesn’t actually feel like a hardship.
It’s OK if your schedule, priorities, spending habits, preferences, interactions, hobbies, curiosities, ideas or grand plans have shifted – and it’s OK if, sooner or later, you discover new ones that support, inspire, or suit you even more.
Because the thing is: we don’t need to make this harder than it already is. We don’t need fear, shame, self-restriction and guilt to become more widespread than the virus itself.
What we need is to find a way to be more authentically ourselves than we’ve ever been before.
We need to leave room for every person to feel, experience and process this situation and its varying degrees of personal tragedy differently.
We need to allow possibility, joy, creativity, love, health and well-being to still be welcome here. At the very least – we need difference and variety to be safe here.
We can stand together without suffering together. We can acknowledge pain without pushing it on ourselves or each other. We can prioritize public health without feeling guilty about being well.
Underneath that dominant story of fear, anxiety, pain and suffering that’s playing out all around us: how are you, really?
It’s OK if you’re OK right now.
And it’s equally acceptable if you change your mind tomorrow.
Laura is all about silver linings, tiny joys, fresh perspectives, artful gatherings, wellness, and creativity that gets made.