December 20, 2016

It's Okay to not be Okay

I try to pay attention to my surroundings. When someone cries, I notice that either 1) the person apologizes immediately, or 2) the listener quickly says "everything will be okay." Or these both happen simultaneously. We have a strong need for things to be okay. Okay-ness provides comfort and perceived control, but it doesn't match reality. Sometimes we're okay, sometimes we're not.

It's important for us to know: it's okay to not be okay. If we make room for the not-okay places, we feel better. It takes more energy to resist fear than it does to feel it. Similarly, it's more spacious to listen with compassion than to interrupt with advice. 

Life is complicated. We can cultivate gratitude, love, and playfulness, but this doesn't mean we're always okay. Sometimes we feel sad, lonely, or ashamed. Sometimes the people we love go through tremendous difficulty. How do we experience this without being overwhelmed? For me, it's helpful to be aware and honest: Notice what's happening inside me, don't pretend I'm okay when I'm not. (And make room for others to feel whatever they're feeling, too.) Then it's important to stay with myself and allow for what's painful. My habit is to get lost in thoughts and judgments (especially self-judgment), but if I stay directly with the pain, it shifts, and I feel better. Even the slightest opening helps me remember: things change. 

If we reject the painful places within ourselves, we reject those places in others, too. Yet if we accept the dark places, we allow ourselves and others to change. We are mirrors for each other. When we're real, brave, open, and compassionate, we invite others to be the same. It's okay to not be okay. It's also okay to be happy or hopeful in a complicated world. There's no one way to live this life.

PS: If you want to practice staying with not-okayness, listen here...

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