I sat in a workshop yesterday where the presenter said we all tell lies all the time. And we are all told lies all the time. But the biggest lie of them all is a four-letter word we tell ourselves: “Fine.”
It didn’t sit well with the women in the room. “I am fine,” they said. “Maybe I’m not fine, but I’m not going to start telling everybody that!” others said. And while I heard these women and understood what they were saying, something deep in me started stirring. Because here’s the thing: I’m not fine. I literally can’t remember a time when “fine” was the best description of how I felt. The facilitator tried to help us see that when we tell everyone around us we’re “fine,” we slowly internalize that message. Eventually, we come to believe that we should be fine.
This week especially I am not fine.
I am the least fine I have felt in a long time. The shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh has left me afraid. Over two weeks later and I’m still so afraid. I’m afraid to send my children to school. I’m afraid to walk into my office. I’m afraid to kiss my husband goodbye as he goes to work in a synagogue. I’m afraid to go to the grocery store. I’m more afraid than I can ever remember being for this extended period of time.
I don’t know whether most men tell themselves they’re “fine” all the time. But most of the women I know constantly tell themselves, “I’m fine” whether or not it’s true. We are told to keep moving, keep going. This mixed message I received my whole life tells me that my sex has determined that I must be 1) weak, soft, and gentle; AND 2) able to keep going despite all odds, able to care for all those around me, able to take care of a family, a job, friends, community, etc etc etc. In other words, my female-ness means I should be weak and I should be strong. Or, I should be “fine.”
Most of the women I know constantly tell themselves, “I’m fine” whether or not it’s true
Finding a way to say, “I’m not fine.”
I started realizing in this workshop that if I’m really truly honest with myself, this isn’t about a major and horrific event that recently touched my community. The truth of the matter is, my well was already empty and that’s why I have so little to draw on. I haven’t been fine for a while and all the lying to myself about it left me in a place where I am so far beyond fine I can’t even lie about it anymore.
Our rabbi has this little sarcastic joke he tells lots of us when we greet each other. When he asks, “How are you doing?” he then immediately follows up sarcastically with, “Livin’ the dream, right?” It’s cute every time. But during this discussion of “fine,” I realized how profound a statement it actually is. By offering this little line of sarcasm, he gives us all permission to admit we’re not fine.
How incredible to have your clergy give you subtle sweet permission to admit to each other, “I’m not fine.” We don’t have to have deep profound pastoral conversations about it. We can just feel a little lighter by sharing a sarcastic laugh and saying, “Oh yeah. Definitely.”
Livin’ the Struggle
Life is a big horrible painful struggle. But the struggle can bring great things. And if we tell ourselves that we’re “fine,” then we miss out on the good stuff that comes from the struggle. The struggle is what brings learning, growth, and (hopefully) great rewards.
So, I’m not going to tell myself I’m “fine” anymore. And when I tell it to other people (because let’s be honest, that’s just polite conversation in our society), I will remind myself that it’s just a pleasantry I’m sharing.
Here is my truth: I’m not fine. I’ve never been fine. At different times I’ve been overwhelmed or overjoyed; sad or excited; lonely or unbelievably grateful. But I am never, have never been, and will never be “fine.”
Ordinary Days, Meaningful Life is a labor of love geared toward working moms ready to embrace the chaos and find meaning in it. If you found this post meaningful, please share it with someone you think would enjoy it too! I’d love to stay in touch with you! Leave a comment below, contact me, or sign up for the mailing list. I can’t wait to hear from you!