It's okay not to be okay.
Updated: Jul 19, 2019
I’m not okay, you’re not okay, and that’s okay. -Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
Five days ago, I stood in line with my neighbors at the grocery store with more than twice as many items in my cart as the usual weekly run. All because of the menacing approach of Snowmageddon, the most severe snow forecast Seattle had seen in two decades or more (more than a foot in the city!) I was afraid and also grateful I could afford the time and money to prepare.
Even so, a deep self-loathing came over me as I stood there.
I felt self-conscious of having my fear of the unknown on full display. Where does preparation end and needless panic begin? I asked myself. The uncomfortable truth was, I couldn’t know.
Now the history-making February 2019 storm event has come and (hopefully) gone. The forecast has turned out to be true and then some, keeping my kids home for the fourth day in a week and possibly more. Snowmaggedon dumped so much powder-over-ice that a firetruck responding to an emergency got stuck in front of my house for four hours (it had to get towed out).
And yet, I still feel ill at ease about my shopping trip. About not having a satisfying answer to the question I asked myself in the grocery line.
Where does preparation end and needless panic begin?
I now know that this is a much bigger question than are-three-packs-of-bacon-too-many or whether my pulse quickened in over-reaction to the unknown weather event.Because no matter what unknown circumstance is lurking in the future that’s causing me to ask that question, the answer will almost always be, “I can’t know.”
Which job to take. Which job to quit. Which relationships to stay in. Which relationships to walk away from.
Also, what and how much I should put into my grocery cart if a snowstorm is looming. Everything is at least a little bit unknowable.
What I do know now, thanks to that long grocery line, is how many people must have been equally afraid that day and at least a little uncomfortable with the naked display of their fear. I wasn’t okay, they weren’t okay, and that was okay.
We can’t always know if we’re making the right decision, even in hindsight, because the way things work out all have an element of something unpredictable, something serendipitous that we can’t replicate. That truth will probably almost always be uncomfortable for me.
But I can comfort myself by opening up a conversation. Talk to someone about what it’s like to be uncomfortable with the unknown, with how hard it can be to make even the most mundane decision.
And I can see now how many heads would nod in recognition.
So today, take a deep breath and let someone know it’s okay not to be okay, starting with you.
PS. I bought one pack of regular bacon and another family-size one because three just seemed excessive.