In my experience, going to a ministry school that specializes in “open heart surgery” and intentionally cultivate an environment that is meant to trigger you, a saying you often hear is “it’s okay to not be okay”.
I understand that the heart behind this message is that the world will not fall apart if you do. You shouldn’t have to keep up a facade for the comfort of others. Sometimes you need the space to not “do” but rather just “be”.
I think that’s a well meaning message that has put to words the feelings of many, including myself.
I recently had a conversation with a friend about what this coming summer will bring. In my house we’ve all begun talking about our plans for the impending months, how we’re all going to, quite literally the four corners of the states. A lot is going to change. Without getting to personal, she was still mourning a big change that had already happened and didn’t feel ready for another one. She felt herself already pulling away from people she wanted to be close to, even though it would still be months before anything happened, and two, even though she didn’t want to.
We all go through big transitions, things change, it’s a part of life. I’m no longer a teenager, my high school principal has changed careers, my parents aren’t business owners anymore, my brother is married, and my best friend lives in Hawaii. My parents are no longer married, I don’t talk to my first year roommate anymore, I’m still working on my health goals, and figuring out what I want to do with my life.
Life is a roller coaster. What comes up, must come down. And what comes down will eventually go back up again.
I wanted to share what I told my friend and think about how this might apply to your life as well.
She’s not crazy for wanting to close herself off. It’s painful and that’s something worth avoiding. She was actually really strong and brave to continue to open her heart again after being hurt the times before. That being said, she probably never consciously changed her expectations in her heart for her friends or circumstances. The thing is, when things change, we have to move some things around.
If I still expected to hang out with my friend who lives in Hawaii all the time, we’d have some problems. I don’t expect her to call me every day or even every week, nor does she expect that of me. But I still consider us very close. Because I know the love didn’t change, but the circumstances did. If you find yourself feeling distant or bitter towards someone, a great place to start would be asking yourself if you have unmet expectations from them. Then ask yourself if those expectations are realistic. And once you’re done with that, and this part might sound strange, but whatever is that you need to do to make it stick, say it out load, draw a picture, whatever, but move that person out of your inner circle. We do this so we’re not getting hurt and put on the defensive. Moving people out, actually allows us to love them better because pain isn’t causing a great divide.
The next thing I told my friend was that, she is stronger than her feelings. She is planning on moving to the great state of New York to pursue her dreams. She doesn’t know a living soul there. Naturally, she’s worried about being alone. The thing about life is that there are tons of things to be afraid of, but the choice is in our hands whether we allow ourselves to be held back by that fear or to face and conquer it. I told her that even though she would be in a new place, and that things might not always be easy or pretty, that loneliness is not her reality, because she’s still incredibly loved. That she’s too wonderful to not make friends, but to just give it time. And that is she is never willing to get out of her comfort zone, she probably won’t do too many spectacular things, but that’s not who she is. You have the choice. You have the power. And if you don’t know how, go explore and discover, and conquer those fears. Once you expose something for what it is, it’s far less intimidating.
The reason that I brought up the point about “it’s okay to not be okay”, is because in this moment, not all the ducks are in a row, and she doesn’t know how everything is going to work out, and everything does NOT feel okay. And we can all be in this place. But we are actually okay, in the sense that we will get there if we give ourselves grace upon grace. And that’s what I wanted to talk about today.
So go, face that thing that feels like a giant. That thing that makes things feel not okay. Because that’s not who you are, it’s your circumstance, and circumstances change.
To anyone, I hope this makes you think a little.