Blood shot eyes, I just sat there with my face soaked in tears. Hands beneath the table, I was clenching that elegant white table cloth, praying we could just get that meal over with.
No one asked.
I think that had to be one of the most monumental moments of that year. Sitting at a table in some of the deepest pain I’ve ever known, and the people I thought were closest to me never even asked.
He was gone. Not gone on vacation, not moved away. He was really gone and at that moment being prepared to be lowered in the ground.
I could have tapped my glass, stood to give a toast, and at the end tacked on: “and with this sip of water, I toast to the life of a childhood friend who isn’t simply moving away, but who no longer has breath in his body.”
I didn’t, thank God. My mother gave me the sense to know that doing those kinds of things wouldn’t have changed what had already occurred. Still, sometimes I lie awake and wonder if it would have been an alarm clock to a room full of people who claim to love me.
I want to be the person who asks, even when I don’t want to, even if it’s uncomfortable. I want to see brokenness and not be afraid of it. I want to love people so much that even if their arms push me away, I push harder to let them know that it’s okay to not be okay.
I think sometimes we’re just all afraid to dig deeper, to ask painful questions. We’re afraid of what could occur if we light a match next the pile of dynamite pain. I don’t want to be standing too close if and when this explodes.
“I’ll let them come to me.” We tell ourselves, “When they’re ready to talk about it… they will.”
Sometimes that’s true, but most of the time it’s an excuse.
We sit at fancy tables with white table cloths and we just try to shield our eyes from the person dripping tears into their lap. This isn’t the time or place. Can’t they just get it together until the time is more appropriate? I’ll ask them later, when there are less people around, when I have more time.
We give them a little side hug, buy their food, a little pat on the back, but we steer clear of words and apologies. It’s easier just to not ask, to say a little prayer and hope that God handles it and we don’t have to.
We’re always waiting for better moments to love people. We’re waiting until we’ve changed into lesser clothes before we sit down in the mud with them.
I’m not sure when it became embarrassing or improper to not be okay. As though it were a choice, or as if it could be controlled. We treat it as though little bandaids can hold back the blood of gaping wounds. Just put this over it, put on a little smile until it’s more convenient, but don’t break, not here, not in public.
Sitting at that table on that Sunday afternoon where no one asked, I nearly bled out. While faces were turned and entrees were served, I felt almost everything drain out of me.
I wondered if that was how he felt. Had he been stabbed with that same feeling over and over again? Had he just sat in room after room, at table after table while no one asked? Did he feel inconvenient, weak, shameful? Is that what caused him to end his life? Did they watch him bleed out, never willing to put their hands on his wounds and call for help?
You can’t save people. Those words have been said to me over and over again, I know they are true. But I can scream, I can yell, I can make a scene to say that you are loved and you are not in this thing alone. I may not can save them, but I must be willing to push people out of the ways of trains, away from cliffs; to bring flashlights to them on dark paths where it seems like there’s only one end.
I can’t save people, but that can never be a reason not to fight for someone’s life with all the fierce love inside of me.
I want to dig my heels in and say “It’s alright if you make a scene, let it out, be angry or broken. You are not an embarrassment. I don’t see you as a fragile or useless person when you’re not okay. It’s okay to not be okay.”
Pain is not a gentleman. He pushes himself to the front of the line, knocks displays over, and wounds others in his way. He does not wait patiently on the porch. He bangs his hands brutally against your door and barges in before you’ve even had time to fix your hair.
Pain shows up and there isn’t always a warning, a phone call to say what time he’ll arrive, he shows up with guns blazing. Pain is not proper, so Love is does not wait for convenience.
Love doesn’t care if her dress is wrinkled or her eyes are bloodshot. Love doesn’t mind weeping in public or knees hitting the carpet. She doesn’t really care what the onlookers at the restaurant think of her or the one she holds. She doesn’t keep a watch, doesn’t wait for quiet, isn’t afraid of words or silence. Love has no expectation, no requirement, no desire to wait for a better time.
Pain will surely come, most times in a loud and unruly manner. When he does, may he be met with Love, who never minds a mess and isn’t afraid of making a scene.
2 thoughts on “It’s Okay to Not Be Okay”
Wow! Ashlin, exquisite post! You’re a great writer!
This is so so so painfully beautiful. I hope you, yourself, know that it’s okay not to be okay. It’s okay to really feel that gut-wrenching pain. To look at the people sitting next to you and bleed. To let them know you’re hurting. You’re broken. You need someone to listen. To ask. To talk. Your writing is incredible; this resonated with me on such a profound and personal level. Thank you.