I came across the quote ‘it’s ok to not be ok’ a few years ago and it really puzzled me.
When was it ever ok to not be ok? Didn’t we all just want to be happy? Wasn’t that the main aim in life? Why on Earth would anyone be ok with not being ok???
But over time and on deeper reflection, I realised that it is often when we are forcing ourselves to try and be happy all the time that we can become extremely unhappy. That’s when we start to compare our lives with others and I think many of us believe that we are just ‘supposed’ to feel on a constant high and that there is obviously something wrong if or when we don’t. But I like to compare this to saying that the weather should be a certain way. We don’t wake up on a rainy day and say ‘it should be sunny now’. Of course we might prefer it to be sunny but it is what it is and we have to accept it and carry on. We can’t control the weather in just the same way that we can’t control life but I think we find this very hard to accept. So, in an effort to try and gain more control we either tend to overthink and overanalyse everything or, conversely, we completely avoid our thoughts altogether. The former meaning that you tend to live in your head most of the time and possibly create situations that don’t even exist and the latter, that you turn to other things to mask your feelings of unease, such as food or drink or making sure that you are always busy and never alone with your thoughts for too long. But all of these can make you feel that you are fighting a constant battle and it’s amazing what happens when you just say ‘okay’….for example,
- okay I don’t feel great today
- okay I am not happy at this very moment
- okay I feel down sometimes
- okay that didn’t go as well as I’d hoped
- okay life isn’t perfect etc. etc.
For me personally, this acceptance diffuses the situation instantly and melts away any feelings of anger, anxiety or guilt. It allows me to start to move on rather than give more power to those feelings. Because when we start to question those feelings, we often start to make ourselves feel worse. ‘Why do I feel this way?’ ‘I should be happy’ ‘There are people far worse off than me’ ‘I must be a bad person’ ‘I’ll never be happy’ and so on. But just as it can start to rain even during the sunniest of days, so can a sad moment come along even when you are not expecting it. It doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you. It could be something that happened earlier that day that has suddenly resurfaced in your mind or a sudden, worrying thought that brought your mood down. It could just be tiredness or hunger. Once you accept that this is something that will happen again and again you can feel more relaxed about it and think ‘oh okay, it’s a sad moment again’ and just let it be. I actually find watching my children very helpful as their emotional breakdowns can be extreme but also quite short lived. They can be crying desperately one minute and happily playing the next and this is because they live more in the moment than we do.
I also love the way the poet Rumi describes the coming and going of feelings in his poem The Guest House….
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them all in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
So, the next time you start to despair, try to accept the feeling and remember that it is only temporary. The clouds will part and the sun will shine again for you.
(image from http://www.123rf.com)