Monday, July 16, 2007

blue funk

"Just say OK. All they want to hear is OK."

"But what if I'm not OK?"

"It doesn't matter. Just say OK."

My husband and I had this conversation a number of times over the years. I used to answer "how are you doing?" as if it were meant literally and not as a small-talk convention. No one wants to hear that your back hurts or that you have three research papers due the same day, he would say. It came naturally to him with his buttoned-up upbringing, but it felt culturally alien to me. After enough years of startled looks that said "that's not how it works - you say you're OK, I say I'm OK" I finally gave in.

Although I still have to fight the urge to say what I'm really thinking, I've grown used to the convention. The hard part is when I'm scared or desperately sad. When I'm hurting, I withdraw. If not for Eliza begging to go somewhere every day, I wouldn't have left the house these last few weeks. I'm grateful in a way - her insistence on getting out sometimes keeps me from dwelling on my sadness for a short time. I laugh. I smile. Then alone with my thoughts once more, I ache.

Twice in the last few weeks I broke character with the same person. I'm not entirely sure why - maybe there's something about her that made me less scared about feeling vulnerable. In any case, I didn't say OK for once, which brought a moment of relief followed by regret - I wished I could take it back. Was there anything she could do, she wanted to know, and I sensed she meant it. There's nothing anyone can do, I thought to myself. But what she said next, each time, stayed with me. What I had offered was just the tip of the iceberg of my despair, but that tip started to melt. I debated about whether to tell her that her gesture meant a lot to me. I lack the courage and articulateness to tell her in person, so I thought about sending a short e-mail, but again I hesitated for fear of sounding shmaltzy. Early this morning, I read something she wrote that spoke to me, and it has been rattling around in my head in the hours since. I never intended to post about my blue funk, preferring to stick to emotionally safe topics like Eliza's mischief, but after reading that, I knew I had to write this. If she happens to be reading this, just know I am grateful.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled food, books, and mischief posts.


Elaine said...

I think the greatest gift we can give each other is to say the unpleasant bits sometimes. People need to know they are not alone and that we are part of a winder community.

But it's scary to say it. I know. And I'm really proud of you for saying it here.

Seriously, let me know if I can do anything.

veganmomma said...

I had a feeling you were more than just "tired". I hope you know you are not alone. I don't seem to be able to express these things in writing or in person, but I do think about it in my head a lot. hugs to you brave mama and if there is something you need, please ask.

veganbaby said...

Hugs to you!!! It is a trained response to say okay. And most people don't even listen to your response. They just go on with their day, expecting the usual, "I'm OK" response. But there are people who genuinely care. Much love to you!!!

Jenny said...

You are so lucky to have such a thoughtful friend. I admire you for posting your thoughts on the blog, because as Elaine said, people need to know that we're not alone. My thoughts are with you!

erika_deanne said...

I KNOW how you feel and your articulateness for words in this entry is not only powerful but comforting! It's amazing to know what "society" expects of us, However; as AP parents we also know that "they" may look at us oddly. I think its important to surround ourselves with goodness, yet hard to do indeed! I have been in this nasty funk lately too, and even for the sake of my kids haven't been too motivated. And then today I decided to go for a walk and its amazing the difference in their attitude! As long winded and babbelish as my entry has become I just wanted to say Thanks I completely appreciate this entry~