I like to think that when I deal with a challenge in life, if nothing else, the silver lining is the opportunity for a lesson learned, something to make me better going forward. Along that same line of thought, I read, once, somewhere, something to the effect of "the Universe keeps giving you the same lesson until you learn it."
In the wake of a friendship cast aside, against my wishes, but out of my control, I worked my way through the bewilderment, the hurt, the...I hesitate to say anger, because I wasn't, not really, but I was firm and direct in defense of my raw feelings. And then I reached the part where, instead of over-thinking, I was productively thinking, sort of in that way one inspects the scab on a healing injury. I was sure there was a lesson in here, waiting to be discovered, but it proved a tough nut to find, much less crack.
I won't say I gave up and stopped thinking about it completely, but I moved it to the back burner to simmer.
Some time had passed, and as I was sifting through my draft folder one day, I noticed I had recorded several quotes that had tugged at my subconscious, though I didn't see the way they fit together until that moment. It was as if a fog lifted on the lesson at hand...and not the one I was expecting.
Five years ago I would have told her we were “just fine.”
But I’ve learned since then that “just fine” can sometimes be a self-inflicted wound.
“Just fine” is the end of the conversation and a missed opportunity.
“Just fine” leaves me boxed in with all my doubt and insecurity.
“Just fine” is deeply lonely. (Lisa Jo Baker)
I didn't really get the impact of his words, but I said "I appreciate them, and I know they want to help. I think that's very fine and everything but--"
"But nothing! You're cheating them out of an opportunity to express their love to you." (excerpt from 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper and Cecil Murphey)
But new life is only possible when the old life dies. ... Mourning precedes morning; death comes before the dream. We long for the magic, the freedom, the glory and the joy. But are we willing to embrace the death that must come first? (Chatting at the Sky)
At first glance, their relation is not obvious. At least, it wasn't to me. For the longest time, if you'd asked me -- assuming I would have told you, but we'll get to that -- I would have told you that my hurt was born of someone fearful I would judge them, so instead they, pre-emptively, assumed my judgment and cut me off, effectively judging me instead. And, in part, that's true. I was never even given the opportunity to act for myself, and if you've ever been in that position, you'll know it stings. But the reality is, what hurt me most was being shut out, disregarded, outright ignored, when my concern was genuine and expressed.
The ego is quick to say "I never..."
But as I read those quotes again, as collective and not individuals, I felt a whisper. It was, perhaps, not happenstance that they were presented to me, that they stirred something inside my heart, but pieces of the lesson I was searching for and failing to recognize.
Guilty as charged.
No, not for judging, because I hadn't and I wouldn't have. However, circling back, I mentioned earlier "assuming I would have told you." I keep my cards close to my vest. When I'm troubled, I internalize. I'm not an open book to most (the exception is singular, if I'm being honest). I'm not much of a whiner or a complainer. My soft heart has a tough outer shell, and you won't catch me spilling out all my innermost thoughts across social media. If you ask me how I am, I'm quick to smile and say I'm fine, which is the socially expected answer with casual acquaintances, certainly, but for those who have invested in me? Who care about me?
It isn't that I don't feel. It isn't that I'm never "not fine." But I've gotten so efficient at self-mending that I never considered I was denying those closest to me the opportunity to love me. What a startling realization. It was a perspective I'd never once considered. Allowing those who care about us to care *for* us is the cement that fortifies the foundation of the relationship. We spackle the cracks with concern and provide a layer of protection and strength that lasts far beyond that moment of caring.
As they say: well, I'll be a monkey's uncle.
Sometimes, this life is anything but fine. I was not "fine" earlier this year. I was sad and I was hurt and I was confused. No matter how many times I said I was fine, there was a spot in my heart that was heavy. But I breezily pronounced myself fine when asked, marching on, divulging almost nothing. Silly me, foolish girl, when those who know me best paused in their busy lives to ask me, not politely, but with genuine caring: How are you? Are you ok?
The vast majority of the time I truly am fine. I don't dwell. I don't wallow, either online or in the flesh, and that is a part of who I am that I like, that I have no desire to change. But when I'm *not* fine? When this imperfect world brings heartache or disappointment or heaviness? The instinctual reaction I have now needs to be shed, cast aside, be "the old life that dies" to make room for the new. I know the joy I feel when I care for those I love, when I listen, when I encourage, when I provide support or empathy or compassion. I'll not deprive those same people of an honest answer when they ask how I am, because I've seen firsthand, now, how that unravels the bonds we have. I look at those for whom I care and I don't ever want to cause them that kind of unnecessary sadness, when one of life's greatest joys is to lighten the loads of those we love. I want them to know that when I say I'm fine that they can rest easy, knowing that if I were not, when it comes to the things that really matter, I'd give them the chance to lift me back up. The way I jump when I'm given that chance.
And that? Is just fine, indeed.