Have you ever thought why “okay” is such a special word? Let’s say you’re setting off to see the world, and aside from “please” and “thank you” in a smattering of languages you pretty much only know English. “Okay” would be the one word that most of the people you encounter will also know…
Okey-dokey, okay, or OK. But the “okay” I’m referring to today, is not the “very-well-all-right-yep-and-yah-part of “okey”.
It’s the well-being of the heart and the mind “okays” I’m talking about…
…When I think about this, I realize that the “okay-word became our family’s “reassurance” word, when Eswee and Mariné went to boarding school in their grade 8 years. Because of the fact that they had such busy schedules, and especially because we didn’t have the opportunity to look them in the eye every day, Schalk and I were mostly dependant on the children’s text messages to know if they were thriving. During those times when they faced difficult teenage situations, it was always their “Ek is okei, mamma”, that set me at ease.
Even nowadays, with the kids all grown-up and not coming home very often, I still rely on their “okays” for that much needed peace of mind.
“Are you okay?”, is always the first thing I ask whenever one of our members stay away from the studio for some time, without notice. “Are you okay?”, was what everyone asked on Monday, when Jacqueline and Michelle had to stand in for me after I was hit by one of those 24 hour-stomach bugs Sunday night.
“Ugh, puking my lungs out”, was what I actually wanted to reply to all the WhatsApp messages, but I didn’t…I appreciated everyone’s concern for my well-being and said: ”Not feeling on top of the world, but I’m sure I will be okay soon, thank you for thinking of me…”
Last weekend I read the beautiful novel, “The Girl in the Glass”, by Susan Meissner. In this book Meg’s mother asks: “So…so, you’re okay?” Meg’s reply intrigued me. “Okay with what? I wanted to say. What does “okay” really mean, anyway? Less than marvellous? Better than miserable?”
…Meg’s questions about being okay had me thinking – Every day, we are bombarded with advice about being positive and successful. The feeling of needing to show the world we can cope with anything is one that most of us are familiar with. Completely invincible – I sometimes wonder, is this how we have become forced to portray ourselves as individuals, businesspeople, and human beings? Is that what being okay means? And when did we reach a point where not feeling 100% was seen as a weakness?
I’m asking, because I’m not sure. But isn’t it true that we all greet people with an automatic, almost rhetorical “how are you?” and we all say, “I’m very well, thank you.” We say we’re fine even when we’re not. There’s even an almost heroic side to ‘pretending to be okay’. It’s as if the concept of revealing a chink in our armour feels, to many of us, like a failure.
How then, are we supposed to handle this whole ‘being okay’ business? Do we decide if we are in fact, okay, or not okay? And will deciding, today, to be okay, make us, okay? Are we then taking a positive perspective, or simply kidding ourselves? Because believing something doesn’t necessarily make it so, and yet, our beliefs do hold great sway over how we subjectively experience life!
Maybe I’m asking the wrong questions! In her book “The Art of being Okay”, Lisa Shen writes: “Trying to understand my experience on a binary scale of “okay or not okay”, over-simplifies things. It suggests that we are one thing or the other, when in truth we can be both, and neither, and a plethora of other things many times in one day…I don’t need to be okay or not okay to be worthy of support, love, and acknowledgement. I am what I am, just like you are what you are – and whatever that might be, it’s okay.”
Instead of seeking out perfection, what if we seek to perfect the art of being okay. Okay is attainable, manageable, and leaves room for all our imperfect emotions as the chaos of the day unfolds.
When life zigs, when we planned to zag, let’s remind ourselves that it is okay. It’s okay to not be okay sometimes. It’s okay to be afraid. It’s okay to hesitate before plunging from your comfort zone. It’s okay to start over.
It’s okay to have scars, pimples, insecurities, moles, cellulite, debts, regrets, blues, loneliness, and uncertainty. It’s okay to have no idea what you’re doing. It’s okay to struggle with some things, while enjoying others. It’s okay to find joy in the beauty in life, even after a great loss. It’s okay to change. It’s okay to move on. And it’s okay to fear changing and moving on. Wherever you are, and whatever you are experiencing, it’s okay.
Being okay doesn’t mean that things have to be smooth sailing – It’s about being able to handle circumstances that arrive without being beaten down or broken by them.
The American author Ursula K Le Guin, once said: “The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next.”
It’s ok to not know the answers to all of your questions. Trying again is okay. Trying again and again and again is okay. It’s ok to be uncertain, it’s ok to be fragile, it’s ok to be weak, it’s ok not to be ok. It IS okay not to be okay. It doesn’t mean you’re broken. It means you’re strong enough to endure the hard times.
So, let’s go ahead in 2023, let’s daydream, plan, believe, and manifest. We’ll be okay, no matter what. Let’s be gentle to ourselves, and love ourselves, even when we’re not ourselves.
And let’s remind ourselves that “are you okay?”, is never a stupid question.
Yours in fitness
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