“Are you okay?” people would sometimes ask me.
“Is there any other choice?” was my reply.
As a kid, I knew that being anything other than standing and functional was a dangerous, dangerous choice. Weakness was something my mother would see as offensive to her, taking her place in the brokenness spotlight, so she would attack with self-pity, acting out of her own belief that everything was about her.
“You are trying to hurt me and screw up my nice dreams!” she would lash out. “Why do you always do this! Why are you such a stupid fuck?”
The father of my sister’s friend, now in his twilight, has been refusing to eat what is put in front of him now and then. This throws the live-in aide into a tizzy, because she knows that her job is to get him to follow rules, and she can’t easily push medication onto an empty stomach. His choice is screwing up her job requirements, so he needs to be forced into compliance in her view.
For an old guy who doesn’t have much agency left, he doesn’t want to have to be told that he has to eat because someone else demands he be compliant to make their life easier.
This leaves his daughter in the middle, wanting to honour and value his emotional state, but also knowing that nutrition is one of the keys to giving her father more good days.
Do we have the right to make things tougher for those who would find it easier if we just did what they demanded we do?
Do we have the right to not be okay when called on?
I know that I am often not okay in my own private world. That always has been my prerogative. But when someone asks me how I am, do they really have any interest and capacity to accept my non-okay state, or do they really only want to hear that I am “fine?”
If I am not okay, aren’t I just causing them problems and difficulties that they have no interest or capacity to handle? Isn’t my compliance the only appropriate response to their query?
Doesn’t any other answer just mean they have the right to get upset with my behaviour and attitude, the right to force me into doing what would make their life easier and less troubled?
Aren’t my choices about them and their needs, their expectations and their comfort?
That’s clearly what I have been taught over the years, that whatever emotions I carry, whatever I feel, being not okay, not smart and compliant, not being nice, is just not an acceptable status. There is no other choice than being okay.
And that leaves me being not okay only when I am alone in the shadows, only in my own broken space, only in my deep loneliness.
That, somehow, really has never been okay.