It’s Okay That You’re Not Okay

These are extraordinary times. And I don’t say that as a compliment, necessarily — it is not said with Spielbergian awe, but rather, with a kind of bamfoozled dread. As if you came upon a strange hole in the ground full of old-timey baby-dolls. You know, the creepy, haunted ones? You’d say, “That’s extraordinary,” and you wouldn’t mean it in the good way.

You might also say, “That’s fucked up.”

What I’m trying to say is:

These are fucked up times.

Shit’s fucked up. It just is. As I noted yesterday, it’s as if we’re witnessing the ghost of normalcy rather than normalcy itself — it died so fast, it hasn’t yet left this plane of existence, and so it lingers, refusing to be banished until an exorcism finally sends it packing. These are abnormal, bizarre, confounding, dipshitted, batshitted, extraordinarily fucked-up times.

You don’t have to be okay with that.

You probably shouldn’t be okay with that.

More to the point, you also don’t need to do it all. You don’t need to get it all done. You don’t need to clean your house from top to bottom. You don’t need to homeschool your kids into super-geniuses. You don’t need to write King Fucking Lear or discover a new scientific principle. You don’t need to be happy. We’re all in mourning from the death of normalcy. We’re all knocked off balance, like someone just kicked your bike as you were riding it. You ended up in the ditch. We’re all in the ditch with you. It’s okay to just sit here in the ditch for a while and say, “Fuck.” It’s okay to wait before you stretch, before you stand up with a groan and see what’s broken. It’s okay to sit on your couch and gorge on bad TV. It’s okay to read a shitty book. It’s okay to not finish the shitty book. It’s okay to let your kids be kids and just tell them they’re on spring break right now. You don’t need to be an A+ parent, and they don’t need to be A+ kids, and you don’t need to be an A+ spouse. Christ, you don’t even need to be an A+ human. Aim for B, maybe B-, C+, just hold it the fuck together.

Forgive it in yourself and forgive it in those around you, too.

That’s not to say this is the time to let all the rope slip through your fingers. Your kids need food. You need food too, and water. Everybody needs things and this is a crisis — though a weird-feeling slo-mo crisis, as if we’re watching two whales collide underwater, with us between them — but you don’t need to be a hero. You don’t even need to be normal.

You just need to be you, and go with it.

You’re allowed to feel all of what you feel.

Hell, I don’t know what to feel. I keep thinking, YEAH OKAY I’VE BEEN PREPARING FOR THIS MY WHOLE LIFE, TIME TO WRITE A BOOK, A WHOLE BOOK, HERE WE GO, HERE WE FUCKING GO, and then I just sit there and I’m like, hey that’s not happening yet? And I go to eat and it’s mostly just grazing. My kid’s like, “Can I play the Switch?” and I’m like, “Yeah, hell yeah, it’s Spring Break, go hog wild, dude.” I tell him to read a book after, and he does (Percy Jackson, the first book, if you must know), but I’m not running him through the wringer. No math flash cards or quizzes. Life is slower right now, and stranger, and I feel this mad pinball bounce of emotions: I go from panic to dread to a weird kind of giddy elation that has no comprehensible logic to it, and then I land on tired, and then I land on sad, and then I land on gratitude because if all else fails this has at least made me appreciate things more, and then I feel shitty for appreciating things more because this isn’t the time to appreciate anything, is it? Then I feel shitty for feeling shitty like, what is wrong with appreciation? What is wrong with finding joy? Guilt ensues. And a refutation of guilt. And a weird feeling of relief for the earth because I’ve seen photos of dolphins in Italy and I think back to the line I wrote in Wanderers (“Humankind was a disease. The earth was the body. Climate change was the fever. And in that fever, in that rising of global temperature, the earth was able to release new defenses.”) and then I just feel bad for writing that. AITA? Probably.

And so the drunken carousel of wildly-spinning emotions goes on, staffed by octopods, ridden by monkeys, narrated by a short-circuiting robot.

I’m not okay.

I’m not broken.

But I’m definitely, absolutely, unfuckwithably not okay.

And I’m going to let that be okay.

I hope you will, too.

These are weird days, friends. It’d be weird if you weren’t weird about that.

Carry on.

Here is a photo of a flower. Happy spring.

79 responses to “It’s Okay That You’re Not Okay”

  1. Thank you so much, this was comforting as hell. It seems I kinda needed your permission for not being strong and letting myself to cry a little, which helped a bit. I’m very thankful.

    • Menna, that’s exactly how I felt. I felt so lucky that a BFF of mine, Marcia, is Chuck’s BFF from childhood, so she posted it and it came up on my feed immediately. I don’t know how I would have lived without reading this, it made everything so much more bearable. You know what I mean, even in our grieving.

      • I know, Sara. Every time I’ve felt a panic attack rising the past few days, I’ve re-read Chuck’s post and felt immediately better. It has a hot-chocolate-with-whipped-cream-and-marshmallows-effect on me.

  2. We are lost in this world that is lacking the normalcy of our usual chaos… this quietness that’s forced by fear, is really disturbing!
    Thank you for this…this is absolutely not ok, but it has to do. Survival mode has never been so boring and not motivating

  3. It feels like the calm before the storm; I’m fearing the economic fallout from being off work for the next however long…

  4. Thank you so much for this post, Chuck. Here in the UK, where the whole country is on lockdown, I seem to swinging from thinking “Am I worrying too much about all this?” to “Should I be worrying more about this than I am?” Even feeling okay about things doesn’t feel okay anymore. And don’t even get me started on the Bad Parent Angst over the online schoolwork my son’s getting (he’s doing it, but it only seems to take him a couple of hours each day – which he thinks is great, but am I a bad parent for stressing about him getting more..?) Your message is exactly what I needed to hear.
    Please stay safe, everyone. We’ll get through this, because we have to.

  5. Good lord, thanks for that. I bump around my tiny home, wondering if I’m Ok, and not really caring. And then I eat some chocolate and things feel a little better for a little while. Maybe some sunshine and fresh air today will turn the tide of my emotions. Maybe this, maybe that. Maybe I can just let it be for a bit. Again, thank you.

  6. Thank you, I wish I had this article when my normal went away in June 2018. And it will be ok. We are adaptable, we will adapt to our new normal. it will suck but then if will be normal.

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