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. Exactly, Chuck. You said exactly what my tired mind was trying to communicate. But, it’s spring now, so while we sit in the ditch maybe we can watch the wildflowers bloom. *Hugs*

  2. Thank you, Chuck. I was let go from the last of my three jobs this afternoon (none of my jobs can be done at home – substitute teacher, enumerator for the Census and field Interviewer for an FRB study) and I was trying like hell to see the bright side (I don’t have to pay rent because I live with/care for my 86-year ole aunt), but I lost my shit and just cried. This post was just what I needed and it made me feel a whole lot better. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

  3. No. Nothing normal except that we’re all abnormal together. Or mostly together. My step daughter-in-law still denies anything is happening and says she’s not changing her lifestyle one bit. Which means we can’t see her, my stepson or the grandkids. It’s not ok.

    Much peace and calm to you all.

  4. You expressed the roller coaster of emotions perfectly. I can feel all of that in a matter of 15 minutes, and I feel crazy.

    Worse is I think we’re still trying to cling to normal around here. I went to the park a couple days ago. We went grocery shopping yesterday. Probably the pet store today in case it gets deemed “non-essential” and closes, too. (My freakin’ dentist completely closed- what am I supposed to do if I chip a tooth?) We keep finding reasons to leave the house, even through we’re really really not supposed to. And that’s the weirdest thing of all: feeling guilty about things that were just so normal two weeks ago.

    I wish I had more words of encouragement than just bitching. I think I handle the feeling of being trapped worse than most people.

  5. JFC, Chuck, thanks for putting words to this clusterfuck. It’s the unknown that’s so scary. The. Not. Knowing. Stay safe, y’all.

  6. It’s OK not to be OK – thank you! I spent yesterday in tears; overwhelmed by what’s going on in the world, relieved to see humanity in the most part pulling together to help each other; in awe of our amazing health workers; worrying about aged parents and whether the home-from-college son is going to eat me out of house and home because the shop shelves for the most part are literally empty over here.
    So thank you for saying what we all know but probably don’t want to say aloud. x

  7. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for putting all the things I’m feeling into words and making it okay to be feeling this way. The weird part of it is that I’m in a position where most of the ‘restrictions’ don’t really impact me – and yet they are – in weird, emotional ways. Maybe its the lack of control, the lack of knowing what’s going to happen next, the lack of wanting to think about what happens next but it just seems surreal and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until I read your post. Now at least I feel a little bit less ‘alone’ and out of control!

  8. Thank you, Chuck. It’s weird to say that I feel better knowing you are freaking out some, too. But also you’ve put into words the strange-waiting-for-the-tsunami feeling that we’re wrestling with. Thank you for being there.

  9. Hi from the”shady”UK and thank you from the depths of me for voicing a most sane and human truth; we’re looking through a distorted glass right now and it’s ok not to be ok!!
    I’m self-isolating as I came back form Athens with mild flu symptoms and a nasty cough… In 5 days most of my symptoms have disappeared but I’ll never know what was wrong as in order to get tested here you have to be struggling for a breath, in hospital… The country is slowly closing down, the shelves are emptier by the hour, our jobs have big question marks hanging over them and I refuse to chastise myself for eating sugar in every form as I face at least another week alone in the house! For the time being let’s just all try and be simply human and as you put it”B-/C humans”will do just fine if it keeps us safe,sane&united; no flawless lives/people have been able to prevent this madness because, guess what_they don’t exist.
    P.S NTA for what you wrote on climate change/humanity, most of us think it regularly..

  10. Thank you. I think we all need to hear this in these times of uncertainty. I just talked to my 92 year old mother and she said “I’m fine. I have food, and water, and we were told to stay in our apartments (she lives in elderly independent housing). I wash my hands every time I get up, even though I don’t go anywhere. They cancelled all the activities. It’s inconvenient and no one likes it. I worry sometimes. But it’s what we gotta do.”

    And I thought, you know what? If she can do it, so can I. I will worry sometimes. I will get that sinking feeling sometimes when they talk about new cases here. I will wash my hands and think “Is this really enough?” And that’s okay, because I’m human and all those things are human things. If we can’t be human, then we are really doomed.

  11. I’m very scared. I’m afraid my job is at risk, as it was for a dear friend who lost her employment because of this. I’m afraid of what it might do to us in the months to come. I’m afraid for the people who will suffer the most, medically or financially or otherwise, because entire institutions are failing under this.

    But I hope we get through it. I’m not okay now. I might not be for a long time, but I’ll take it day by day. And keep checking in with you guys.

  12. I don’t know how you do it, but you found me in the ditch and made me feel a little less crazy, or at least ok with being crazy. Love this. Love you. Thanks.

  13. I’ve always told myself that if there’s something weird going on that I want it happening to me.
    Be careful what you wish for.

    Happy Spring.

  14. Holy shit, Chuck. I got to the flower and tears came. From you, of all people. Be well, loved and here.

  15. Thank you, Chuck. I spriraled into the ditch yesterday, but today is better – still in the ditch, but walking in it, slogging through the slush that is a Colorado spring. Remembering that it’s okay to not be okay is huge. So is the fact that we don’t all have to be the perfect stay at home writers/parents/whathaveyous. Bless you for the light you shine for all of us.

  16. Before logging out from work today, I sent this link to a coworker who seemed to be having a hard time. I told her that the language was a bit rough but that she might find it relevant. She emailed back that the language exactly described what she had been feeling and that it definitely helped.

  17. After realizing I have all the symptoms yesterday and there’s no test to be had and nothing to do about it, I’m weirdly… relieved? That’s the only word I can think of for the mood today.

    The thing has happened (probably, who knows?) and… we’re still here. I don’t even feel that awful, some coughing and very tired but it’s doable with meds and cold brew. I know, I know it’s only day 2 but still. It’s not terrible today.

    I still worked from home, I sat on the porch swing at lunch with a sandwich and watched the rain. After work the sun came out so I took my laptop out to an Adirondack chair in the back yard, thinking I’d get some writing done. Ha! Fell asleep to the wind through the trees.

    My husband came out to check on me and we watched a blue jay and a cardinal debate who owns our particular patch of grass. Listened to the neighbor kids play basketball on the other side of the fence. Just took up space together in the sunshine.

    And now, I don’t know. There’s nothing we can do but drink a lot of water, take our vitamins, and wait. To be honest it’s freeing, as much as it can be when we’re self quarantined.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure I’m not going to be all zen about this forever. But it was nice to have a day when I was.

  18. Thank you for putting what we’re all feeling into words. I’m lucky, I guess, in that I work a bit from home and have a government pension, so I’m not going to completely lose my income (even though my retirement funds have plummeted). But I worry so much for the small businesses that lack the resources to weather this storm. Our favourite restaurants. The language school where I study Italian. As well as the thousands and thousands of employees who will be stood down as everything grinds to a halt. The struggle is to avoid this making us all more selfish as we seek to protect ourselves and our families.

  19. Purple. My mother’s favorite color, and my second fav. (Green is my first.) Take your camera and send us beautiful photos, my friend. It will do is all good.

  20. Thank you. I’m having severe anxiety right now. My bosses are always struggling to keep me on, but are about to lay me off because money is so tight. I only work 10 hours per week because I’m a college student and my grades are my only way I qualify for scholarships. School, and any semblance of concentration, is gone. My only family is convinced this will blow over in 3 weeks, and I cannot talk to anyone. I struggle with severe depression and loneliness and after five days of distancing…this is really fucking hard. Thank you…

  21. Abnormal? Ha! In ‘Young Frankenstein,’ they used the brain marked ‘Abnormal’ — yes, Igor thought the label read, ‘Abby Normal’ — and popped that into the skull of the monster. In the now form of normal — nowmal? — it’s like we are each of us the monster, waiting on our own gurney to find out whether we get the ‘Abby Normal’ brain.

    When this is over and done, will we feel like singing ‘Putting on the Ritz’? Only time will tell.

  22. Powerful, Chuck. I know I’ve been watching the birds this past week and wondering if they’re looking down from lampposts and tree branches, asking themselves what’s up with us lot, why are we acting so strange. You know when disaster movies show flocks leaving New York before the wall of water hits? The equivalent for them must be going about their daily business and realising we are not leaving our houses.

  23. I make short trips to local stores in my small town for what I need; even here, folk are stressing bad. Yesterday I realized that I could help a bit by asking the clerks with whom I interacted if they’d had their deep breath yet. All said no, all were happy to join me in taking one and thanked me for the reminder. It costs nothing to be kind. My late mother taught me that, so I’ve decided that for the duration for this crisis (and after it’s over, more than likely) I’ll be the Deep Breath Lady. 🙂 It’s amazing how one cleansing breath can reset one’s mind and day. You folks here, be safe, get well soon if you’re sick, and I wish you all good things.

  24. I needed to read this. Made me cry a wee bit. Some of the stress sloughed off with the tears. Thank you, Chuck. Stay well. We’re in this together. Love to all you lovely folks storming Chuck’s blog with me. hehe

  25. Thanks for articulating all this internal and external chaos. We have dog food, cat food, chicken food, horse food, a greenhouse for greens, a freezer with some grass fed beef. We’re making up salad pots for the local food bank. We’ll be fine….but what if we run out of toilet paper? 🙂 We will be kind and forgiving, and get through all this. Be well, all of you!

  26. This is it. This is exactly what I’ve been waiting for. I’ve read a few articles that dipped their toes in the water about this, but this is it. I have been feeling like this whole charade that we’ve all been putting on is just wreaking havoc on myself. I’m “Shoulding” on myself every time I just try to connect with people. Thank you for these words. Thank you.

  27. I dont agree with your article. What ever hapend to looking on the bright side of things. Is your glass always half full? Im a parent at home enjoying some down time with my kids. You see there are 2 ways you can look at life, you can spin things in a negative manner or you can see the positive- the silver lining. My glass is half full, I choose this view on life, I honestly dont feel I have a choice in the manner. I choose not to let the virus get the better of me and I advise everybody else out there to do the same. Enjoy the flowers that will soon bloom, walk your dog and call an old friend. Carry on people cause its the only thing we can do.

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