I sat there looking across the table at my sweet 4-year-old daughter's face, the Princess Aurora replica crown sitting on her head resting up against the tiara she had gotten from her Nana. The shimmery pink of the princess dress catching the sunlight through the lights of the tearoom windows and the shine of the glitter brightening up the table. I watched as she carefully sipped her "tea" (apple juice) and set it down on the saucer. She encouraged me to drink my tea and gave me a half-smile while she did so.
I picked up my teacup and pretended to look away while I sipped on my fancy hibiscus something-or-other tea. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her shoulders slip and the smile fade. I saw her eyes let their tired out and relax for a minute while gazing off in the distance.
We sat there in the Disney Grand Floridian Tearoom surrounded by many other little princesses and their moms & dads, sipping from fancy teacups and awaiting our fancy plates of teatime food listening to Princess Rose Petal tell us the story of Sleeping Beauty. I had been waiting for this special surprise time with my little girl for 6 months since we booked and paid for the experience ahead of time not knowing that a boy sitting behind my daughter on the plane would cough non-stop for 3-hours and likely be the one to give her a cold accompanied by a mild fever. We didn't know that we'd be debating whether or not to swallow the cost and let her spend her morning flopped in hotel room to rest or give in to her begging for her very special Mommy & Evie surprise and allow her to go anyways. We didn't know we'd ACTUALLY be using the thermometer to check for fevers and nursing a 100.5 temperature with ibuprofen instead of just holding them to the side hoping we wouldn't have to use them.
"Sweetie," I said, "you know... I know you're not feeling 100% today. That's OK. We can just enjoy the tea relaxed. Don't feel like you have to sit super tall, OK? It's OK to not be OK."
"OK, Mom. Thanks. I'm OK."
And the smile stayed on for the rest of the tea.
My 4-year-old daughter had already begun to learn the fine art of pretending everything is A-OK.
My heart. My heart broke a little bit in that moment.
Why do we think that being "not-OK" is not allowed? Why do we walk around and cover up the hurt, anger, sadness, and negative emotions we carry? Why do we not allow ourselves to be vulnerable and honest?
How are you? "I'm fine." It's part of our culture, the answer is almost reflexive. But how many of us say "Oh, I'm fine..." when really - we're not fine at all? Or maybe we're just enough not fine that it saddens us to say those words when really we just want to say "You know... I could use a hug/encouragement/break"?
My 4-year-old had already learned this skill, the art of being "fine".
It's OK to not be OK.
Say it out loud, right now. Stop what you're doing and say it out loud: It's OK to not be OK. It's absolutely alright to be a little down, to be grieving, to feel a little off, to have a grouchy day.
And say this: It's OK for other people to not be OK. It's OK to have that awkward not knowing what to say feeling for a few minutes just to allow someone else the freedom to be not OK if that's what they're feeling at that given moment. It's alright to allow someone else the ability to be vulnerable and to let their feelings show.
Imagine a world where people felt like they could be honest with their feelings 100% of the time. Where we didn't feel like we'd have to hide when we weren't OK lest we be judged for being discontent or intentionally miserable. A place where those feelings were allowed to be discussed and processed and FELT.
A world where my 4-year-old daughter didn't have to feel like she had to sit tall and proper in a Disney tearoom even though she had a cold annoying enough to be functional but make her stuffed up and a little sleepy.
Why does my 4-year-old know this skill already?
Then I realized... I am guilty of practicing this. Of putting on the smiling, put-together face on days when I'm exhausted, anxious, angry, or otherwise. Of saying that everything is fine or that I'm OK - even to my own kids and husband - when really, I'm off a bit.
When I realized this, that I had taught her the fine art of "being OK"... my heart broke a little bit more. The worst is coming to the realization that you're part of the problem - especially when it comes to your kids.
I challenge all of us - myself included - to be a little more honest with ourselves. To be a little more vulnerable to those who care about us. To allow ourselves the ability to NOT be OK. To share when we're tired. To be raw when we feel raw.
And I challenge all of us to support one another. To love on each other and to not judge and to allow each other the ability to share our true feelings when "fine" isn't ACTUALLY what we're feeling.
I want to live in a world where I feel like I can just be all the shades of me - the good, the bad, the sad, the ecstatic - and not just have my highlight reel define me. I want to live in a world where my kids can feel like they can be sad freely, be joyous without abandon, and feel and display ALL of their emotions to the world. Where they can inspire others to do the same.
I think we can start by being honest and vulnerable with ourselves. Once we can do that, we can be honest and vulnerable with others as well. Allow yourself the freedom to feel whatever it is that you're feeling, then allow yourself to share that with others. If you're fine - be the best fine you can be. If you're down - allow yourself to work through that. If you're tired - allow yourself to be honest about that and rest. If you're full of joy - spread it.
It's OK to not be OK. It's OK to be OK.
It's OK to be.
So... how ARE you?