Thanks to lockdowns and a serious set of personal events, this year I found myself in a situation where I wasn’t ok. Probably like many people around the world right now, my own personal pandemic coincided with a global one.
Alone in self-isolation in a house that seemed to creak with the weight of too much thinking and too much alone time to do it in. I found myself at a standstill and I was at a loss for how to connect with the support I needed. Now, logically I knew what to do – that wasn’t the hard part. It just felt impossible to do it. The energy and courage it would take for me to reach out to the people I needed was just too hard. I sometimes even felt physically sick at the thought – something I’d never experienced.
And then there was a pattern interrupt. My phone went off.
- “Hey Jess, How’s your day? What did you have for lunch? Did you finish the Sudoku or Legally Blond 2 – that sequel is a shocker?”
- “What do you need from the shops? I’m going to Woolies?”
- “Check out this ridiculous meme. I know you love cats. Thinking of you legend.”
- “You said you needed your bike fixed. We’ve repaired and it’s out the front. Let’s go for a ride when your ready.“
- “Here if you need me – sending you a big hug.”
These little texts and calls, innocent in content, but coming from a place of love, were like little life buoys pulling me back to my community, to my people and to the sense of safety that I was really struggling to find. Now, I wasn’t always great at responding to the texts and calls, but today I look back on those innocent check-ins as fundamental to finding my way back to being ok.
During that time, I had to share some messy truths about myself with others. I felt embarrassed and ashamed and I didn’t know what they would say. What I found was consistent and the message clear. Life sometimes doesn’t make sense and throws you a curveball, we love you and we are here – that will never change.
It was simple reminders or those moments of understanding and non-judgement that I really needed from those who I cared about the most.
What also emerged from every person I opened up to, were stories that had long been hidden behind the polite conversations we often cling too. The truth is we’re all messy sometimes, or one-degree from someone who has been through a similar thing. We’re often just afraid or unsure of how to bring our truth to the table and to talk about it.
Now timing and context does matter for hard conversations. Some people know your challenge better than others, some people are in the right place at the right time to help, all of these things are true. But, none of these really mattered to me in the end. All that counted was someone being willing to reach out, check in and to ask ‘are you ok?’ in their own way.
Finding your “R U OK” style
In life, we all have our own style. Some people are great problem solvers. Some people are hilarious. Others, you can feel the hug from across the Zoom screen. When I reflected on the friends and family who gathered around to help, what was amazing was the beauty in the variety of different ‘R U OK’s that I received.
Together, unintentionally, they provided the optimal variety of check-ins styles. From the deep and meaningful to the light and fluffy – it was the collection and mixture of check-ins that helped. These mirrored the ups and downs of the journey to becoming ok again. Sometimes you just need a distraction and sometimes you want to talk. Both are ok.
So, I guess my message in all of this is that ‘are you ok’ can be asked a range of ways. And it’s likely that you have your own style of reaching out to support those around you.
You could be the person who solves problems and makes life easier by delivering food or fixing bikes. You could be the person who knows just how to bring lightness, joy and a big hug. The most important thing that you contribute is showing up and to not be afraid to ask.
Caring for others is our business as humans. You’ll never know the right thing to say, so don’t wait for that epiphany. It might be a bit awkward or hard, but trust that intention counts – you just never know when you’re making a huge impact on someone’s life.
A little acknowledgement
This is a little thanks and ode to my people. Thanks for accepting my mess – I’m here for yours. Anytime. Anywhere.