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Most of us spend our lives stressing to make everything work out okay. We want our children to be happy and successful, friends to like us, employers to value us and our work, romantic partners to love us and live forever, and for various and sundry other endeavors to turn out swimmingly. And in so doing, we engage in a fool’s errand.
For example, my middle-aged client Josephina is divorcing her husband of many decades to live alone for the first time in her life. Tending toward anxious, she worries about feeling lonely, being able to pay her rent, and managing by herself when she’s used to depending on her husband. She told me, “I just want it all to be okay.”
Another client, Alan, studying to be a paralegal, gets frantic when he receives anything less than a B due to his scholarship requirements. He works two jobs and throws himself into his school work. But, every paper, pop quiz, class presentation and exam makes him panic. He insists, “It’s not okay if I don’t keep up my grades.”
I understand the laments about wanting things to be just so. However, we’ve all lived long enough to know that things don’t always turn out as we wish. Sometimes our best shot fails or the thing we wanted most not to happen happens. This is life for all of us.
So, listen up: The point is not for things to turn out okay, but for you to know you'll be okay no matter how things turn out. Please read that simple sentence again and take in its essence: things don’t need to turn out okay for you to be okay. Or, said another way, you can be okay even when things turn out a nasty mess or a disaster. The okayness is internal, not external, within you and not determined by outside events. Our job is not to make sure life flows along perfectly as we planned, but to know deep down that no matter what happens we’ll do our best to cope with or manage it.
The idea is to feel certain you’ll survive when things aren’t okay. This doesn’t mean to be strong all the time or act as if everything worked out. Or to pretend you have no feelings about what happened or allow yourself to display only certain upbeat ones. It means you know you’ll be okay feeling disappointment, grief, sadness, fear, sorrow, vulnerability, hopelessness, regret or anything else you experience when things don’t go your way.
Feeling okay doesn’t mean feeling fine. It’s about knowing you’ll be alright though you’re anything but fine. When you know you’ll be okay when you don’t feel okay, you’ll be less scared and better able to go with the flow, even when you feel like you’re drowning.
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