I often respond to the question, “how are you doing?” with a simple, monotone “I’m fine!”. When my friends do not accept my response, I stick with the same words but change my tone, indicating with a higher and drawn out “finnee” that I truly am “fine”. I have always known that my “fine” does not indicate a good nor bad; I could be good or I could be not so good but I don’t really want to share. I also know that my “I’m fine” is super annoying for my friends. Well friends, read on!
Last week I attended a Therapeutic Recreation conference in Kelowna BC. The weather was perfect, the group of peers even better, and the sessions enlightening. Many sessions continue to turn the wheels in my mind, but one in particular has me stuck, spinning, and leaping at the same time. We sat and listened to a motivational speaker (usually I leave such keynote addresses) who was humours, inspirational, and stimulating. Linda Edgecombe offered me new insight into my use of “I’m fine”. She stated, in a humours way I likely cannot do justice to, that using “I’m fine” as a response to how one is feeling creates a space to get stuck within; to become trapped within a sense of being “fine” (neither good nor bad). Her suggestion, start actually sharing how you feel and that this vulnerability to share your true feelings will create momentum to move forward, to become un-stuck, and to land on the “I’m good” side of things.
This is super difficult for me, mostly becasue I do not really care for others to know how I am feeling. I like to work through things on my own, to feel my own discomfort or comfort, and to only share it when I think it will in some way benefit the other (sometimes this is just so they know why I am being grumpy). But, I have really been thinking about Linda’s words over the past days. I have started to grapple with what my “I’m fine” is saying and while it is hard to share, I have to admit that my “I’m fine” is me being less than “fine”. I am worried about many things, have one too many projects on the go, and thinking a lot about some of my connections. So, let me tell you (even though my heart is racing and my fingers are shaking). I’m not fine, I’m not great, and I’m not bad. I am worried!
I am currently in the phase of life when many of my friends are entering serious long term relationship (dating or marriage), many are (or recently have) having children, and many of us are pursuing careers, shifting from our academic lives, and moving locations. All these things are wonderful, beautiful, and in many ways natural. Yet, I’m worried. I like to believe that I surround myself with others who care deeply, love truly, and focus on supporting, inspiring, and motivating one another. Predominantely females, this means (to my non-academic still biased mind) that we fall in love quickly, we rescue in our relationships, and often times put more on the table than the other (although I know many men feel like this too). What I worry about is how quickly we let go of our independence, which we fought, resisted, and earned with great struggle. I worry about how quickly we fall into the roles we witnessed and learned (unspokenly and perhaps unknowingly) from our mothers who wholeheartedly care for, look after, and support our fathers (at least in my home and the friends homes who I can refer to). I am concerned that we get trapped in the comfort of “love” and that we let go of ourselves a little too quickly (this whole “we” deal versus two “I” co-existing). And along the way, with busy lives, new relationships, added responsibilities, ample education, and hearts that love at extrodinary speed and depth, we lose the fight, the resistance, and the struggle that has allowed us to get to where we are at.
Now, you may be thinking, “geeze Shemine, have some faith in us!”. And I do have faith. I have faith that one day we will recognize our powerful and critical steps that have allowed us to achieve such greatness, to become the young women (and men) we are today with ambition, drive and a desire to better the spaces we occupy; that we will recognize our mis-steps, and our successes and challenges. I do not want to devalue all that we have done, nor erase our steps, or even guide our next steps. You are all powerful, brilliant, and stunning women (and men)! But, I want us, all of us, to pause a moment and reflect. To think about what we are bringing to the table in any situation whether that is a relationship, a job, a sport, a study (you get the gist), think about what the others are bringing to the table, critically reflect on the things that you are willing to negotiate and those that you are not, and really take a moment to think about yourself (screw the other for just a little bit while you figure out you), and don’t give in too quickly. You have fought, resisted, and struggled for great purpose, it would be a shame to see that fade away!
So, yes, I am not fine. I am worried! I am worried about me, about you, and about the others. But, after listening to Linda and various podcasts, I am excited, I have new motivations, and dream of difference in my life. I will do my best to not respond to your sincere questions of “how are you?” with “I’m fine”, and if I do, I give you permission to ask me how I am really feeling. It won’t be an easy journey and each day my response is likely to change, but just like today, being able to share my worries lossens the glue that has me stuck. I feel motivated to make sure that I stop and reflect, that I think about what I, and others, bring to the table, and to hold onto my lifelong resistance and fight to be “me”. I hope you do the same!