We are not okay.

“Our community is in fucking crisis right now.”

As I stood in the shower, alcoholic beverage in hand, trying to let the hot water calm me down, I read this text message from a friend and fellow jumper. Yeah, no shit, I thought. I’ve been realizing for a while that as a community we’re not okay, but this was a much clearer, stronger, more blunt description of our dire situation. In 8 days time we lost 3 friends, including a double fatality, which other than a triple a few years back has never happened before. Most of us were still mourning the passing of Mat when we heard the news of Rami and Katie. Some of us, myself included, hadn’t even had a proper chance to deal with our grief and loss of Mat when Rami and Katie died. No, we are certainly not okay.

In most cases I hate the question “Are you okay?” because it’s such a fucking lie. Many times the person asking doesn’t want the real answer and the person answering isn’t going to tell the truth. It’s turned into a salutation just like “How’s it going?” 

When nonjumpers ask if we’re okay we lie and say we are for many reasons. Maybe it’s to shield them from a world they aren’t familiar with, maybe it’s because we don’t want to talk about our pain, maybe it’s because we’re lying to ourselves. Or maybe when someone says “How’s your weekend?”, you just don’t feel like saying, “Oh you know, I saw my friend in a body bag and then stood next him for an hour talking to the police about possible ways to identify him. How was the football game?”

When fellow jumpers ask if we’re okay we lie and say we are for different reasons. Sometimes it feels like going through the motions. We’re not okay, and we know it, but we ask anyway as a sign of support. It’s like saying “Hey, I know this sucks, but I’m worried and care about you.” When we say we’re okay again, we’re lying, but for different reasons. Either we know everyone is hurting and don’t want to make the situation about us, or we’re comparing and ranking our level of grief to others, or sometimes we’re just acknowledging the situation and saying, “You know what, I’m not okay, but thanks for your concern.” Unfortunately most of the time this simply comes out as “I’m okay.”

I certainly don’t mean to or want to discount the times a friend asks me if I’m okay and they truly mean it. When they really mean it what they’re actually saying is “I know you’re not ok, so let me know if you want to talk about it, or just want a hug, but I love you and I’m going to follow your cue.” Exchanges like this demonstrate an amazing unspoken compassion and understanding. 

I’m trying my hardest to stop saying I’m okay these days. Sometimes I still have to for various reasons—most of the time to try and shield others I care about—but whenever possible I’ve really tried to stop saying it. I’m not talking about gushing every time someone has asked, although to be fair I’ve certainly gushed a time or two so far in 2016. Something amazing has happened though—by not saying I’m okay, I’ve had some incredible conversations with friends. We’ve shared thoughts, experiences, and opinions that we otherwise never would have. If someone isn’t comfortable continuing the conversation then they won’t, but the result would be the same as if you had never started it. If they do continue it though, and together we dive deeper, then we might just learn something. We might learn something about ourselves, each other, the community, or maybe even something larger than any of us.

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3 thoughts on “We are not okay.

  1. Reblogged this on Professional Conflict Resolution and commented:
    “Are You Okay?” Do You Really Want to Know?

    This is a powerful piece. I know the subject of Joe’s grief. I don’t think I asked him whether he is okay. I just sent him my condolences and had a brief exchange.

    I had a powerful sense that Joe wasn’t the same with this. My issue with it was that I am not really good at this. I just didn’t know what to say to him. I still don’t know what to say to him. Joe, I’m sorry, man. I just don’t know what to do or say.

    I’m pretty awful in situations like this. I am good at not “saying the wrong thing.” Because I’m an ace in these situations at not saying ANYTHING. I wish I could change that. But I suppose the lesson here is that, “Are you okay” is too frequently a hollow phrase.

    Or maybe it’s not as hollow as we think. Maybe we can all hear and understand the response. Maybe, like me, we are just too often unable to cope ourselves with the truthful answer.

    The conflict with myself.

    Like

  2. Joe… don’t lose hope. I read more and more how people are struggling, not just with the loss of life, but with life itself. It seems to me that we’ve drowned out the reality of how life really is… no matter what you do. Some scientists say us thrill seekers ride the highs of life and make it look great; but we also deal with the extreme lows since our mind’s thrive on highs. But that just covers the general emotion and not the overall well being of your soul. People like to associate our well being with some geometric shapes and theories, like circle of life, or karma. But, I like to look at it like a line graph or a mountain trail… lots of ups and lots of downs. Kind of like Roger Miller once sang: “sometime ups outnumber the downs…. we’d up and fly if we had wings for flyin'”. When you’re down, you’re looking up at the challenge, and wondering why. When you’re up, you’re looking forward for more peaks. Then there are the times when we’re on the slopes between up and down, struggling with whatever is taking us up and down. Those are the times when we need to remember the mountain path we’re on and have always been on… life. That’s when we have to remember that we may not be on the same mountain, but we overcame the last one, and god damnit… we’re going to do it again. Blue Skies!

    Like

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