As the words “How are you doing?” or “Are you okay?” spill out of your mouth, I know that you are only asking because you care. You are trying to help by showing me that yes, you remembered, you understand, you know it’s been hard.
Sometimes maybe you ask because you feel like you have to before we can discuss anything else. You want to get it over with.
A lot of times you just ask because you think it’s probably the only thing you can do.
Actually, there is nothing you can do.
And even as you ask me the question, out of good intentions no less, I am frustrated.
I have learned that this question is one that I hate. It may help you to feel like you have helped, but to me it is a command performance.
Once you ask it, you are through. You’ve done well, fufilled your obligations, the ball is in my court.
For me, it is a difficult decision which I have to make quickly. Do I tell the truth (to precious few, only in the appropriate situations) or do I have to lie…again?
Mostly it is the latter.
“I’m doing okay.”
Some of you would be fine with the truth, I know. But if I want a normal conversation with you, relationship with you, a normal interaction, then I have to lie. I don’t want to go there every time I talk to somebody. You would get tired of it pretty fast if I did. I guarantee it.
To you, it was a very sad thing that happened a few weeks ago.
To me, it is constant. It is every minute. It is every memory. It is a whole reality which has been broken and I am scrambling for debris.
The tight, little smile which I hate accompanies those two words, and I know I am the world’s worst actor.
If you’re especially thoughtful, you might say, “Well, if there is anything you need, be sure to ask.”
To fix this? I doubt it. Can you cure cancer? Time travel? Can you fix my heart? My family’s hearts? Can you? No, you can’t. So,
“No, I’ll be okay. I can’t think of anything.”
I can tell that you think I’m better. But I’m just better at hiding it.
When I cry, I go somewhere private. I make sure my eyes aren’t swollen before I come out. When I scream, I do so with no noise, a howling fish out of water. I wrap my arms around myself and breath very quickly. In. Out. In. Out.
I can talk about things, other things. I can even joke around a little.
I do these things for you, so you won’t see that life is so fragile and that I am so broken and we are so helpless. I don’t want you to feel badly because you cannot make me okay.
I do these things for me, too. I don’t want to lose you, or overstay my welcome as “sad friend”. I want you to like me. I don’t want you to get frustrated and give up on me. I need you, even if there’s nothing you can do to fix me.
I get so exhausted from pretending. My introvertism has been so magnified by this that every successful social interaction has become a marathon. I crawl back wearily into my shell, and maybe that is where I belong.
No, I’m not fine. My heart is full of sorrow and you cannot fix it.
But maybe you can do some things to help me survive.
Don’t try to fix me. Don’t expect me to be okay. Don’t give up on me. Give me space, but don’t forget about me. Understand if I am not up for it, and please don’t be offended. Keep trying. Know that I am broken, and love me anyway.
We’re all just broken people after all.
The Grieving Heart