The girl who’s always fine

I saw this piece of poetry recently, and I felt, well…seen.

Not patted on the back for how well I take a hit. Or how many.

I have built my brand around being the girl who’s always fine. I got it. I can survive this. It’s not like I am in a prison camp. Others have it way worse. I’ll get through it. I always do.

It’s fine. I’m fine.

Even in the aftermath of my husband’s untimely and unexpected death, when I was most certainly NOT fine, it was my mantra. I don’t need people WORRYING about me. I’m fine. Really. For some value of fine, that’s what I am.

It’s fine. I’m fine.

And I brought it up yesterday in therapy, and I said something that I rarely say.

I said “I’m tired of being the girl who is always fine.”

I see people being vulnerable all the time. Friends, relatives. Strangers in group. People who are saying, I’m NOT okay, and I need you to hold onto me for a minute till I can get my feet under me. I need someone to hold my hand, someone to ask if I need to drink more water, someone to ask if I have eaten anything. If I have done ANYTHING except watched TikTok videos today. If I need a hug, or a mug of tea, or just someone to see that I am in pain and it sucks. Someone to say, you know what? No, you’re not fine.

I’m not fine.

And even now, my instinct is to say no…I am. I am fine, for some value of fine. I’m warm and cozy and I have food in the refrigerator, and a cat on my lap, and I am privileged and I have no inclination to hurt myself.

But honestly, that is a pretty low bar. I’m not suicidal, so I’m fine? I’m not hungry, so I’m fine? Others have it worse, so I’m fine?

I’m fine. But I don’t wanna fight Cerberus. Not today.

And my therapist asked me how long “fine” has been my default, and she pressed back when I said “forever.” She rejected the idea that I came out of the womb like this. She indicated that I should reach back for a reason, for a cause. And it hit me like Mike Tyson—I was three and a half, and my brother was a baby, and he was really sick. And maybe he wasn’t ever in as much danger as I have perceived over the years, but I know that he had respiratory problems, and that he had unmanageably-high fevers, and that he was in and out of the hospital, a lot—or what seemed like a lot to this toddler. And there were times that my parents, and grandparents needed to be with him, and I—when I say that I was left, well, that sounds horrible. But I was parked sometimes in the lobby of the hospital, with books and toys and a receptionist to watch over me. And I do not feel any kind of way about that. Everyone needed to be with him, to make sure that he was OK. He was a BABY.

But I kind of was, too, and thinking back, I bet that my need to be FINE probably started then. Don’t worry about ME, Nanna. I’m fine. It’s OK, Daddy…I have books. I’m fine. No, Mama…sit with Lee. I’m fine here.

I feel like that little girl probably didn’t want anyone’s focus to be pulled away from what was important. And that was a good quality for her to display.

But I also kind of feel like she got stuck there.

And I have no tidy conclusion for all this rambling. I have work to do, and that work may start with looking in the mirror and practicing a weird kind of affirmation.

It’s OK if I’m not fine. It’s OK to need help. I can be vulnerable without being weak. And weakness is not always bad. Sometimes weakness shows us where to direct the work.

Sometimes the weakness shows us where to direct the work

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