“Life always waits for some crisis to occur before revealing itself at its most brilliant.” ~Paul Coelho
I spent my 25th birthday crying alone at the foot of a mountain. While I had always found solace in spending time by myself, in that moment, I did not recognize my “self.” Without my self, I had nothing.
I was utterly alone.
Three weeks earlier, a man was shot just feet away from my front door. My then-boyfriend and I performed CPR until an ambulance arrived, but the man had been killed on impact. The police left my home at 3 a.m.; at 7 a.m., I was headed to the airport for a family wedding.
There is no mourning at a wedding.
Forced to paste on a smile, I told myself and everyone around me that I was fine. Never mind the fact that I felt like all of the air had been sucked out of me. If you tell a lie enough times, you start to believe it yourself.
For weeks, I assured myself that I was strong enough to bear the heavy burden of witnessing a violent crime. I always identified as a strong, independent woman. I couldn’t let go of that, I felt, or I might not ever get it back.
But as the days passed, I started to realize that something was different. The girl who was known for her constant zest for life and naturally cheerful demeanor was replaced by a woman who was exhausted, short-tempered and—it took me weeks to realize—depressed.
When the truth finally broke free, I was overwhelmed. Sitting there, at the base of my favorite Phoenix mountain, all I could think was, “I am not okay.”
In that moment, I was not okay.
But the truth has a funny way of setting you free. Faced with a sensation that was completely foreign and extremely uncomfortable to me—the idea that I was more vulnerable than I wanted to believe—I finally saw a glimmer of light.
Only in honoring my emotions was I able to let them go.
After crying myself weak, I climbed that mountain. As I reached the top, I inhaled deeply and felt my breath for the first time in weeks. The tears that flowed at the top were entirely different: they were tears of gratitude.
The moment that I learned to allow myself to be “not okay” was a turning point in my adult life.
To allow yourself to feel is to allow yourself to really live.
Once I was able to look at my emotions honestly, I was able to look at my life honestly and to realize that I did, in fact, want to participate wholly in it. I appreciated life more deeply than ever before.
Months later, when my dear friend lost her dear friend, I shared my secret: “It’s okay to be not okay.” Amidst all of the sympathetic wishes and “it will get betters,” that message resonated most deeply. Her grief was okay.
Sometimes, people need permission to break. And it is from that broken place that they are finally able to become whole again.
Time and time again, when faced with some of life’s hardest moments, I have shared my secret: “It’s okay to be not okay.”
Accepting that simple truth has been exactly the remedy that allowed the people I love to move into a space where they are more than okay—they are thriving.
Photo by Alex Shapovalov