Why Do We Say "It's Okay?"

Just about immediately before my run with COVID, I had my consult appointment for my colonoscopy in November. Ahhh, mid-forties, what joys you bring... 

I HATE GOING TO NEW DOCTORS. Mostly because I have to recount the almost comically sad laundry list of awfulness that is my medical history, that is almost entirely centered on my now-defunct reproductive system. It is EXHAUSTING to go through all the procedures. I keep saying I am going to type up a handout so I don't have to do it verbally, and I think this last appointment definitely cemented that I need to buck up and just do it, for my own sanity. 

When I finished the emotionally draining recounting of my personal tragedies, the wonderful PA looked at me with pure empathy and said, "I'm so sorry you had to go through all that." 

And what did I say? 

"It's okay." 


I mean, it's such a knee-jerk reaction that speaks to how culturally primed we are to wave away any kind of unpleasant feeling at any cost. "Oh dear, you are sad at my experiences, I need to make it go away so you are not uncomfortable." And thus... "It's okay." 

I actually paused and quickly said, "well, it's NOT actually okay, but I am okay with it and have a good life, so there's that." 

I felt a little better about that response. I feel like I need to really practice saying "thank you, I appreciate that" instead of the dismissive (to myself!) lie, "it's okay," or my amended verbal vomit.

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Easier, Not Easy

Remember that baby shower that I was going to attend, if only for a short time? Well, it was supposed to be this past week, and I was still out with COVID, so I was like, "ok, decision made for me." 

But then it got rescheduled, and now it's this coming Tuesday. So I had a choice. I could show up, put my gifts in the pile and give a hug and eat a treat and skedaddle weirdly. I could drop my gifts off and bugger off because frankly I suspect that Tuesday (my first day back after two weeks) I will be exhausted by the end of the day and so I have a great, legitimate excuse. Or, I could stoically try to make it through the whole thing to be "nice." 

I chose to just open up to the event planner and be honest: 

"Full disclosure, I am very very happy to celebrate J, G, and their baby, but cannot be there for gift opening. I'm not sure how much of my personal history you're aware of, but Bryce and I had a shower where people wrote in books and I still have a number of books for Baby Tennant (that never came to be)... I love the idea (obviously) but it is a little too scar-opening for me to be there for it. I hope you understand the dichotomy of "happy for you, but not willing to reopen trauma and no one wants someone crying at a baby shower."  

DID YOU NOTICE? Not once did I apologize. I did not go into a lot of detail, just the relevant. Mostly, I am proud of not apologizing. 

It occurred to me that it's been long enough (5 years and change) that there are people I work with who have no idea about my saga. They weren't there when we had our school shower. They weren't in the building when I sent out the heartbreaking email thanking everyone for their support and revealing that we had decided to end our journey and had donated (almost) all of the beautiful gifts for the nursery to a charity supporting new moms with a fraction of the support we had. They weren't there when I mysteriously went on a short leave thanks to a Prednisone-fueled breakdown brought on by autoimmune response to incredible stress and trauma. 

I am getting better at sharing less (outside of this space, of course!) -- no one is entitled to my story. I decide when and if to share any part of it in everyday life. And I am definitely getting better at not apologizing for my feelings or my needs based on my experiences. I hope people understand, but if they don't, that's on them, not me. (The event planner understood. I feel like most empathetic humans would.)

I was talking with Bryce about it after I sent the email, and marveling at how far away the raw parts are now. And what he said was amazing, and so wise. He said, "Well with time, it's going to get easier. But easier doesn't mean easy." 

How I love this man. How perfect. It is definitely easier. But, for me at least, I don't think it will ever be "easy." It's trauma that is a part of me, but not all of me. It is woven into my identity, but deeper under the surface. And I am just tickled that it is getting easier over time to own my story, to own my responses to these little stabby moments, and to own my right to self-care.