There are very few questions I detest more than “Are you okay?”

(Runners up include: “Where are your pants?” “Why do you hate thousand island dressing?” and the statement, “I’m worried about you.”)

I must’ve asked that question to thousands of people over the years, especially when I was serving. The standard greeting of a new table was something like, “Hi, my name is Becky and I’ll be taking care of you tonight. How is everyone doing?” 999/1000 times people would reply with the standard, “We’re doing fine” or “What the fuck kinda name is “Becky?””

When you’re in the weeds, slammed beyond control, have one eye on the three tables you haven’t yet greeted that are looking around for you, the bartender yelling at you across the restaurant that he’s somehow out of sour mix and you just heard your second set of dinners hit the line, you don’t really have the time for more detailed interaction with people.

That 0.001% of people, though, responded with something to the effect of, “I’m alive,” or “do you really want to know the answer to that?” When you’re juggling three sections and dealing with half a kitchen that’s doing the YMCA (en espanol)(which really makes you want to join them) instead of cooking your food and you can’t find spoons for the coffee you just brewed after dumping out the last of the coffee and cleaning the maker, and trying to figure out how, exactly someone drinks an amaretto stone sour without yacking, you don’t have the time for personals. Even if you wanted to.

Because you walked in that day wondering if you’d be making enough to cover formula, diapers and gas to get to school, you’re worried about your own problems: does my son have autism? What am I supposed to do about the dude that’s stalking me? What do I do with the rest of my life? You can’t really handle any problems besides what’s directly in front of you: get food, drinks, and merriment to your tables without having to sing Happy Birthday with the few cooks who don’t speak English and your manager who thinks singing to customers is dumb, but they asked so you gotta start begging the cooks and the busboy and the brand-new dishwasher to help you out here, please? And you look up from your soggy birthday cake and notice that the inept hostess is now triple-seating you at 10:30PM on a Thursday night.

There’s simply no time to be a counselor. Which is why I still hate the question.

“Are you okay?” most people want a reply that sounds positive, “why yes, I’m delightful, thank you for asking! Little Jimmy, the highest human pedigree of child, well, he’s just been enrolled in NASA’s young genius program, I’ve been promoted from CEO to heiress, and I just bought the most gorgeous 874,623,722 foot yacht – you should come over for a sail and I can regale you with perfect stories of my very perfect life.”

(okay, that just sounds like one of those Christmas card letters, but you know what I mean).

No one wants you to reply to “Are you okay?” with “No, not really.” Simply put, they don’t exactly want to know if you’re okay; it’s a formality, something that fills the space between “hello” and “goodbye.” I get it – I’ve been there and I understand that there’s not a lot of room for the truth.

Which is why I’m no longer able to really answer that simple question. The qualifiers, stories, the explanation is far longer than most people care to hear – especially when your primary response would be (if you actually said it), “No.”

Because while I’d love to come here and type you a wonderful story of how much better my life has gotten since July, it’d be a lie. Things are different, that’s for certain, and not always in the best of ways. I’m getting a crash-course on Living Alone 101, and it’s one motherfucker of a ride.

There are good moments and bad. Feeling liberated and feeling defeated. Darkness and light. Continue obnoxious comparisons ad nauseum.

But the truth of the matter is this: I’m not okay. I’ll be okay again, but I can’t tell you precisely when or how. Making the right decision doesn’t always mean that it’s the easy one.

And for now, for this very moment, and, I’m certain, many moments after this one, I’m not okay – I’m simply learning to be okay with not being okay.

That’s the best I can do; it’s the best we all can do.

We grab a life raft where we can, hold onto the hope that this, too, will pass, and that someday, this will all be a time we can look back upon as The Time Things Weren’t Okay. We’ll wake up each day hoping to slay the dragons, hoping the darkness won’t win, and we fight to do better; to be better.

There’s growth to be had. There are changes to be made. And there are things to be done. Life will, once again, be good.

Some day, some passing afternoon, in the not-so-distant future, I know that I will be able to once again answer the question, “how are you doing?” without feeling as though I’m lying through my teeth when I say breezily, like our endless numbered days, “Oh, I’m fine.”

And mean it.

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34 Responses to Like Some Passing Afternoon

  • Like Some Passing Afternoon – http://t.co/Cx8C6L3T

  • erin margolin
    Twitter: erinmargolin
    says:

    when people ask if i’m okay, the answer is generally no. and i’m not afraid to say it. and i’m also guilty of asking people that question, which totally sucks since i’ve been there. but i guess since i’m usually honest about feeling shitty when i am, i honestly want to know if someone is okay—and if they aren’t? i WANT to hear about it and try to help in some way.

    but i can’t imagine dealing with all the crapola and living alone 101 (even though sometimes i feel as if i am doing that).

    i love you. even more for saying all this and sharing it with the world.

    hugs and bacon and unicorns and love,
    erin

  • Maria says:

    It’s not that I don’t take you seriously – you really have a hard time now, and we know that it will eventually pass.

    But there is this: http://make-everything-ok.com/

    It doesn’t always make everything 100% ok, but for a little while, it makes you feel just a little bit better. Try it.

    Love from Sweden.
    (We have snow. Again. Which is better than horizontal rain – which is default winter weather round these parts – but not as good as a summer day)

  • Maria says:

    And there is this:
    http://www.zefrank.com/chillout/

    <3

  • Cindy
    Twitter: WalkerCynthia
    says:

    oh, Becky, I completely get it. As a recovering addict, the hardest thing for me to do was get OK with NOT BEING OK. I mean, for 26 years, if I was not ok, I fixed. Trying to learn to live alone is, well, it’s hard. There is nothing there to distract when one is not ok. So being OK with not being OK is great progress, my friend. And I am so fucking proud of you for that that I could hug the everloving shit out of you. I love you hard!

  • Rebecca says:

    Omg Becky! Was that song written for you or what!?
    Lovely.

    You will overcome this adversary too.

    It is ok, to not be ok, for a time. I am praying for you.

  • @deliciasez says:

    RT @mommywantsvodka Like Some Passing Afternoon – http://t.co/dAfx9AIs

  • Becky says:

    Ok to you may not always look like OK to them. You’re definition of OK doesn’t have to match anyone’s. It just has to be Ok for you, and if that is only for this moment, then it is only for this moment. Once it has passed there will be another one come along, and you will find that you can be OK in that one too.
    Hang in there, you are so very loved, even when it is easy to forget that, we remember and love you.

  • Vanessa
    Twitter: mzvanessa
    says:

    I used to ask people how they were doing, and sometimes was genuinely asking, but mostly it just became something to say. This one girl I know would give me her sad life story every time, the same thing over and over (my life sucks was the basis of every conversation) At some point, i don’t know when exactly, i stopped listening and realized I really didn’t care. Then I realized that since i didn’t care I should stop asking her. Now i do the weird acknowledgement nod and keep going.

    • Vanessa
      Twitter: mzvanessa
      says:

      *I should add, i didn’t care because it was always the same. She made up a lot of lies and just kept repeating them over & over, even after being caught.

  • Lana says:

    The other day at work, someone asked me how I’m doing. My response? “I’m doing.”

    In my opinion, it’s not always HOW you’re doing, or if you are OKAY, it’s that you’re DOING and you ARE. That’s the important part. My recent life theory is that I don’t need to be doing “well,” because even when I’m doing well, I tend to see things that aren’t great. Despite the fact that I have a boyfriend that loves me so much, and a family that is emotionally supportive, and a little furbaby that keeps me on my toes, I can’t help but focus on the bills and the student loans and the medical issues that seem unending. So, I just try to keep doing and being. That’s the best anyone can ask for, right?

  • Julie says:

    Well…I won’t ask you if you don’t ask me.

    That question is one of my pet peeves, and yet I insist on asking people THAT question. I am truly interested in the answer, but the thing that tweaks my nose is when kids learn how to answer, “Fine.”

    Someday, I’ll stop by and we can have our little selves a “not doing” party. With cheesie poofs or truffles or whatever.

    Heartz and hugz, AB!

  • Grace says:

    I remember all too well when that was the most painful question to be asked. I couldn’t answer anything but “No”, even in reflex. And the person who asked squirms uncomfortably, not sure what they should say next. It sucks – for everyone involved.

    You know I’m here anytime you need to talk, babe. Love you!!

  • Triplezmom
    Twitter: triplezmom
    says:

    I always feel like if someone is asking me if I’m okay, that means I don’t look okay. Which makes me feel even worse, because I’m not even able to fake being okay. It should count as one of those personal questions no one would think of asking, like, “How much do you make a year?”

    Hugs, lady.

  • Like Some Passing Afternoon: There are very few questions I detest more than “Are you okay?… http://t.co/JQaYoFSQ via @MommyWantsVodka

  • Joules says:

    xoxo

  • RT @ErinMargolin: Like Some Passing Afternoon: There are very few questions I detest more than “Are you okay?… http://t.co/JQaYoFSQ via @MommyWantsVodka

  • Dawn says:

    I overheard someone answer that question today with, “Livin’ the life!” said in somewhat of a ‘tone’. I plan to use that answer from now on.

    I have been where you are. It sucks donkey balls until… it doesn’t. Hang in there, Aunt B. Your day is coming. Stay strong.

    • pbpdesigns says:

      Had to laugh! The way your response looked when I first glanced at it quickly!
      I saw …donkey balls…hung…
      did a double take!
      Thanks for the laugh!!!
      Pammi

  • Janineb says:

    Hiya
    I too found myself single with three young children at 32. I also decided to study. After graduation I landed my DREAM job and haven’t looked back. It sucked donkey balls emotionally at first but i just put my head down and concentrated on study, one day at a time.
    This time will pass, pretty soon you’ll be able to look back and give it the bird :)
    Wishing you all the very best from New Zealand (it’s summer here, divine weather!)

  • random cow bell guy says:

    Beck the zen of it all is that one.way or the other it eventually ends. I tell people outright I am not doing ok. Sometimes i respond with ‘barely hanging on’. As a very wise woman i used to know who sadly is no longer here said about really bad shit you don’t get over it but you do get past it. I know you will find your happy again. We your pranksters known and unknown are pulling for you. Hang in there lady. One foot in front of the other one step at a time and you will find your way out of the morass of despair. Now go get all fucking eye of the tiger for yourself!

  • Amelia says:

    Muthafuckin WORD. I’m with ya sista.

  • Jolie says:

    I am so not ok right now that I had to stop the song. Sorry Becky, just couldn’t deal. I am not ok with being not ok and I’m crawling around looking for the rope to pull me up and out of the dark. But I know eventually, I’ll be ok again. I sure as hell ain’t gonna slide any farther down, I refuse to give up my stubbornness. Love to ya girl!

  • Lorie Boulanger says:

    I hope it helps you (even just a little) to know that us pranksters are out here cheering for you.
    I fully admit I ask this question of people all the time, and I don’t want to hear a bullshit answer, I want to hear the truth. I like to think if I open the door with that question, that it lets them know I care and will be there to listen if they need it. Sometimes I think it just helps if you actually admit you aren’t ok. No one is OK all of the time. Bigs hugs!!!

  • Cindy G says:

    I haven’t had tome to read all the comments but has anyone mentioned that it is TOTALLY OK if everything is not OK? That’s really important to remember. And that “make everything okay” link is friggin awesome. Wish it were real.

  • Roxie says:

    When I ask someone how they are and they say fine, I like to reply with “Pshh, liar!”

  • Alexis Anne
    Twitter: theangelalexistwitter.com
    says:

    My two very least favorite questionas ar “What is the state of yur spirituality?” as in if it’s any of the questioner’s damned business and “Where was your last menstrul period?” to which the previous comment also applies.

  • Michael Rochelle
    Twitter: mikeyllo
    says:

    I hear you and I won’t insult your intelligence with any of those statements of how OK you’ll be down the line knowing that that won’t help the way you feel right now. If we were honest about it, most of us are not OK. We may have been programmed to always be positive (check the self-help aisle), but if we were hooked up to a lie detector, most of us would not proclaim that we were ok.

    How can you be when you have $100,000 in student loans but all you can get is a damn-near minimum wage jobs? Or, how can you be when that child you prayed for turns out to be the biggest asshole ever and you just hope one day he or she won’t be on the news or a stripper–or be on the news for being a stripper.

    How can you be when your husband, wife, or dog has eyes for some other person who hasn’t gained as many years or pounds as you have. How can you be when you realize that you turning 40 means that your mom and dad are now 85 and you know what’s inevitable down the line?

    So, have your moment. Have your week/month/year of not being ok. And know that you’re not alone.

  • pbpdesigns says:

    Becky,
    My response is usually, ‘can’t complain, nobody’d listen.’
    Love you hard, girlie!!
    Pammi

  • Cybercris2 says:

    I know longer ask people if they are OK. I ask how many good moments (or bad moments if I know they are going through something) they had that day.

  • Mishka
    Twitter: MishkaOP
    says:

    I don’t say okay anymore, I say I am here because that is what I am. I don’t want to lie but I don’t want to get into my personal stuff with the average passerby. Most people don’t hear your answer anyhow so at least this way, I am able to be honest. My shit is my own shit to deal with and since a lot seem to not approve of the way I am dealing with it, it is better for me to just keep most of it to myself except from the few close ones that support my methods of dealing my own shit…LOL

  • Luna says:

    My answer to “Are you okay?”, when the answer is “no” is “No, but I will be. Thanks for asking.” It’s honest, and it lets the person off the hook of asking me what’s wrong.

    Becky, an author named Barry Neil Kaufman (goes by Bears, which is an awesome name), has changed my life so dramatically it’s hardly even believable. He wrote Happiness is a Choice and To Love Is To Be Happy With and a few other books. Pretty please with sugar on top check him out. I cannot tell you how amazing it is. I mean, look back in my blog to last year at this time, and to it now. I have a new one devoted to hope and light that I won’t even link to because it’ll totally appear to be blogwhoring, and I just want the best for you.

    And it’s all because of his ideas. I wanted so bad for a miracle. I got one. :)

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