Doing Okay

There is a song called ‘Today Has Been Okay‘ by Emiliana Torrini, which on the one hand makes me think of Dirk and his loss as it speaks of the death of a lover:

“Friends tell me its spring
My window show the same
Without you here the seasons pass me by
I know you were not new
That loved like me and you
All the same I miss you”

On the other hand it reflects on death in general, and repeats the phrase that I roll around in my head sometimes: ‘Today has been okay’

“Wind has burned your skin
The lovely air so thin
The salty water’s underneath your feet
No one’s gone in vain
Here is where you’ll stay
‘Cause life has been insane but
Today has been okay’

Okay. I’m doing okay. We tell this to ourselves, to others; we make this into our story. What does it mean? To me, it means that I’m full of pain, anger, timeless, senselessness, and confusion: but I’m still here, I’m still moving; life ticks onwards, with its little joys and pleasures and challenges. I am functioning. I am holding together. It also in contrast to the days or times that are NOT okay, when everything crumbles and many little things seem to go unbearably wrong.

Yesterday was more than okay. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and while Clive was unfortunately working, I had a relaxed morning at home with my two boys – playing, cooking, tidying, washing, and baking a truly awful mocha cake (if anyone has a good coffee cake recipe, please send it to me!). In the afternoon I had a visit from a dear friend, and we walked with the boys to Manor Park, enjoying the sunshine and speaking about death, and life. I felt mellow, calm, and grateful for friendship, sunshine, and good conversation.

Then the evening slowly descended into a strange sort of nightmare. Neither of the boys wanted to go to sleep, and the first sign of things being less than ideal was a deep, aching exhaustion settling over me at about 8pm, by which time they are both usually fast asleep. Clive was still on his long journey home from work, and I could feel my patience start to grow thin. The boys had both been ill with a tummy bug during the week, and Tristan has been getting a slight cold too, so a few hours after finally getting them to sleep they were awake again – Rhys up screaming for what felt like hours at a time because of sore gums (he is still teething) and a sore tummy, and Tristan waking up occasionally crying because he couldn’t breath through his blocked nose. I was a stumbling, exhausted wreck by the time Clive got up to take the boys downstairs for breakfast so I could grab half an hour of uninterrupted sleep before work, and things got really fun when Rhys started projectile vomiting in the kitchen.

Layered under and over all this was a growing depression, after I had turned my computer on last night, and read emails and blogs, and re-read the story of ‘What happened to Tessa’ that I posted last night. Many of us are finding this time, as we crawl towards the end of the second month after my mother’s death, the hardest yet. It is comforting to know I am not the only one feeling this way, and it is eye-opening to realise how many people feel that the hardest point in mourning seems to be during or after the point at which those around them expect them to be ‘getting over it’ (though what impact the latter has on the former, I am not entirely sure).

In between all of this sorrow and exhaustion, there were many things to remind of the joys of life, even if they didn’t actually lift the shadow sitting on my heart today. There were the hot air balloons that floated past outside at 6am this morning – unexpected in busy London airspace.

Mo(u)rning balloons

There were my husband’s never-ending attempts to cheer me up with hugs, kisses and sweet tea. There was my dearest of dear friends, Cate, who sends me love and sunshine even when her days are cloudy and difficult. There was the wonderful, long facebook message from my friend Katie Sweeting, which I read on the bus to work and had me weeping from her caring and honesty. There were those who posted replies to my blog, or emailed me, and made me feel heard and acknowledged. There was my colleague Elizabeth who fixed two of my mother’s necklaces and surprised me with them this morning, when I needed them most. It is amazing how small, thoughtful kindnesses can melt the heart and make the world glow brighter. Thank you, friends. Thank you, world.

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5 thoughts on “Doing Okay

  1. That photo is awesome. I saw it yesterday and thought how it looked just like a scene from Mary Poppins…you are doing fine, but gee whiz that sounded like a horrific evening. Great to have friends like you have to go for walks with – and to test your mocha cake on 😉

  2. Thank you Laurel. I don’t know if this is the hardest time because it is all so hard and it may get harder, if that is possible. I was with Adam and Francie this evening; Francie asked after my leg and then couldn’t believe that we were less than two months since Tessa’s death. It seems so long, so much has happened – kindness, help and difficult stuff too. And yet it feels not just like yesterday, but that she cannot have gone away at all. She has, and somehow we are okay most of the time anyway.

  3. I think a lot about ‘okay’ too. What is means to me often seems very different than what people mean when they ask if I’m ok! But as you said, just holding it together most of the time is good enough and much as the days when everything seems to be feeling apart and crashing down are awful, maybe in the long run they are sometimes necessary. For me it helps now to think ‘there have been days I did not think I could get through before and I got through them’… no one will every write a movie plot about it but I guess they are the little triumphs that help us to keep going. x x x

  4. Love the picture!
    Whenever I feel awful for losing someone – either, for life or death – I try to focus on the fact that “if it didn’t kill me, it will surely make me stronger”, it doesn’t matter how long it takes, it doesn’t matter how bad we struggle to get through the day – and sometimes it really seems like we won’t make it – one day we’ll just wake up and realize the pain is still there, but it’s not overflowing through our eyes anymore.

  5. Sometimes it takes practice to be okay. Sometimes little games can help to mark how far you’ve come, like buoys at sea can do. I used to ‘notice yellow’ quietly to myself and it can be pleasing how much of it there is in the world. How lovely to experience hot air balloons in the rising light. Thank you for sharing them.

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