How’re you doing? Oh, just fine.
Otherwise known as: Frightened. Insecure. Neurotic. Emotional.
Or so I was told by a therapist years ago, and it’s something that’s stuck with me. Because, really, what do we mean when we say fine?
Not fine as in I’m in fine fettle, because who even knows what being in a fettle is (or what a bad one would look like), and also most of us aren’t characters in a novel of the bucolic English countryside. We pretty much never mean fine as in we’re not raining (although rain’s certainly a possibility), or fine as in a we’re a good vintage or exceptionally well made. We probably don’t even mean that we’ve got the opposite of coarse manners, or that our tailoring is particularly good.
Although, if we mean how small we feel we’ve been ground at the moment, that might be coming a little closer to the truth. Or how thinly we’ve been sliced – how close to the margin of error things feel everywhere. Yeah, maybe those. That’s starting to feel a little more like what I mean when I say fine.
Frightened. Insecure. Neurotic. Emotional. That sort of fine is, I think, a pretty good approximation of what many of us mean when we say fine.
How’re you holding up? Fine. I don’t know what else the world’s going to throw at me, or how I’ll be able to handle it when it comes. I don’t want to look at the news or social media, but I can’t help it. I’m exhausted. My heart hurts. I’m fine.
How’s getting back to normal going? Fine. None of it feels normal. Everyone’s just pretending, including me. Nothing’s as it was, and I don’t know when it will be, if ever. But it’s fine.
Can you just do this? You don’t mind, do you? No, it’s fine. I can barely breathe some days, and just getting through a phone call makes me want to lie down for a year, but it’s fine. I’m fine.
That sort of fine. And there’s always that same sense that we’re doing well considering. That so many people have things harder (and this is often, if not always, true), and that we have so little to complain about really, and we have so much to be thankful for, and so even raising our own not-really-fine-ness seems … shallow. Self-absorbed. Trivial.
Which it’s not. Not being fine, not being okay, isn’t the realm of everyone else. It’s the realm of all of us. Most of us are not okay, most of us are not fine. And denying that because we know others are more not-okay and more not-fine helps no one. We are allowed to be not okay ourselves, and it in no way diminishes the fact that others are not okay too. Denying our reality only means we make it harder for ourselves – and for others who look at us and think, well, they seem to be doing okay, so I should Just Get My Act Together. Admitting things are not right won’t cause the sky to fall. It’ll allow us to actually work toward making things better, even just in the simple (and monumental) step of saying to ourselves, this is not working. This is not fine. What do I need to do to help myself through?
This is, of course, scary and big work. Admitting we’re not fine, even to ourselves, goes against so much of what we’ve been taught and have observed. But, once again, we’re not characters in a certain genre of English novel. We do not need to keep a stiff upper lip. We need to care for ourselves not only for our own health, but also so we can care for others, and maybe even show someone else who’s fine-ing that not being fine isn’t the end of the world – but pretending we are when we’re not can feel like it.
And here’s something else, lovely people – you really are doing just fine. Fine as in a sunny day, fine as in a work of art, fine as in an excellent vintage. Because you are here. Because you’re keeping going. Because you’re doing just fine as in frightened or insecure or neurotic or emotional, but still you’re sitting up and facing the world. Maybe not every day. Maybe not even all the days. But every moment is a triumph.
You got out of bed this morning? Win.
You got dressed? You’re doing awesome.
You went to work, or did the jobs you needed to do, or interacted with people on the phone or in real life? You’re an absolute warrior.
Survival is a triumph, every time. And the last long and complicated eighteen months or so have been extra hard on everyone. All the little everyday struggles have been wound up and exacerbated, turning even something as simple as a supermarket run into an ordeal for some and an impossibility for others. Nothing has been fine. Nothing has been easy. Nothing has been okay.
But you, lovely people, are doing just fine.
You are surviving.
You are making your way in the world however you can.
Need to stay in bed and shut reality out with a book or a movie, or sleep like a hedgehog building its strength for a return to the world? Perfect. Build that strength. Curl in on your own, glorious, prickly little self and do what you need to do to care for you.
Does it feel too much to shower, or pointless to get dressed? Awesome. Prioritise. Use your energy wisely. PJs are a valid style choice these days anyway.
No choice but to go out into the world? You can do this. Breathe. You are strong and glorious and absolutely fine as in honed to perfection. Do your thing, and give yourself what you need, whether that means going through the motions and getting home again as soon as you can, or finding a friend who recharges you for lunch or coffee or simply an exchange of silly memes.
You are doing just fine.
And yes, fine can mean so many things, not all of them good. But fine also means surviving. Fine means you’re holding on, even though we’re all tired and ground down and broken. Fine means you’ve got this, lovely people.
Fierce. Indomitable. Notable. Extraordinary.
You’re doing just fine.