For all of us similarly afflicted, perhaps as I dreamed, I thought of some words to describe the feeling of ‘I’m ok, but not ok.’
The worry we carry feels like a metaphorical bullet lodged in our hearts, affecting our breathing, our circulation, bringing on phantom pains that won’t dissipate until the hostages are released. And that’s just the feeling I imagine among us diaspora Jews, and our allies, who I so appreciate.
Last night, after the devastating news of 21 Israeli ‘chayalim’ lost to this damn war, I sent a message to Jerusalem to check up on a very old friend whose two sons are on the ground.
She is ok too, you know, but not ok?
“There are no words,” she told me to describe her state of mind when the news struck hard (in earlier days she described the dread of any parent of a soldier about the potential knock on their door). Her ‘there are no words” only somewhat mirrored the daily feeling about the news on our feeds or in watching or reading the news about Memorials of lost innocent and beautiful souls taken so cruelly on October 7, or of the images of the toll on all innocent civilians in Gaza, who have been used ever so diabolically as human shields. But her “there are no words” was a reminder that any of our “there are no words” can always carry ever more profound anguish and pain than our own. Each ‘I’m Ok, but not ok,’ tells a different story and is a window to a whole different level of pain.
Saturday night. When I attended a (terrific) Chappaqua Performing Arts Center event with a couple gal friends, before it started, we were sharing stories that made me laugh out loud (that’s the ‘I’m OK part’ in motion). A lovely member of the community (you know who you are) caught that, and came up to me, and said, “It’s good to see you laugh.” I was startled. (I must come off as so maudlin in my social media postings!) I offered a broad smile in some way to reassure her. I also said, “Thank you, I’m ok. A little broken, you know?” hoping to share that feeling of, “I’m ok, but not ok, you know?” “I know,” she answered, with her expression conveying empathy — so appreciated.
Earlier in the week, a second lovely member of the community who had come by my home for a signature on a petition for a seat on her city council (done!) told me that she was worried about me. I felt badly about that, reassured her too, but maybe I wasn’t quite convincing enough, ’cause she persisted on recommending self care. Good idea, I said. I will. I promise, I told her, to reassure her too.
Another friend who had called to talk: “Hi, it’s me. Can you talk? Or are you still too busy sharing your anguish?” he offered, in his usual kidding way. Receiving humor right now is such a gift. I told him, “I can talk for a little bit,” eager to get back to yeah, I suppose, ‘sharing my anguish.’ Because you know, I’m ok, but not ok?
Perhaps the best text came last night from a friend who urged me to see Harmony on Broadway before it closes (Feb. 4). “I thought of you during the show.” It’s a show about Holocaust survivors, and a must see.” I told her the timing wasn’t great on account of my closing on three mags, but I would try to get there especially with International Holocaust Remembrance Day approaching.
And yes, I will try.
With a heavy heart but not without holding on fast to the joy of living (I do get that if I don’t, that’s where ‘they’ begin to win.) So presenting, a bit of the reverse, I’m not OK, but damn it, I’m going to do things that make each day ok, too.
Perhaps you have your own stories of ‘I’m OK, but not OK’. I’d love to hear them. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ll conclude this with: May we all be OK and NOT ‘but not ok’ one day again. Just really ok. I have to believe that day will come.