Monday, November 1, 2010

The Okay Gift

Happy Anni-fire-sary to me! 

One year ago Thursday I was fired from the bar. I have made it through exactly one year of embarrassing unemployment checks, excellent barely-working schedules and excruciating changes. 

And today, it's okay. 

Sometimes there's a minute, a gasp of a moment, where all the stuff you're confused about clears for a full second and that pregnant pause allows a gust of emotion to blast you in the face. It is so pure and pungent it becomes impossible not to react. Over the summer, I was so stressed out and confused and sad that during yoga, every time I got into half-pigeon all those feelings trapped in my hips would release and I would just start bawling in the middle of the studio. I went to yoga every day this summer. 

At the museum, we teach a workshop inspired by the book, "It's Okay to Be Different.", by Todd Parr. I got a chance to watch it for the first time last week, and the entire book is like an extended half-pigeon pose. It IS okay to ask for help. It IS okay to eat macaroni and cheese in the bathtub. It IS okay to have been fired from a bar. (Obviously that one is not actually in the book but that doesn't make it any less true.)

At the end of the workshop, the students get to write their own page, prompted with, "It's okay to..." One of the Pre-Kindergarten girls I met last week drew a large, lopsided heart on her page with a red pastel. She swathed over it in watercolor paint that spread in wide, wiping arcs across the page. In marker, she scrawled, "It's okay to be alone." Her symbol of love expanded, bright and wet; her heart enveloped the meaning of her words and flipped them from lonely to lovely in the gust of one pure emotion. 

I'm a little slow at life sometimes. I didn't want boobs. I bought my first pair of skinny jeans yesterday. And it took me three tries to realize I'm not cut out for a 9 to 5 job. So October 29, 2009 probably saved me some of the awkward growing pains all of those other slow adjustments took me through. I'm not ready to thank anyone for this just yet, but I am better for this past year.

Last October 29 was awful. It made me question everything I knew to be true about myself. It shredded a lot of what I had built around myself as confidence. It was the second-to-most-recent awful thing that happened in a really terrible two-year span that included a lot of endings, death and sickness. I was told I wasn't happy enough. Not excited enough to come to work. And that was true. I wasn't happy or excited enough to do a lot of things. This doesn't excuse anything and it doesn't make anything better. October 29 was handled badly and done with poor intent.


I had been clinging to that job as the last semblance of a life I had intended to create for myself. A life that would include a non-traditional work schedule, a lot of true, unshakable confidence and a lot of true, unshakable friendships. I no longer enjoyed the reality of the job, but I wanted so much of what it represented. And it took losing the illusion to figure out how to build the real version. I would like to think I would have gotten there anyway. But that's not the point. I choose to see it as one in an inevitable chain of events that has brought me back to a happy place. I choose to see October 29 as a bonus. Like my slow self saved some time.

I didn't think I needed a book like "It's Okay to Be Different." As a teaching tool it's used as a springboard for conversations about race, disabilities and building friendships. It's a great gift for children. But for me, I'm already there. I like being different. I'm different in a lot of ways. But I'm impatient with myself sometimes. And the cool blast of emotion I felt in the middle of hearing that it's okay to have blue hair was the clarity of that impatience.

It's okay to be slow.

We can all use a half-pigeon to shake up those feelings we keep wound around our joints. They hide in the sockets, eyes squeezed shut, refusing to wiggle out even when we watch a sad Oprah show or listen to David Gray. They settle in, moved by nothing except a big, wetly painted heart that exclaims the virtues of everything they fear.

My friend C just made a scary decision. Her hidden feelings were shaken out, shouting "Me too! Me too! I'm unhappy too!" She listened. She changed something. And she's not sure how okay it is yet. I bought her this book today.

Because it's also okay to not be okay yet.  


  1. David Gray was my #1 breakup cd... you have excellent taste. :) And I still have my "Kate-bag" waiting for you!!

  2. It feels like you have things more under control than you might at first think, Kate. We sometimes emerge from difficult change bigger and better. Butterflies are a good example. Boobs too. Where would the world be without either?

    Keep hanging in there...


  3. @Stephanie - I find it impossible to listen to David Gray without being sad. And YES, I can't wait for my assorted prizes!
    @Ben - I agree. The world would be much worse for the wear without butterflies and boobs. So would I, probably...bigger and better is on the way! Thanks.