Help one another; there’s no time like the present and no present like the time. ~James Durst
Yesterday, I lounged around the house, feeling the impact of jet lag. I didn’t leave the house, nor did I exercise. I was feeling a bit blue: I was home after a 10-day adventure to London and Wales (with a spontaneous trip to Paris wedged in between) and I knew that I would easily fall right back into the same routine I had before I left for my trip.
Stretched out on the couch, I thought about how I had missed seeing my older son dressed in his tuxedo as he attended two Junior Proms. I had also missed my younger son’s last few baseball games. I had missed Mother’s Day with my husband and the kids. I didn’t feel fine, I felt sad.
Prior to our departure to London, I jokingly asked my friend Debbie if we needed a safe word, after all, we’d be spending a week in London and I wanted to be sure we wouldn’t drive each other crazy or get on each other’s nerves. I wanted to make sure we left and came home, as friends.
“Do I need to use the safe word now?” we’d ask each other.
“What exactly did we decide to use as the safe word”? we’d ask each other.
We laughed and joked all week about our non-existent safe word as we explored London and bounced over to Paris.
We never did come up with a safe word, until two nights before the end of our trip.
“What do you think about grabbing a bite to eat?” Debbie asked.
“That sounds fine” I replied.
“Shall we split an entree?” she asked.
“That’s fine,” I said.
“Fine” is a word that comes out of my mouth easily and naturally in an amicable way. On occasion, I can make it sound like a negative four-letter word with an emphasis on the first syllable when I am angry or unwilling to bend.
When people ask, “How are you?” I always reply with “Upright, mobile, and breathing” because I hate how “fine” sounds.
Debbie pointed out how much I had used the amicable “fine” during our trip.
“I think you use ‘fine’ a lot around your family,” she said.
Debbie had called me out. I let her feedback sink in. I thought about the word “fine”: A standard that is barely being met. Potential to be better. Discontent. Apathy. Not-so-great. Okay.
I think that I had been relying on this passive-aggressive word my entire life. I had never really allowed myself time to sit with, and identify my feelings, instead, I just relied on “fine”.
“Fine” had been my safe word. Here I had been joking around about having a safe word, and I had been the one lugging one around my entire life. I had become so accustomed to replying with “fine” that it had become an automatic response.
Things hadn’t been “fine” all these years: frustration with work, health, and taking care of sick kids. Things hadn’t been “fine” when I was suffering watching my Mom as she struggled with cancer.
Things hadn’t been “fine” by any means: The depression and overwhelm. The exhaustion from taking care of others. Being fed up with the craziness of consumerism and having too much stuff.
All these years, I had pushed my feelings and emotions down, allowing “fine” to become my truth.
I felt relieved: we hadn’t needed a safe word to use to make sure our friendship stayed intact, I had needed to remove the burden of my safe word to keep my emotional well-being intact.
Debbie’s words had set me free.
“Please fine me a dollar if, and when, I ever use the word “fine” – no pun intended!” I said to her.
While I laugh about the pun, smile thinking about the fun I had in London, or feel sad about what I missed while I was away, I can say with absolute certainty, I know I will be happy removing the word “fine” from my vocabulary.