Changing my mind

A friend recently said to me:

“Whenever you talk about things that are difficult, you always end it with, ‘Oh, it’s fine.'”

And I do.

As a person who has been pretty committed to self-analysis most of her adult life, I have really not shown that dedication by my choice of words. Everything is fine. “Oh, I got hit by a car and fucked up my shoulder and now I have chronic pain. It’s fine.” “Oh, I have a migraine the last half of the month every month. It’s no big deal, it’s fine.” “Oh, yeah, my family stole some shit from me and my house because they hate me because I am liberal and not Christian and queer, but really, “It’s Fine.”

Really, none of these things are fine. Really, all of these things are things I have suffered through and with, each has brought me sleepless nights, tossing and turning with endless nightmares, pain, worry and anxiety. Each has had its own mini-crisis, and I have worked hard to figure out how to fix each of them. And these aren’t the only things I claim to be Just Fine about. There is so much more. I am Just Fine about many of the very painful things I have dealt with in my life, things that I talk about with very few people because they are embarrassing and tiring and I don’t want to reassure anyone that I am just fine about them anymore. Because maybe I really am not.

My life has been a crazy, intense, good, rich, albeit unstable life. I have had so many things happen in the few short years I have been here; I am only 30 after all. I am in a nostalgic place this week. I happen to be on a listserv for Wisconsin Pagans which may be shutting down due to lack of participation. I myself have not participated on the list in years, but I have lurked, watching people come and go over the past 10 years. Ten years! I don’t remember being committed to anything for ten years. I have known some of these people for ten years, I have watched philosophies change, spiritualities change, communities grow and ebb and flow over ten years. My own sense of spiritual self has changed in ten years. When I joined the list, I was seeking community. I participated in intense debates over the place of anarchy in pagan community. I helped till land for one of the first intented pagan communities. I helped found a pagan pride day in Milwaukee, and an ongoing get-together that I believe still occurs there monthly. I had meaning, in an existential sense. Seeing this list potentially die off is like seeing a piece of myself die off.

I have always been an existentialist. I used to speak to god as a child, having long conversations with him about the nature of the world and our purpose here. I felt touched by his presence; I felt safe when there was no safety in my real, earthly life. It was calming. Church was refuge. Faith in something bigger than myself has always been my grace. There is great peace in seeking with others who seek. As an adult, I sought in other paths. I’ve let my seeking go recently, troubled by trends of power I see people trying to grab; you cannot hold the universe in your hands. You cannot harness god/dess. We are here to learn, not to control.

And so I think I need to learn to stop saying: I am just fine, it is all fine, everything is fine, when really, it is not. The state of “fineness” is really about control. About putting a verbal straightjacket on events, emotions and occurrances that are raw and powerful, on things that one can learn from. What is the meaning of pain in the here and now? What is the meaning of the current painful experience in the current context? By saying “I’m fine,” I do not allow myself an opportunity to go through it and be done with it. I simply control it, suppress it, perhaps reject it. I worry too much about others worrying about me. I don’t want to be a bother, a concern, an annoying pebble in everyone’s shoe. By saying, “I’m fine,” I’ve believed the focus on me and my issues have been deflected, which has allowed them to fester far too long. What we try to control quickly becomes out of control.

Whatever happens to the pagans on this list that I have known, I know they will be changed forever because of our collective experiences together. I have been. As I move forward in my own life, I plan on pursuing a spiritual path that looks toward mindfulness, a focus on the here and now, something which has always lacked in my manic, frenzied life. I have rushed too far ahead of myself, too many times, not appreciating what is in the immediate, the quick. I will start by acknowledging what my body tells me with truthful words about its experiences, something that will require mindfulness indeed.



  1. Jess said,

    April 9, 2008 at 11:30 am

    “I’m/He’s/She’s/It’s fine” is a phrase I am known for within my family. Everything is fine. I can’t say I’ve ever thought of it as a control issue, maybe a low-self esteem issue where I don’t want to be the focus of any conversation, which I guess does turn it into a control issue. “Eh, whatever” and ” *shrug* it happens” and dropping/changing the subject are also things that I seem to be great at, now that I think about it.

    I’m in the middle of having a “No, it’s not fine and I need to do something about it”, which of course is attempted to be squeezed into an “it’s fine” resulting in me starting to fall into the “ignore everything until it’s fine again” mode, and that’s definitely not fine.

  2. Marste said,

    April 9, 2008 at 11:45 am

    When I tell people “I’m fine” or “It’s fine,” I can’t help thinking of the acronym used in the 12-step groups.
    F.I.N.E. = F*cked-up, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotionally unstable.

    LOL, it generally applies to whatever I’m declaring to be “FINE.”

  3. Rachel said,

    April 9, 2008 at 11:50 am

    I’ve been trying to speak my mind more, too. Last week while shopping at Kohls, I was frustrated to see more than 20 different styles of jeans in the Misses department, and exactly two in the plus-size department, one of which couldn’t even really be classified as jeans because it wasn’t real denim and had the stretch-band waist. While checking out, the high school clerk obligatorily asked me if I found everything okay and I responded “Actually no..” and explained to her the problem. She just stood there kind of open-mouthed, until I finally smiled and told her it’s the store’s problem and that I didn’t expect her to do anything. It did feel good to just say what it was that was bothering me, though.

  4. Charlotte said,

    April 9, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    I do the “I’m fine” thing a lot too. It seems like the worse I feel, the more I try to convince other people I’m okay, even though I’m not. For me, it’s definitely a control issue. The tragedy is, I’ve become so good at hiding my pain and my problems over the years, that when I do say I’m fine and people believe it, I don’t have the courage to take back what I said and admit that I’m not alright.

  5. Cindy said,

    April 9, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    I use that line when I’m telly people my life is messy, but I dare not get the mess on them.

  6. Bri said,

    April 10, 2008 at 3:54 am

    I totally get the “It’s fine” response, it is a self preservation mechanism. It is easier to say it’s fine than to get into the nasty dark places of your life with people and leave yourself vulnerable to their response.

    Also, just wanted to say hi from one pagan to another.

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