“Everything’s OK, everything’s more than OK”. I always used to think, feel and say that whenever someone asked me how things were going. It was my first thought and my immediate response. I have always felt grateful for the really important things in life; the people around us and our health.
I always knew there were people going through awful things, whose lives are far worse than your own. Just look at the news, the horrific tragedies and shocking actions where people are getting hurt. So that was my philosophy for years as I didn’t want to appear ungrateful for what I had in my life. I grew up with hardworking parents who gave us nice homes to live in and great Summer holidays.
My parents’ divorce in my mid-teens clearly affected me but I probably ignored its impact as overall everyday life felt good. My single-mum was ambitious and career-minded. She supported my brother and I through university and at a great one in London. I will always be grateful for her hard work which enabled us to experience city life.
University created so many opportunities for me. I was in London. I could wear what I liked and I wouldn’t look out of place. It was even a bit cool to be different. As you got to know new circles of friends you slowly heard about their growing up years and how they weren’t perfect either. Most uni friends’ parents were divorced. Some has suffered from bereavement. Some had siblings who were seriously ill. Comparing my own life to others’ made me feel grateful for what I had.
I have a fairly positive attitude towards life. I’ve been fortunate to have spent a lot of time with some pretty inspiring people, whether that was at school, uni or grown-up work life. Most of the time I ALWAYS focus on the good things. I know my optimism may even annoy others at times, especially if they want to have a good old moan about their day. However, there must have been days when I was busy getting on with commitments like studies or work but maybe I wasn’t feeling 100% OK.
Interestingly, I’ve always know I’m a natural introvert. I know, you may not think it if you’ve seen my Instagram feed or read 20 facts about me right? In my group of friends during my twenties, I was never the first one to move onto the dance-floor or come up with big jokes. I didn’t really like having lots of attention when we went out clubbing. I liked to observe what was going on before I got involved (that’s just how Big Munch is now!) I felt I didn’t need a lot of attention. Maybe if I started talking about my woes, I could come across as needy or an attention-seeker?
I also knew others had tough stuff they were going through so I didn’t want to detract from the attention they so rightly deserved. What I didn’t realise was that there’s enough support to go round! Friends would jump at the chance to listen and care about any tough times at my end.
In my twenties I was lucky to have met some friends who encouraged me to be more confident and open. It was about finding out about each other’s lives and any dark struggles we’d been through. There was zero pretence. It was important to express your feelings especially if you weren’t feeling great. That’s something I didn’t do much before. The ups and downs made us unique and brought us closer together.
I didn’t acknowledge enough that I’d already been through some difficult things in my life. I still compared myself to those in extreme situations so everything seemed OK at the time.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve started to understand it’s OK to be open about things not being great. Others were pretty open about their tough times. Why didn’t I feel comfortable being open back? For some reason I felt I would be bombarding people with my worries or anxieties. Maybe I would come across as ungrateful if I complained about small or big things about my life?
My friends soon taught me that it’s OK to feel sad, annoyed, upset or angry. I never wanted to express those emotions much especially about the smaller everyday annoyances. I had grown up in a culture where you had to give the impression all was OK and life was running smoothly. I wanted to focus on the good things about my life. I had so much to celebrate so why focus on the bad stuff? There are some people who constantly complain about their lives (or their jobs or their kids) and that wasn’t me.
Now I’ve realised that we all need to express those emotions when we aren’t OK. It’s about getting it out of your system so you make room for the positive stuff.
Going through the baby blues last Summer was a tough one for me. It was a crazy tension; I’d given birth to two healthy IVF miracles but I was feeling low. How could I not be feeling 100% happy? I suddenly realised I wasn’t feeling OK. I knew I had to talk about it and people were so pleased to hear me being open and honest that things weren’t as easy as I’d hoped. They weren’t relishing in my tough times. They just wanted me to feel comfortable expressing myself about difficult stuff.
I was shocked to hear that people thought my life was just fine (even close to perfect). They were also relieved that I wasn’t putting myself under pressure to pretend or give the impression life was perfect.
After our first baby, I rarely complained about the tired or frustrating moments of being a new mum. I listened to others talk about their frustrations and just felt I had a more positive perspective because we did IVF and they didn’t have to go through something like that. People were just offloading stuff. That’s all.
The saying “a problem shared is a problem halved” is always a good one. Hopefully by talking about it, at least half of the problem’s weight is off your shoulders. When I knew I was going through the baby blues I told my closest cousin S (who’s like my big Sis). I explained how I didn’t want to come across as not recognising all of the special things in my life. She said “it’s OK to complain about things, it doesn’t mean you’re not grateful”. Her wise and supportive words have since stuck with me.
So even though we feel extremely lucky to be parents I’ve realised I can complain. I can moan about stuff when Big Munch won’t listen to me or plainly refuses to go to bed. I can get annoyed when something doesn’t go to plan. All of these feelings are totally OK and it certainly doesn’t mean I love my children any less.
Life isn’t straightforward. It’s impossible to be OK all of the time. So it’s OK to be open about things not being OK.
What have you wanted to moan about recently? Who do you share your frustrations with? If you’ve felt you couldn’t be open about how you’re feeling, what were your tactics for coping with this? Feel free and happy to be open and leave a comment below.