“When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite (positive) ones should be thought of. This is pratipaksha bhavana.” – Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, 2.33, J. Carrera
In 2008, my dad was laid off. He was just another victim of the economic crunch that year. His company, involved in cotton trade, laid off a lot of the “old guys” in order to cut costs. After I found out, I called him although I was uncertain as what to say. After a few minutes of awkward small talk I could tell that he wasn’t going to mention his recent unemployment. I just came out and asked, “Are you okay?”
“‘Is it okay?’ It has to be.”
If you didn’t know him, or if you weren’t able to hear his tone you might think it was an optimistic thing to say. But Dad wasn’t an optimist. His reply, that sounded like it was muttered through gritting teeth, didn’t contain the slightest hint of hope. He wasn’t okay, and he wasn’t going to confide in me.
Here lately, as I look over stacks of boxes preparing for our move, I’ve remembered that conversation over and over again.
Is it okay? It has to be.
I wonder to myself, is this some sort of message from beyond? Or is this my own anxiety reminding me of just how “not okay” things can turn out? Am I currently gritting my teeth through stress and worry to tell people I’m doing so great, when I am scared to death?
When I think about that memory with Dad, I remember how that conversation happened just a few months before he was in the hospital fighting for his life. But he survived that stay. He had to live in a nursing home, but he actually got better. He was able to live back in his home, sober, and more himself. I say more himself, because without the fog of alcohol (and the low levels of testosterone due to liver damage, possibly) he seemed more vulnerable and emotional. And after years of having a critical, emotionally distant father, I kind of needed to see him cry at insurance commercials for a while.
But he died.
That did not feel okay, or good, or for the best.
When I think about Dad, he was not okay, but it led to him getting better, then he died and none of us felt okay about that. I strive for and madly pursue “okay-ness,” yet, we only can hold onto that state for a brief period of time until something else happens and we are back to wishing we were somewhere else feeling anything else. I have the very natural desire to want to live in “okay,” set up shop, and never feel anything unpleasant again. Feeling good isn’t a place to get to, it’s more of a state we just assume. And when we are really down, we may just have to assume that state on faith.
I don’t know if my Dad is giving me spiritual guidance from beyond. Or maybe my higher self..my saner self speaks to me in memories. Many times over the past month, when I was the depths of doubt about my life decisions, “it has to be,” would echo inside my mind. I wasn’t remembering soft, kind words. I was hearing him speak through his clenched jaw. I was hearing that it wasn’t okay, but we could believe it would work out anyway. I didn’t have to Polyanna all over anyone. I didn’t have to find evidence to the contrary. I didn’t have to hope for events to fall into place, because who in the hell knows if that’s ever going to happen. I could decide to believe in my own okay-ness, my own resilience. I could decide to believe I would thrive again…not because it was true, but because I had to.