The OK Cafe
First published on Healing the Whole September 17th 2017
A stock phrase we often use as a greeting. See also “How’s things?” or “What’s up?” But in using them as a greeting I believe we risk forgetting what it is we are actually asking. And vice versa, when asked, we may lose the opportunity to respond honestly.
In my new book, The Superhero I was Born to Be, I talk about letting go and being real. Giving away a small piece of myself in order to build my superpower team around me. Giving everyone a chance to build a bridge of trust. And accepting that some people will want to and some won’t.
I have started using the question greeting as an opportunity to give away that little something. Instead of giving a stock answer of “yeah, I’m fine” or “things are ok”; I will offer a real response. And often this is not what the recipient wants because they didn’t really want to know if I am ok. They were just offering a greeting. For example, recently the man I used to be in love with asked me how things were.
“They are good,” I reply, “but I am tired. I’m working on things that are difficult and not my natural strength. But they are important so I must keep going.”
100% true. 100% real. And not too much of me that I feel exposed and vulnerable when he ignores it and tells me about his latest business venture instead. But it is enough that if he wanted to talk to me about it, he would know the door was open.
There is a book I am reading on transactional analysis called I’m Ok, You’re Ok. It talks about the four quadrants we can occupy with ‘I’m Ok, You’re Ok’ as the ideal mindset to be in. The book addresses the damage done with the other three mindsets where someone, either you or another, is seen as ‘not Ok’. When I first heard about this book from a friend, his description made me want to open a cafe style space dedicated to mental wellbeing called The Ok Cafe. Firstly, I wanted a space where I, and hopefully others, could accept that being ok is enough. I spent a lot of my life believing if I wasn’t ridiculously high with happiness every moment of every day, I was failing at something. It’s not really what the book is about; but I wanted to use the terminology to accept that being ok is ok.
Today as I write this I am reignited by The Ok Cafe again for another important reason. I am a feeling driven person. I will feel the emotion first before I process and understand it. Sometimes long before. I often occupy a temporary state of confusion as I feel and struggle to think and understand. I need to articulate the feeling to ensure it doesn’t overwhelm me. And this is where responding to our stock greeting more honestly helps. I get a chance to say how I am really feeling and with that verbalisation I give my mind a chance to process. I talk to myself too. If no one else asks if I am ok, I ask myself.
Because however I feel, it is ok to feel that way. Feelings are not wrong. Even the ones viewed as bad. Anger. Sadness. Jealousy. Guilt. It is not wrong to feel them. It is my reaction I need to think about. Because it is my reaction and not the feeling that could be harmful to myself and others. My reaction could make another feel like they are not ok. Or make me feel that way. And that goes against the whole purpose of The Ok Cafe.
Because I want The Ok Cafe to be a reminder that, while everything may not always be awesome in life, whatever we are and whatever we feel is always ok.