A few days ago, my beloved dog, Nali, passed away. She was the greatest dog I have ever known. I don’t like dogs, but I loved her with all my heart. On Sunday, she stopped eating and my parents let me know they were taking her to the vet. On Monday, the vet told us she had a tumor and was bleeding internally. We decided to put her down on Tuesday. Monday night, I worked until 9:30 and drove to Ann Arbor to say goodbye in case she didn’t make it through the night. I drove home that night, worked 8:30-3:30 the next day, and then drove back up to say goodbye as we put her down. It was awful and truly one of the hardest things I have ever had to experience.
I work as a manager at a retail store, so my job is to be happy – even when everyone around me isn’t. Even when customers are screaming at me, even when my life is falling apart, even when I’m not sure how I’m going to make it through the day – I have to stand, smiling and unshaken. And that’s okay. It’s my job and it’s a lot of other peoples’ jobs and most days it doesn’t bother me. I knew what I was signing up for when I took this job. On Monday and Tuesday, my job was almost impossible.
I ask everyone that walks in how they are doing, and if they ask how I’m doing in response, I’ll always say that I’m doing well. I say it with a smile. Even when I literally just came out of the back with snot running out my nose and tears streaming down my face. I wipe it away, smile, and say I’m doing just fine. And the people I ask do the same thing.
This doesn’t just happen at work. It happens at church, too. It happens in the grocery store. It happens when I get drinks with my friends. It happens when I’m filling my tank. It happens on my social media posts. It happens everywhere, every day, with every person I interact with. We say we’re doing well and I’m doing well and you’re doing well and it’s one huge load of crap. We’re lying – to each other, and to ourselves. Because maybe if we say it enough times, it will start to be true. And maybe if we say it enough times, we won’t feel bad about lying anymore. Maybe we won’t feel bad about not asking again anymore, either. Because we’re selfish and we’re scared and we don’t want to know about other people’s problems and we don’t want to share our own.
If I learned anything (and I learned a whole lot) during my time as an intern at TWLOHA, it’s that people need other people. It’s that we aren’t meant to do this life thing alone. It’s that we are all broken people and we are meant to hold each other in our brokenness and we are meant to carry each other’s burdens. And that all sounds wonderful and beautifully poetic until stuff gets real and your dog is dying or your finances are falling apart or you’re getting a divorce or your kids are addicted to drugs or your dad is turning into an alcoholic or, or, or… and you have to start actually relying on other people to carry that stuff. Relying on other people is hard. And being the person someone else relies on is hard, too. But it’s necessary. If we don’t start relying on each other and being honest, we’re just going to keep falling apart. We’re not going to make it without the help of one another, and we can’t help each other until we start telling the truth.
Today, a man came into my store and I asked how he was doing. He looked at me and said, “I’m doing well… Well, actually I’m not. But that’s just what we say, isn’t it?” And I smiled. Not because I was happy that this guy was having a crappy day, but because this guy was the first person to honestly answer that question. It was a breath of fresh air. So, in honor of that random stranger who was brave enough to tell me the truth, I’d like to step out and do some truth-telling of my own:
I’m not doing well. I haven’t been in quite some time. It’s not because my dog died. I miss my dog, I do. But it’s not because my dog died. It’s because I have to live with an illness that takes over my mind and steals my joy and that’s a hard thing to fight every day. So, no, I’m not doing well. But I’m making it through. I’m working on myself and I’m working on viewing myself as a work in progress. I’m spending more time with my Jesus and that helps a lot. I’m going to start looking for a counselor again, and I’m going to ask Zeke to help me remember to take my meds. I’m not okay, and I can’t even say that I’m getting there, because I don’t feel like I am. But I’m still fighting. I’m still here, and I’m not planning on going anywhere soon. I’m victorious, even though I don’t feel like it.
And I’m working on being honest. But no, I’m not doing well.