Hello Land of OK,
You may not remember us. Or maybe you do remember us and wonder why we don't come to visit more often. Or maybe you don't know us well enough to realize that we've moved.
We moved to the Land of Not OK when a truly Bad Day happened. When a problem came along with no solution. When we Lost something. For good. On that day, we realized to our shock and horror that there was no way to walk back through the gate that had slammed behind us. We threw ourselves against the fence for a while and frantically searched for a way back to the Land of OK, but there was none. We were stuck here in the Land of Not OK, even though we still had OK air in our lungs and OK dirt on our feet. It took us a long time to accept that we live here now.
Things are colder here, grayer. But you know that. You've come here before, for visits. It was during those extra 30 minutes when you realized your husband should have been home by now. Or that time the doctor told you bad news that turned out not to be true. Or that brief jaunt through as you watched your youngest take a bad tumble. Your visits usually ended with a big sigh of relief and something along the lines of "Everything's going to be OK."
We remember taking vacations here, too.
Don't get me wrong. It's not as though we can't come visit the Land of OK now and again. In fact, it seems the longer it's been since the gate closed, the longer the visas we are allowed to the Land of OK. Sometimes we get such long visits that you might even think we found a way to move back. But until there is a cure, or we find a way to raise our loved one from the dead or some other way to erase our Loss, we do have permanent residency in the Land of Not OK. We often have to go back for anniversaries, or when we see an OKer who resembles us before our Bad Day, or even for no particular reason at all.
Since you can't possibly know what it's like to live here until you do, there are a few things we'd like you to know about the Land of Not OK. First off is that we are jealous of you OKers, that's true. But that does not mean that we wish you had to live here, too. We are genuinely happy when you get to go back home from your brief visits. But we also don't particularly like tourists because they show us what we don't have and make thoughtless comments about how awful it would be to live here. And we really hate ex-pats: people who are actually OK but like to pretend they're not.
We also want you to know that you aren't any better than us because you live in the posh surrounds of the Land of OK. Neither are we particularly "brave" or "good" or "strong" because we toil away in the Land of Not OK. We didn't choose to live here any more than you would have. Your number could come up just as suddenly as ours did.
We also want you to know that for every time you get to leave, grateful that things have turned out OK, someone else — someone just like you — is here. Someone whose husband never came home. Someone whose doctor was right. Someone whose youngest isn't OK anymore. There's no need to pity them or even mourn for them, but just be aware of that and be respectful of their Loss.
You might have heard stories around the Land of OK of people who say they fought through the gate and found their way back. You might wonder why we can't be like them, too, and come back to stay. Well, the fact is that these people are either lying or naive. They are selling something. Or they are Not OKers on a vacation, unaware that they must return from time to time. Or they are OKers who went on a trip through Not OK but found a solution to their problem and got to move back.
Here's how to tell the difference: Not OKers' Loss is permanent, irreparable and burdensome. You OKers do understand the difference, but sometimes you forget because it is simply impossible to imagine in the Land of OK. Look for it the next time you say with relief: "Things are going to be OK." The opposite of that is that "Things are not OK." That's us. That's where we live. In the Land of Not OK.
So, until you can be equally comfortable with both OK and not-OK outcomes yourself, don't try to convince us that not-OK things are actually OK. You know the difference, and — even though we are looking at it from the other side of the fence — so do we.