When people ask me how I am, I usual say, “I’m alright,” or simply, “ok,” and some people respond with concern or condescension: “/just/ alright?” As if being manically exultant is not living a full life. I hate that response: “just ok?” To me, just ok is heaven. For me, just ok is hard earned fulfillment.
Before the monster came, I was almost psychotically ambitious. I wanted to be straight, I wanted to be the best musician, the best athlete, the best student. Simply … the best. This drive for the best became a sort of torture, but I couldn’t put it down. How could a drive for excellence be bad? I wanted to be Mozart, but I was haunted by the possibility that my fate would be that of Salieri’s in the film Amadeus: “the patron saint of mediocrities.” When I worshiped the best, all of life was simply not enough.
And then, in 2014, the monster of depression and anxiety came upon me in a way it never had before. Beneath these demons, I was broken.
I mean that as literally as I possibly can: I became a mere shadow, a sliver of myself. I became terrified of ceiling fans; walking, moving, lying down, sitting all became an unbearable torture; I would wake up in the morning in so much anguish I would scream, and scream, and scream into my pillow. Every thought blazed, and my mind felt like it was on fire. Every stranger I encountered looked physically grotesque and carried an ambiance of unbearable darkness. The whole world became unimaginably frightful.
The pain was so great my life reduced to a tiny pinprick, and my sole purpose was to make the pain stop. I could barely remember or imagine a world without such pain.
Recovery was slow, and it took a village of therapists, doctors, 12 step sponsors, friends, and my valiant partner to get me back to normalcy. Little things that would go unnoticed in the land of Normal People were suddenly gigantic milestones of celebration. I could go out to a movie with my partner and feel ok! I managed to go for a walk and I didn’t die! I got through work without customers transforming into monstrous ogres before my eyes!
The most miraculous moment, though, was when I was sitting on the couch, playing a video game. Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, to be exact. It was evening, and incense was burning on my desk. It was in that moment when the experience struck me with all the beatific force of a mystical encounter: I feel ok. I’m just sitting here, playing a video game, feeling ok. For the first time in what felt like a lifetime, I could simply be. I didn’t have to do anything, fight anything, defend anything, or force my mind into an impossible shape. It was one of the most beautiful moments in my life.
Depression has forced me to give up my idolatry of the best. I’m now happy with good enough. After the depths of hell, The Best feels like a mirror image of those horrible depths.
Now, I’ve committed myself to living and working with integrity, fullness, and commitment, even if in the end I’m the patron saint of mediocrities. If I am, I celebrate that. Being ok is a luxury I will never take for granted ever again.