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Telling Tales: The definition of the other F word

Staff Reports • Updated Feb 11, 2018 at 9:00 AM

When my youngest child was 6 months old, my little sister came for a visit – one of her many visits trekking from the northwest to Tennessee that summer. It was the last summer we had we our mom. 

When I picked her up from the airport, she asked how I was doing. “I’m fine,” I responded. 

With a laugh, she said, “When I did my labor-and-delivery rotation in nursing school, one of my professors told us that fine is just an acronym for frustrated insecure neurotic exhausted.” 

I don’t like to brag, but I was nailing it. Fine was my jam.

That’s what I think of every time someone says, “I’m fine.” Maybe it’s just easier to say what we think someone wants to hear instead of going into a 30-minute rant about how life stinks sometimes. 

With social media pages that showcase photographic evidence of how fabulous life is, it’s no wonder no one wants to reveal those warts. If we tell the truth about our less than perfect life, children, jobs, in-laws, we then become what we fear most…human. If you are anything other than fine, you’ve failed at this. Whatever this is. 

How’s the new baby? 

“He’s perfect. A gift from God. I don’t know what we did before he or she was here. I feel complete. I was made to nurse. Bloody nipples be damned, my baby is going to be a genius because of me.”

That’s wonderful. How are you?

“Me? I’m fine. I get to watch the sunrise and set and rise and set. I can’t remember the last time I showered, but I’ve discovered that a baby wipe shower works great in a pinch. I’m totally fine.”

I’ve perfected the art of fine since having children. I was fine when our oldest didn’t want to learn his letters in preschool. I was fine when he didn’t get invited to a friend’s birthday party in first grade. That’s a lie. I’ll never get over that. 

I was fine when he started high school. I was fine when he started driving and dating. I was fine when he made stupid teenager mistakes that left my gut steaming with worry. I was fine when he graduated from high school. I was fine when he went on his first road trip with friends without real adult supervision. 

I was fine when we moved him into his college dorm. I’m fine now, even though I have no idea if he’s washed his sheets since we moved him more than six months ago. I’m fine not knowing or having any control over what he’s doing while away from my admittedly overbearing, watchful eye. 

I’m the walking embodiment of frustrated insecure neurotic exhausted more times than I’d like to admit. And I’m sure I will feel the sting of that acronym with my youngest, who will begin high school in a few short months. But today, I am fine. Really. The hard didn’t last forever. 

For now, I’m done with the “How are you” questions. Common sense and a little life experience prove that you are probably not fine if you just lost a parent or a job or if you just had a baby eight days ago or your oldest child only came home from college three times during his first semester of college. 

You are entitled to feel all those inconvenient, complicated emotions that go hand in hand with being human – the ones that are left out of our Snapchat stories. That’s because even if things aren’t really “fine” now, they will be eventually. 

But don’t get too cocky when things are going well. And don’t say, “My child would never…” As soon as you utter those words, little Kevin might be headed home with some shiny new hardware on his nipple.    

Comments? You can email Becky Andrews at tellingtales@lebanondemocrat.com. Andrews and Angel Kane are the brains behind Telling Tales, a weekly column in The Democrat.

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