The cruelty of “How are you”

blogbook.caMy friend used to ask me, “How are you?” all the time. She’d ask me Every. Day. “Good morning! How are you?”

Ugh.

It was the worst. What kind of question is that, anyway? “How are you.” What’s with that? Is she seriously expecting an answer? How does one even respond to such an inane question. I dunno, I’m fine I guess! Sheesh! Stop asking!

It was so annoying how she’d pry. She just had to know. We talked pretty much every day, so she’d know how I was yesterday and she’d ask, again, how I was today. If I wasn’t great yesterday, am I better? If I’m not better (or worse), well, then she’d start prying into how she could help.

Seriously, how annoying is that. The poking, the prodding. The smothering. I could hardly breathe. I wanted to shout, “Just leave me alone!”

You know how I am, I’d want to say. I’m craving coffee to give me my boost of energy to get through another awful painful day of existence until wine o’clock, to take the edge off the day and so I hopefully don’t have to lie awake, alone with my thoughts.

In other words, I’m fine. Like everyone else. We’re fine, we’re all fine, we’re always fine. Just fine. And even if I wasn’t fine (which clearly I am), nothankyouverymuch I wouldn’t want to swim through the river of pain to talk about it. This is how it is, one foot in front of the other, sometimes there are good days. Let’s leave it at that.

Sometimes I’d reciprocate with my own, “How are you?” just to get back at her. Sweet revenge.

So yeah, I wasn’t big into my feelings. Why would I want to feel them? Feelings hurt, life is pain.

Things are better now. It’s still hard to stop, take a deep breath, check in with myself…What am I feeling? But I can often do it.

I often still feel the annoyance (okay sometimes rage) welling up inside me at the question, but now I know to take that as a clue. This anger is coming up so that I don’t have to feel whatever is underneath. Now, breathe. Breeeeathe. What is underneath? You’re safe to look underneath, it’ll be okay.

Nowadays when I feel extreme excitement that surprises me, I dare to ask myself, Am I feeling happy? Is this happiness?

When I suddenly feel like crying, I don’t automatically brush it aside as lack of sleep or being premenstrual. There is a feeling; there is energy that wants to move. Something’s on the move, it wants to surface, that’s a good thing. Feeling is healthy. It’s a good sign. Rejoice in the feeling. It’s going to be okay.

When I have the opportunity to explore a feeling, I can take it for a run with me. When I only have a few minutes but really want to connect with it, I practice some crocodile breathing. It’s a yoga pose called Makarasana, intended to help ground or centre you in what’s going on inside. The physical body really responds to what’s happening internally, and it really helps to try and connect the two in a deliberate, mindful way.

My friend and I still talk every day, and she still asks how I’m doing. I’m good with it. Most days. She loves me. She cares and wants to know, just as I want to know how she’s doing. Sometimes I hold back from asking her, especially when I know she’s struggling, because the voice inside still says it’s “mean” to ask, to poke into a wound. It doesn’t trigger me like it used to, but my perspective hasn’t completely changed.

Ask me again in a year from now : )

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