When "How Are You" Is Confounding

March 1, 2010 by Rieshy

Last Spring my oldest sister and I laughed about the greeting/question, "How are you?"

At several calamitous points in our lives we've both found the casual question almost paralyzing.

"What did they intend: casual, insincere greeting or heartfelt question? Does the fact I feel like I'm going to fall apart at any moment actually show? Do I/they have time for a truthful answer?"

At the time I was living moment to moment with great seas of waiting between moments. Time had ceased to flow by in an orderly stream; it twirled and whirled and eddied and attempted to suck me down, like a malevolent whirlpool. It made it hard to answer purely social questions.

My sister told me I ought to draw up a handy-dandy flowchart so that I could refer to it in order to answer, "How are you," without looking like I was having an absence seizure.

I had forgotten about the flow chart until I was cleaning my desk a few days ago. Looking it over made me realize how far past the whirlpool I've sailed this year- Thanks to God. Simple questions don't bring tears to my eyes or a deer-in-the-headlights look anymore.

My two youngest children haven't been cured, nothing that caused my small personal whirlpool has really changed; instead I'm learning a new type of mothering and a new type of living. I'm learning what chronic means and how to balance that idea with a continued hope for healing.

I'm leaning on Proverbs 3:5: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart. And lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths."

Today, to the silly flowchart written with both laughter and bitterness, I can answer- "I'm doing just fine."

Go to Tuesdays Unwrapped to see the extraordinary in the everyday, and Gratituesdays for a dose of shared thankfulness.

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The Girl Next Door Grows Up said...

You should frame that chart!

Being a SAHM, I sometimes give a complete answer to the "how Are You" question seeing as though contact with others is limited.

However I totally understand the "deer in headlights" since many times in my life (with all of my family's medical problems) I have stopped to wonder what the appropraite response should be.

I have learned to just say "okay" as I have said probably too much in the past.

CristyLynn said...

I love it! I can so relate to both situations, though I'm afraid I've been more the deer-in-the-headlights kind of responder the last year or so. Thankfully God is bringing me up and closer.
Thanks for sharing.

Melissa, Multi-Tasking Mama said...

I think it is so important to answer this question as honestly as you can but it is hard if you haven't developed close friendships. I also completely relate (because I have MS and Lupus) to not wanting to tell people the "truth" because I don't want to bring them down with the reality of my life. Tough one for me too!

Anonymous said...

I like this post!

I will make you a promise friend, when I ask "how are you?" I really mean it and I always have time for the answer!!!

Hugs from Canada

Susan Tipton said...

Thanks ladies- It's comforting that other people can relate.

Girl Next Door- boy have I over-shared at different times. That's when you realize the person you are speaking to has a bit of a panicky look in their eyes.

CristyLynn- It seems like it would be doubly hard having to think fast in Russian!

Get Real Girl said...

What a great post. Makes me think about "How are you" in a completely different way. As a SAHM I wonder if people really want to know how I am doing some days. They may not appreciate my answer or have time for it. But it also makes me think about asking it, am I being sincere. Am I really listening to others. And if I am really listening, what am I willing to do to help them if their answer isn't "I am doing just fine". . . Thanks for making me think about this today.

JoAnn said...

Susan, I love your words. I love your honesty. Thank you.

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