Hello, how are you? Such a simple greeting but for some it looms as the question impossible to answer.
Over the years I have been the recipient of many “how are you?” greetings, which was fine until my health disappeared and pain took its place. These three simple words often evoke apprehension and discomfort. How do I respond? Do I launch into descriptions of my pain, inability to cope, limitations etc, or do I, instead, wax lyrical about some of the good things that have started happening for me?
What a dilemma & soooo draining. It took loads of time getting over the fear of what to say, but eventually I just started responding with the word “health-wise” allowing contortions of my face accompanied by a big sigh to substitute for an explanation. I’d follow that with “but everything else is really, really good” allowing a big smile to slowly expand until my eyes would light up as well.
How about you? Is the quandary of responding to “how are you” familiar for you too? And what about the “oh, so you’re better then” reply that sometimes greets your exuberance when you respond by talking about some good things happening in your life? There’s sometimes a chance that the “how are you” is rhetorical. In this instance, the subsequent reply is glossed over by the enquirer as the greeting is just a social pleasantry and no real reply is expected.
If the other person really wants to know how you are do you start telling your story, only to feel your energy drain each time you talk about your pain or your situation. It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s the whole story or if you’ve only given an update. You are able to decide how much you want to tell, or even part way through telling just change the focus of conversation to something else – without apologising for not finishing the story. It can often take a lot of strength to not fall into relating all your ills and pains.
Committing to switch the way you respond, even to a rote-question, takes practice, and a lot of courage. Sometimes a feeling of guilt may surface because you think that if you are seen to be happy you might not be believed about the pain you experience. Pain is invisible to others, the ‘twixt worlds between excruciating pain and feeling ‘well enough’ to be able to not only cope, but be out and about, can be scary. You can practise with the words “how are you?” at
home, noting how your energy feels on hearing those words; you can build up a few responses (that genuinely reflect you and how you are); noting your energy with those responses and choosing ones that even if not uplifting then at least leave your energies neutral.
You can decide how much, or how little if any of your story to the greeting “how are you”.
To take a chance, allowing your energy to soar because you are happy, even if only for a short while, can make you feel lighter.
So, until next month I look forward to hearing from you about this and anything else you’d like to share with me, to share with all of you.