I’m finding “How Are You?” the most difficult question to answer, along with versions like “How was your weekend?” and “How was your day?”
Usually, I say “fine”, but what throws me is when I know the people asking genuinely want to find out because they care. I don’t want people to stop asking either. It’s an act of kindness and when they ask, I feel cared for. But the question always stumps me for a while and it usually takes me a fair amount of thinking time to compose an answer.
I mean how do you answer “How are you?” when you’re anxious, depressed and suffering from PTSD. Some days are better than others, but saying “fine” or “great” isn’t honest, and when people care about the answer, I want to be honest.
How do I honestly say how I am? It seems so complicated. I’m not okay to work, but I’m okay to sit with my laptop and write this post. I’m not great, I’m not terrible. But I still have this kernel of sadness inside of me, and if I turn my attention to how I feel, I start to notice and pay attention to it and it grows.
If I say I’m not fine, will people stop wanting to have anything to do with me because I suck the energy from every conversation with my negativity?
The question, “How was your day?” should be easier, but it’s not.
Today, I met my friend Michelle for lunch at the Opera Bar, which is outside the Sydney Opera House, overlooking the harbour. Perfect for people watching on a sunny winters day. It was pleasant. I had the chance to catch up with what had been going on in Michelle’s life, and I appreciated the opportunity to share some of what’s been happening in mine. The company was good, so was the food. Everything was pretty much perfect.
It was a great day.
But, underneath it all I had this tight ball of tension in my stomach that grew and grew.
Michelle was talking about her work, and I started to think about how I hadn’t been at work. Report writing time is one of the busiest times of years for teachers and they’re doing it really tough. Yet here I am, not having to write reports, not working, not contributing any way. What right have I to be taking time off work? It’s my overworked colleagues who need it, not me. I feel guilty and slack, and start to wonder how anyone could respect me because they’re all pushing through in spite of gruelling workloads, while I’m taking time out.
By the time our lunch had finished, I was feeling sick and really sad. I wanted to cry.
But, as an observer, I can see that it was a lovely day, and I really did have a moment there where I was enjoying myself. So, did I have a good day or a good moment?
And that’s why I find the question so difficult to answer.