We humans try pretty hard to make others think we are OK, don’t we? When someone asks us how we are, we say “good” and immediately scan our lives for the positives so we have something happy to say. If we do experience a genuinely happy moment, our first thought is to post on social media about it so all our friends, and not-friends, can be in the know.
But in my experience of life, because of having crummy health & chronic pain or whatever else is going on, I’m just always kind of struggling. Does this mean I hate my life? No. I genuinely really love my life, but this is because I choose to love it & believe in the inherent good–in the fun stuff and the hard stuff.
I especially struggled with this recently while (for one week) I attempted online dating. I put a lot of thought into my profile, and when asked of characteristics I enjoy in a date, I said something along the lines of “Real” and “genuinely loving” towards people who may seem different than they’re used to. I almost said something about the ability to deal with intense suffering, buuuuut I DID realize that was maybe a little too intense for an initial profile. I was grateful I held back when I saw my matches the next day, primarily looking for someone “fun” who “knows how to have a good time”. 😉
Small talk is good and definitely necessary sometimes (ie, online dating). Honestly, it’s a big part of my job and I even think it’s fun. But, to this day, I really have no freaking clue what to do when faced with the classic “how are you?” in the midst of my suffering. Are you asking like really, really “how are you?”, or, if you know me, do you mean “how are you feeling?” or “how’s your heart?” or do you really even care and HOW ON EARTH AM I SUPPOSED TO ANSWER THIS QUESTION HONESTLY??
Clearly, I have not found an answer to how to best handle the incredibly traumatizing occasion of being asked this question. But, I have learned one thing: lying makes me lonely.
When I am genuinely “good”, it is easy to share how I am doing. When I say I am “good” when I’m actually really struggling? This small, simple act of hiding who I truly am leaves me feeling a little more unseen and a little less connected.
This has led me to discover something I’ve found to be quintessential while managing my own suffering: people who see me and know how I am doing. This obviously cannot be everybody. In fact, it’s very few. But, when I do fight the world’s suggestion to pretend that everything’s alright and I do honestly share with my roommate, or my sister, or a close coworker how I’m really doing? I feel a little less alone and a little more strengthened for the journey.
So, here’s to honesty, and discerning how much to share and when and with whom we can do so with.
It’s not an easy task. But, you know what I’ve found? When we do this and experience even one simple moment of being genuinely seen and known in the midst of our suffering, this has the power to immensely decrease the burdens we are carrying. So much so that the next time a random stranger or acquaintance asks you how you’re doing, you feel a little less of a need to unload and a bit more natural ability to answer their question.
Heck, you may even get to tell this person you are “doing well”, and truly mean what you are saying.