Friday, September 12, 2008

How are you?

I am working on a post about giving and receiving, but I am trying to find the right words. In the meantime...

I posted before about the ways that we use words and how cavalier we sometimes are about them. They don't really affect us until we are in a situation where they speak to us in some way. On that same topic of words, I think that we go through our days making small talk, completely unaware of what we are REALLY saying and those around us. I've thought about this a lot given the number of times a day someone asks, "How are you?"

My day started out at Starbucks with this question. I responded, "Ok." I felt that was honest enough. I thought that it was also somewhat safe and wouldn't take the person totally aback. She still seemed to respond with a surprised tone. The expected response is "Good." Anything other than that (unless it's "Excellent") is somehow socially unexpected. Do we expect that all people are having a good day... everyday? Why is it that we are so ready to ask that question, but we aren't willing to hear the answer, the real answer?

I believe in being honest with myself and others. If I am having a bad day, it is not authentic for me to say otherwise just to satisfy someone else's need for comfort. I also shouldn't feel obligated to rehash my life or my reasons for my response. I don't really want to talk about the fire all the time. I write about it because it helps me process. That is completely different than needing to retell the story 80 times per day, sometimes to people who don't know me or seem to need me to help comfort their fears about a house burning up.

I don't really understand why it is the socially accepted way to greet someone either. Whose business is it really how I am doing or feeling today? When I go to Starbucks, why can't I be greeted, "Good morning. My name is ___. How can I help you?" And that leads me into tomorrow's post about help and the different times in our lives when we help... and when we accept help. Imagine if that was our focus each day.

1 comment:

  1. I, too, have thought about this. I know that they are distantly related, however have thought about it a lot since my mother was diagnosed with cancer. I am still processing it, much like you are with your fire. It hits me at random times-as I am sure your emotions do as well. Another phrase I have used at times that seems to get some funny looks is "Okay, considering". People don't seem to want to hear that, do they? They don't want your problems, so why, as a culture or a species, do we ask for them?