Some days back, a friend chatted me up and the first few lines went thus:
Friend: Baby girl!
Me: Hey love. You good?
Friend: Yes b! ‘m swell. You?
Me: Keeping up. Pretending to be fine. I’ll be fine.
Friend: My thoughts exactly before I just decided to send “I’m swell”
Me: Loool! For real?
Friend: Unfortunately, yes.
Me: Mine or yours first?
At that point when she admitted to be feeling the same way as I was, despite having given me a different impression, I thought to myself how many problems had gone un-shared and un-tended because we’ve grown to understand that sometimes life demands that we feel and act fine and perfect.
But is it our fault?
We have been asked “how are you” severally in the past, and been vulnerable, genuine and brave enough to reply with something other than “i’m fine”, but the feedbacks haven’t necessarily been what we expected– so we have learnt our lessons, and outgrown our bravery; and we have joined the bandwagon in chanting the same old chorus “i’m fine”, but are we? Will we ever be?
I think there are very few people that ask that question with the genuine intention of knowing what is really going on with us. And I can’t blame them. There’s very little time, and so many things to be done. And imagine that everyone we put that question to in a day would give us genuine responses, would we be able to handle it? No, I am not sure.
So again, maybe it is not their fault either.
Yet, there are days when each one of us realise that it’s okay to not be okay… and wish that someone out there would ask us how we are, and that we’d be brave enough to answer and that they’d be empathetic enough to listen to us bare our minds and deepest worries and hearts burden to them… and too, there’ll be days when someone else would wish that ‘listening someone’ was us.
So maybe it starts from you and me?
I wish that the next time we would ask the question “how are you”, we would mean it and listen in all empathy, without assumptions or hurried expectations of the usual “i’m fine.”, understanding that sometimes that question is the only window someone is needing to release– and that in just that swift moment of release, we might have saved a life, or ‘least made it less miserable. And I wish that the next time someone asks that question to us, we’d remember that a problem shared is a problem half-solved, and sometimes talking is the first step to healing… and thus take a moment to think deeply before churning out the famous words. And finally, I wish– that if we don’t care to know, we don’t even bother to ask.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s okay to be fine when you’re fine. But again, it’s okay to not be okay. Bottom line is this– If you say it, mean it; and mean it when you say it. So the next time you want to ask “how are you?”, ask yourself first “do I mean it?”, and the next time you want to say “I am fine.”, be sure that you mean it.
Now, how are you?
© The Short Black Girl, 2015.