A while back a friend inquired, “Has anyone asked you any stupid questions?”
After the conversation, I was still left lingering on the thought. In general people make statements and ask questions which may come across as stupid, when really it’s with good intentions or out of complete ignorance. I know I am guilty of this at times too, we all have been there. When it comes to sensitive topics, these stupid questions can come across as insulting and evoke strong emotions. Fortunately, I’ve been able to brush off some comments and find the humor in them. There is always one question I get stuck on and don’t know how to answer.
“How are you?”
This usually simple question has a much different meaning to it when people look at you with their head already tilted to one side and a worried frown on their face. My mind frantically looks for a reasonable reply and I wonder if I should state my mood right in that moment, or an average of the past day or week? I give a thoughtful pause but really it’s to internally criticize my own response before it escapes my mouth. I don’t want what I say to be too positive and have someone judging me for being happy or too negative and risk they might think I’m not handling things well.
“How are you?”
Does someone really want to know it’s a struggle to drive in the car alone with your thoughts at times, that for some reason those are the moments when the regrets become their strongest? Is it okay I have had fun days full of laughter and smiles when I have been present in what’s happening in front of me? Should I tell people there are lapses in time when I have been completely numb and have proven to be ineffective at everything? When is the appropriate time to say I haven’t been able to keep myself together when my daughter is full of sorrow and I cannot possibly fix what she needs fixed? Is it unhealthy for me to have times when I think I am accepting and other times when it is unreal, it didn’t happen and it’s not true? Do people want to know I can be fine one minute and completely loose my mind in a sobbing mess all while washing dishes? Is it alright to tell someone “I was great until you asked and made me think about it”?
“How am I?”
Dad passed four weeks ago today, how I am is existing moment to moment. Sometimes I am good and sometimes I am really not. There isn’t really a consistent progression of things getting easier, one day may feel less emotional and the next day feels as raw as the day he passed. The truth is I don’t know how I am doing, I know I am doing the best I can and things will be okay.