Friday, 11 November 2011
How are you? Fine, if you don't ask for details.
I've been practicing, in my head at least, a selection of different answers to the interminable question...
"How are you?" (and all it's relatives "How are you doing?" "How are you going?" etc)
My mother, who lived to the ripe age of 90 (nearly 91), always said "Fine, if you don't ask for details." This quote is attributed to Katherine Hepburn in a 60 Minutes interview in 1979 but to be honest I reckon Mum was saying it before then... still... It's a good, slightly humourous response, that acknowledges there are problems and rescues the inquirer from having to pursue this topic any further. There's only one problem - you can't say it day after day to the same person. It is kind of a like a condom, it's only good for one protection! (What would I know about condoms? The last time I fooled around with a bloke "Safe Sex" hadn't even been invented!) Ok, back on task...
I hate lying. It has a physiological effect on me. It significantly raises my anxiety level, which causes me to become tense, which causes muscle spasms, which increases PAIN, which is the whole reason why "Fine" is a LIE!!! Now, I don't feel this way with strangers, shop attendants, receptionists etc, I clearly know that these strangers are just saying what people say when they greet someone... they don't give a brown rat's arse how I am feeling and I don't give a Friar Tuck what they think of me. All's good on that front.
Friends are different.
Some of my friends are REALLY asking, they ACTUALLY want a truthful answer - I'll answer with some kind of assessment relative to how my day is for me. Like last night The Actress asked and I said, "It's been a pretty bad day but I'm feeling a little better now." That was a truthful response and I was comfortable enough, and felt cared about enough, to be honest. It didn't have to lead into a long discussion.
But what of my friends who are not really asking, the ones who say it as a matter of standard form? I have tried "Same old same old" but in some ways that is a lie because with a condition like Fibromyalgia there is no "same old" it is constantly fluctuating, constantly moving, constantly finding new and unusual ways to make me feel like a steaming mess of excretia!
I don't want to be someone who is perpetually mired in my chronic problems so I need a truthful, guilt free way to brush off these superficial inquiries. Sometimes the inquirer doesn't want an answer and sometimes I just don't feel like talking about it or thinking about it. Sometimes I just don't want to whine or whinge or to be perceived as a whinger (which is despised in Australia where we are raised to be perfect specimens with the silent suffering stoicism embodied by our diggers and bushman).
I've been trying on answers like, "Shitty, but let's not go there", or the existential response, "It is what it is", and on those very rare good days, "Better than usual." Sometimes I just avoid answering and bluster on to talk of them. But too often I find myself lapsing into just saying, "Fine" or "Not too bad." and to be quite frank they are lies. Even on my best of days I'm not fine. I find the insincerity of these inquiries and, more to the point, the insincerity of my responses quite disturbing, they start the anxiety cycle.
Maybe I should go over the top in the other direction... Perhaps something like "Great, it's only a car running over me not a bus!" or "Better than a dead roo on the side of the road!" or "Terrific, I just did 13 rounds with Mike Tyson and I still have two ears!" or "The third level of hell is much damper than the second." After all it's all in the delivery. Maybe I could write a song to the tune of "I've Been Everywhere"...
I hurt everywhere, man
I hurt everywhere,
I know it isn't fair, man
My knees hurt as a pair, man
Of pain I have my share, man
But I hurt everywhere. (Need I go on? You get the drift.)
On second thoughts I don't think that would go over very well to the huge crowds of one that I play to.
I struggle with this, it probably doesn't sound like much of a moral dilemma but it is to me. I'm an overly sincere, very serious, frequently humourless person!
I don't want to lie to my friends when they ask how I am but I don't want to tell them the truth either... Please help.
[Signed] Aching in Sydney