Stop Saying “Fine”

“How are you?”

Every conversation between casual acquaintances

I am guilty of ignoring my feelings and robotically saying “fine” when asked how I am. It’s a habit. It’s a wall. It’s a lie.

I don’t mean to lie. I don’t consider myself a liar. But we can’t be “fine” all the time…hell, I don’t actually want to be “fine” all the time; what a boring f-ing life.

And yet…

“How are you?”
“Fine. You?” (or “Good. You?” or “Alright. You?” These are all the same lie).

Usually what I mean when I say “fine” is that I either:

  • Have no actual idea how I am because I haven’t checked in with myself, too busy running after kids or running errands or running around inside my head
  • Am super emotional and don’t have the ability to talk about what’s bothering me
  • Am super emotional and don’t want to talk about it

The other day amidst all this COVID-19 business, a friend and I were texting and because it’s texting when she asked me how I was I said “good.” That would be *big eyeroll* fine because we were texting except that it wasn’t fine by any stretch of the imagination because she had just finished telling me a rather harrowing story about how she’d spent the last week under crippling anxiety. Instead of commiserating with her, being honest with her about all the feelings I’m dealing with, I said I was “good.”

Now here’s the thing: I am good. I am.

  • I am unbelievably happy with my husband and my two kids and my dog and the roof over my head and the food in our kitchen and the wood stove that keeps us warm
  • I am lucky
  • I am grateful

Now here’s the other thing: I am not good. I am not.

  • I am terrified every time I cough that it’s coronavirus and I’m going to kill my immunocompromised husband
  • I am certain that we already caught the virus in January when we were all the sickest any of us have ever been in our lives for three straight weeks
  • I’m petrified that we haven’t had COVID-19 but that I’m going to bring it home from the post office when I get our mail once a week or from the grocery store when I break down and go after not going for two and a half weeks
  • I am sad because I saw my mom for the first time in three weeks through her living room window while I stood out in the yard and texted with her
  • I am happy because the grocery store checker I used to see every single week without fail was there today when I finally went grocery shopping. Our eyes met and we both broke into big smiles and we were like long lost friends: how are you feeling? How’s the family? Is everyone being kind? Are you finding time to take care of yourself? etc.
  • I am worried this if our life until August at the earliest
  • I am grateful we live where we can go outside every single day and never encounter another person
  • I am going crazy because half of me needs to be with my babies every moment of every day to ward the virus off of them like some kind of supermama talisman and I also desperately need some time alone to meditate, to hear my own thoughts, to be

The thing is, I could talk to people about any and all of these things, not everybody who asks how I am obviously, but the close friends who ask and really want to know. I could tell them. I should tell them. There is no reason to put up the “fine” lie-wall.

While I’m not using “fine” in a passive-aggressive sense, I am actually being very very passive. Passive in my friendships and passive in my own well-being. It doesn’t benefit anyone when I say “fine.”

I am going to work on this. I am going to actively attempt to tell people who ask how I really am and if I hear myself saying “fine” I plan to catch it and admit that it was a habitual response and untrue.

I want to be fine and good and okay some of the time. I also want to be angry and sad and ecstatic and thrilled and tired and worried and all the feelings. I want to let people in to my full life, and that includes me. I can’t very well say I’m living a full life when I don’t even check how I feel from day-to-day.

So, I’ll start: How are you?

~~~That’s one hour~~~

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