Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How Are You?

Quite possibly the most stupid question in the English language.  Think about it.  When you ask a person this, what do you expect to hear?  "I'm fine," right?

So, that would be what most people respond with.  But in truth, how many of us are really fine?  How many days of your life are you joyful, happy, without stress and worry, enjoying the people you are close to, without a care in the world?  Is that what being fine means?  Or does it just mean, "Thank you for being polite and asking me?"  Living with two chronic illnesses, one mental and one physical, the answer varies from day to day, but I can usually say I'm doing okay.  Lately, however, I've realized how inadequate that question really is.

I have recently begun to suspect that "how are you?" is a really stupid question..  You are either "fine" or you're not and right now, we definitely are not fine.  I am not sure when we will be fine.  Maybe we will never be fine again.  Because here is the truth.

In the last year, Justin has been to 5 or 6 funerals.  See, I've lost count.  He sure is getting our money's worth out of that black suit that he bought last year.  The last funeral was for his father.  And no, he is not "fine."  He will eventually be okay, but he is not fine, good, great, or anything resembling any of those.  And, by proxy, I am also not fine because I cannot stand to see him in so much pain and still trying to shoulder the burden of supporting this family.

My mother, an incredibly smart, brave, courageous, beautiful soul has cancer.  They amputated the lower portion of her left leg in February and said they had gotten all of it.  But apparently, some pissy little cancer cell was circling around in her blood stream and, the day of my father in law's funeral, she found out that it almost positively has planted itself in her lungs.  This is very, very bad.  She had her biopsy today and we are waiting on results.

Because my dishwasher is broken, I am hand washing our dishes right now.  I do not say this because the dishwasher being broken is in any way important.  But what just happened was that I got so angry that I almost threw the plate I was taking out of the drainer across the room.  With my luck, the plate wouldn't have smashed, but I would have broken a window.  I do not throw things across the room or have temper tantrums or yell and scream.  Ever.  I avoid that kind of thing because I grew up with my brother, who was fantastic at throwing a screaming, angry fit.  But today, because I just couldn't handle everything anymore, I almost (almost) threw that plate across the room.

My best friend has metastatic breast cancer.  Another close friend is also undergoing treatment for breast cancer.  Another friend's son has brain cancer.  Another friend's three year old daughter died of leukemia.  No, I am not fine.

We need to come up with a better way to greet people than, "Hi.  How are you?"  Because the automatic response to that question is "I'm fine."  And we are not fine.  Not in any way, shape, or form.

I have been struggling ever since my mother found out about her lung about whether or not I will be (or should be) accompanying Justin to Gettysburg for his car club meet.  We have been planning this for a year and he wants me with him.  I do not know if my mom will be able or up to taking the kids.  They expect to have her biopsy results from today within "five to ten days."  Does this mean business or calendar days?  Do they hurry the results?  How soon would they begin treatment once they know?

I do not know whether I can go with Justin on this trip.  A very kind friend offered to take Joey for me, but it turns out that they may be gone that weekend.  Now I am trying very hard to make a decision without any information on which to rely.  I've made the dog a reservation, so the he is thankfully covered.  The guy at the kennel was very nice and said he wouldn't charge us if we cancel at the last minute, but I would want to pay him something for the fact that he is holding a four day slot for Jackson.

I don't know what I'm doing and I'm angry.  I don't know who to be mad at, so I lash out at the kid that wants me to interrupt what I'm doing for the 19th time today or at Justin, who just asked me a simple question and is angry at the world himself.  It's not fair.  Life's not fair.  And life is not "fine."

And yet, it's still what I ask Justin constantly and I cannot seem to help myself.  We are programmed to ask people how they are from birth, it seems.  It's the first thing you say when you answer the telephone.  Or meet up with a friend.  Or hug your mother after learning her cancer is almost positively back.  Or hugging your mother in law after her husband has just died.

No.  We are not fine.  And we need to stop asking that question and either come up with a better one or understand that it's not an appropriate question in porportion to the circumstances.

I know we don't know anything for sure about my mom yet.  But the waiting is killing me.  She takes a very no nonsense approach and just goes on with her life.  I am not that strong and I am not able to do that.  I want the answer to the question and I want it now.  And I want them to fix it, dammit.  Because I feel like somebody cheated her.

Life is not fine, but life will go on.  I just wish people would stop asking me how I am.




  1. One of my dear friends once answered me with "fine" after I asked how he was doing. Then he asked if I knew what it stood for, and of course I didn't so he enlightened me.
    Fine= f*&^%d up, irrational neurotic and emotional.
    I find this to be fitting most of the time when I am asked how I am doing!
    And as a side note, I love reading your blog!

  2. Awww, thanks for that. You are a bright ray of sunshine on my otherwise screwed up life today. :o)

    I love this answer. I will from now and forever after believe that F.I.N.E. stands for fucked up, irrational, neurotic, and emotional. And I will even say it like it is right here on the internet!

    Chelle :o)

  3. Chelle, sometimes, shock people, and respond with the truth. I'm Australian, so I think it's more common here to hear someone say 'fair to sh**ty', even at work! Even 'I've been better' gives people the idea that you might need a little more TLC than usual.

  4. Snosie,

    I am of the opinion that if you don't really want to know how I am, don't ask me! But I love the fucked up, irrational, neurotic, and emotional acronym, so I'm just going to use it from now one. :o)

    Thanks for commenting. And I like "fair to shitty." I love getting new phrases from my friends overseas!



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