It’s commonplace to walk past someone on the street or in a store and make eye contact. Usually, there is a smile. If you know them and are at work or at a gathering, the next thing you do is say, “Hi! How are you?”
It’s a nice sentiment, but I often wonder if people who ask this question really care. I know when I ask it, I do care. But I also know when I am either too busy, too distracted or just generally in a bad mood, I don’t ask.
And when I am the things listed above and someone asks me, “Hi! How are you?” I usually just reply, “Fine. Thanks.”
I even reply that way when everything is not fine.
I’ve been nursing a small heartbreak all week. Flea Market Guy and I are at odds. Which looks more like we are done. And I’m still trying to process it because I’m pretty sure I was in love with him, but some things aren’t negotiable. Maybe I’ll get into that tomorrow.
But for today, I just keep thinking about this whole idea of “I’m fine.”
It seems that everybody is fine. But they’re not. I mean, seriously, are any of us fine? We all have shit going on in our lives. We have rent due. Or broken cars that we can’t afford to fix. Or issues with our teenagers. Or issues with our husbands or wives. Issues at work. Issues at the PTA meeting. We all have things in our lives that we either wish we could change or wish didn’t exist at all. And a lot of times, we have things that we just wish we could talk to someone about. Or we wish we could have a conversation with someone who is avoiding us. And then a polite stranger comes along or a not so close friend and they say, “Hi! How are you?”
And we say, “Hi! I’m fine! Thanks!” or “Hey! I’m great! How are you?”
And the second that last part of the sentence comes out of your mouth, you realize that you have too much on your plate to even begin to worry about how they actually are and you wish they would just say, “I’m fine, too.” So you can go on about your day without adding the stress of their emotions on to your already full plate of feelings.
And although I know it’s human. And I know that most people do it. It doesn’t stop me from being sad about it. And being sad that I’m guilty of it.
I usually try to be a very humanistic person. Empathetic. Sympathetic. An all around good person. But when I have stuff on my mind, like I have this week, I just want to wallow in my own self-pity and not have to worry about what other people that I pass in the streets are feeling. Maybe that’s why I haven’t left my house all week.
I’m mentally and emotionally exhausted. And I don’t want to say that I don’t care how other people besides my really close friends are feeling. I just don’t feel like I have the emotional fortitude to withstand the onslaught of emotions that may come my way and I’ve already cried about half a dozen times this week, between my own personal drama, The Notebook, and This Is Us, I’m doomed to have swollen eyes until Easter.
So I decided that this week, instead of saying, “Hi! How are you?” I’m going to just say, “Hi!” and maybe, “I hope your day is amazing.” Because I think I will not ask how someone’s day is anymore unless I really care to know because you never know what people are going through and when they might actually want to talk and I want to be able to be there for them in that instance. I want to be in the moment because that never happens. And when the time comes that I need to vent about my life’s problems on a park bench downtown to some random person, I want them to genuinely care while I spread my heart all over my sleeve like melted peanut butter.
Or maybe I’m just the only one who feels that way.