I’m ok with people asking “how are you?” when they don’t really care.
They do care – they just don’t want to know all the details.
When I was younger I was annoyed when people would say “have a nice day” or “how are you” but now I see it as a way of touching someone else, briefly, in a polite and possibly friendly way.
But every now and then someone asks “how are you?” and they mean it. You can feel the difference. They pause to hear what you are about to say. They look at you ready to find the truth behind your dismissive, “I’m ok.” They care. That’s a gift.
This morning my friend Mark met me for coffee — I’m always meeting people for coffee — and asked me how I’m doing.
I started to say, “I’m ok.” I didn’t want to bum him out. But I looked at him and realized he was really asking. So I told him. “I’m sad.”
This afternoon, the phone rang and a friend of Kim’s greeted me warmly and asked “how are you all doing?”
I knew what she meant and so I told her. “I’m sad.”
“I know,” she said, “tomorrow’s Elena’s birthday.” She remembered. She called to share the memory and take a little of the sadness. That’s a gift.
I’m not sad all the time. Mostly I’m very happy. Mostly life is filled with endless possibilities and wonderful friends. Kim and Maggie and I laugh a lot.
But some days I’m sad. I can’t explain it but being sad doesn’t make me unhappy. I still miss Elena. That makes me sad but it is somehow reassuring.
And that’s how I am. Really.