“How’s your day going, ma’am?” the cashier beamed while bagging my overpriced avocados. I immediately wondered how often she was forced to make small talk she wasn’t actually interested in. It’s nothing against her. I don’t expect her to genuinely care how my day is going. I’d imagine it becomes routine, a robotic response when someone approaches you.
Hi, how are you?
I quickly entered into the accepted social contract by smiling back and giving the expected, “Good! How are you?”
She said, “Can’t complain.” But I bet she could. We all could if we wanted to.
If this had been a therapy appointment and she said, “How are you?” my answer wouldn’t have been as quick and chipper as good. If I decided to really dive into my emotional state of the day, she’d be in for a world of verbal diarrhea. That day, my diabetic sister was really sick. My mother was getting ready for (a routine, but still scary) surgery. I was dealing with guilt in the aftermath of breaking someone’s heart when I decided to put the kibosh on our relationship. I was stressed about work. I was stressed about my family. I was stressed about life. I was so, so not good.
But we don’t want to hear a stranger’s life story, do we? We want to do the acceptably polite conversation and move on. We want to shuffle, shuffle, nod, thank you, have a great day, you too, etc. Sure, we’re talking all the time, but are we really saying anything of substance?
Maybe it would be too exhausting to unload our turmoil on everyone who asks. Who would even want that? We’d all be so drained that we’d be forced to crawl back into our beds.
Saying, “I’m fine” or, “I’m good!” when you’re far from it is how we keep things running. We don’t have time to explain why we’re not.
But what if, every now and then, someone asked because they genuinely wanted to know? What if we’re so used to saying, “I’m okay,” that we can’t even recognize what it looks like when someone is reaching out to help?
You aren’t obligated to pretend things are dandy 24/7. If it’s easier for you to make it through the day by doing that, then hey, go for it.
But if today you just don’t feel like faking it? Guess what?
You don’t have to.
We all reach a place where it becomes too much. We are trying our best to not let it show, but things are boiling up inside and we’re wondering if it’s going to blow. You don’t have to act like it isn’t happening. You can give yourself permission to not be okay.
As important as it is to survive day-to-day in society, it’s equally (if not way more) important to honor YOUR mental space. Honor your emotions, your difficulties, etc. You don’t have to always put on a brave face. Recognizing how you feel is brave in itself.
Life is a series of changing. You might not be okay today, but tomorrow is uncharted territory.
And if no one asked you yet, I’ll take the moment to right now.
Hey, how are you, really?