My favorite podcast, Terrible, Thanks for Asking started a writing club, and this is the first prompt:

Let’s start with the obvious: HOW ARE YOU, REALLY? Journal honestly, about how you feel today.

Right now, today, I’m doing pretty well. That for sure was not the case last week but I made it through some hard days to the post-crisis-mode land of Whew, That’s Better and I mostly feel like things are going to be okay even though I need a flashlight at 4 PM and that is very depressing.

It’s funny how conditioned we are to respond to that question. I met up with a new friend last week who was privy to all the crap I was struggling with and the first thing she asked when she saw me was “How are you doing?” My reply came out as mechanically as a paper parking garage ticket: “GOOD.”

It was such a ridiculous non-answer I actually corrected myself, despite all the social politeness warning bells going off in my brain: “Well, I’ve had better weeks.”

Being honest when things aren’t going well means being vulnerable, which is, I don’t know, the hardest thing in the entire fucking world? Especially when you’re still getting to know someone and it would be a lot less scary to just say “I’m fine!” and keep it light, keep it breezy, ask about after-school sports and manicure salon recommendations, don’t just be like “PLEASE ENJOY THE WEEPY DISASTER THAT IS ME,” oh my god.

I have to remind myself that real human connections require me to be brave enough to undo the padlock around my terrified inner self, the one deploying every safety measure possible in a flurry of avoidance techniques. We don’t find our ride or die people by sticking to the script.

Here’s to real answers to the polite questions.

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Last week was a WEEK and I went to the cabin to regroup for a bit over the weekend. (I reference “the cabin” a lot but if this sounds like Fancy Person Vaguery — Oh, we were at the beach house, dahling *finger trill* — I’ll clarify by saying we don’t actually own a vacation home, we have use of a small house on the Umpqua River which is owned by John’s parents.) It was an absolutely perfect getaway, with cold foggy mornings and rich fall sunlight in the afternoons. I ate Triscuits and drank fizzy Polar water and I wore the same pair of sweatpants for two days.

I spent a lot of time just sitting in front of the big windows in the front room watching the water flow by. A hulking grey heron came and picked his way among the rocks, looking like a piece of origami that had floated down from the sky, all pointy paper blades. Tennis-ball-shaped fruit fell at an unsteady pace from the black walnut tree in periodic thumps and bounces. At sunset gusts of wind blew a confetti of bright yellow leaves across the melting orange river where light still danced on the ripples and waves and it was one of the prettiest things I’ve ever seen.

I drove to Reedsport, a nearby coastal town, and wandered in a dusty antique store that looked and felt exactly like someone’s long-forgotten attic, trash and treasure everywhere. I went to a drugstore and bought a candle that smelled the way your body feels when you look at a lit-up Christmas tee. I drove lazily, pulling over whenever cars loomed impatiently behind me, under a chilly blue sky and the thick tunnels of trees that arc over Highway 38 like protective laced fingers.

Eventually, I came home, and that was wonderful too. But it was so good to get away.

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