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.


12 Responses to “Getting real”

  1. Karen on November 16th, 2018 7:26 pm

    My answer to that question is almost always, “I keep on keepin’ on!” with a strained smile and deep sigh, which is true no matter what kind of day I am having (hot mess is most common) without causing my kid’s teacher, the checkout person, or the bank teller the unexpected dilemma of having to deal with my s***, because they can always say “Don’t we all!” or “I hear ya, girl!”. It also allows people the option of opening the floodgates of my personal hell if they choose.

    Toast to real answers to polite questions. :)

  2. Anne Nahm on November 17th, 2018 12:00 pm

    “We don’t find our ride or die people by sticking to the script.” I love this so much. It should be in tattoo form. A t-shirt in lovely font at the very least.

  3. Anne Nahm on November 17th, 2018 12:01 pm

    PS: I would also take a t-shirt that said:


    With the oh my god in cursive at the end. Plz open an etsy store and dress me for the next few weeks.

  4. Jules on November 17th, 2018 6:35 pm

    There are NO right or wrong ways for dealing with the daily crap that is life. This may seem trite or overly simplified to say that we do the best we can do with what we’ve got. There will always be naysayers and the so self prescribed judgy judgingtons. Relax and just BE. Kids alive? Check. Fed? Check. Making their own way in the world? Check. There isn’t anything else you can do. Life will out.

  5. Cara on November 18th, 2018 5:24 pm

    I have broken the polite answer rule so many times in the last six years, and I’m southern. This is a big deal. But, my family has lived through some really tough stuff in the past six years, and there were days I could not possibly say “good” or “fine.” I did deflect a lot, but there were days the grief or fear were so huge chances were pretty good they were going to get at least a bit of the truth.

    I remember so clearly the first time it happened. My nephew had just been born and suffered a hugely traumatic birth injury. I had been at the NICU where things were terribly grim and left to meet my husband for coffee and give him an update. While I was waiting for the coffee and he had stepped away, a co-worker of his that I hardly knew came in and of course asked “how are you? How’s the family?” I opened my mouth and just couldn’t do it. So, I told her. And then I told her I was sorry, that I knew it was a weird thing to share in the coffee shop, but I just couldn’t think of anything else right then. Her response was so compassionate. And it helped. It helped to share a little bit of the grief with the bigger world.

  6. Nix on November 19th, 2018 8:47 am

    I, too, do the automated “I’m fine/good/peachy” when, in fact, I’m completely NOT ok. I don’t think it’s because I’m afraid of being vulnerable as much as it’s because I don’t want to make anyone’s day worse or inconvenience them with my troubles or feelings. I have this…deep-seated need to NOT be Debbie Downer to people. Something I continue to work on. Keep your chin up and I’m glad this week is heading in a better direction.

  7. Ernie on November 19th, 2018 1:05 pm

    I totally get this, but I think I am often the opposite. I am an open book, an over-share-er. I can’t keep stuff bottled up. I think I need more close friends, so I don’t burden those that aren’t overly interested with what is happening with me. I am visiting your blog because of something I saw on the Bloggess.

  8. Jennifer B on November 22nd, 2018 8:55 am

    So much this. Going through a separation/divorce this past year and when people say “how are you doing?” I don’t just say “fine, and you?” (Well maybe to the checkout clerk I do.) I don’t share all the messy details but I do share what is going on and people have been so kind and compassionate in return. It’s been good to connect in a deeper way with people I maybe haven’t had that kind of connection with in the past, at the same time that other connections are being severed.

  9. Julie on November 26th, 2018 11:04 am

    I was about to check out in the CVS on day and the clerk said, How are you? Fine, of course, and when I asked her the same she said, “Not so great today ” At that point I said oh my gosh, thank you for answering that honestly, and we stood there, honestly laughing, and it was the most real connection I had had with someone in quite a while.

  10. Stacy on December 4th, 2018 7:59 pm

    Cheers, to the real answers and the vulnerability.

  11. JennB33 on December 5th, 2018 7:13 am

    I am so not fine it’s scary.
    But every day, as a newly singly mom, with a deadbeat father who is playing all the bullshit cards and has abandoned us for the most part (“Yes, but I’m paying child support”), I still have to haul my ass up and remember what day it is. Get kids up and ready for school (they are the same ages as your two). Get the house ready if there’s a showing scheduled for the day. Remember if I have to work both the jobs or just the full time career job, then, based on the day, remember which after work commitments we have. Feed and care for animals, get to work, do The Stuff, come home, do after work whatever, fall asleep. Try to remember to feed self and people.
    Rinse, repeat.
    Only 7-1/2-ish years left. Let them pass in a blur; let me relish every argument and hug and load of laundry that I fold at 11:30 at night; let me scoop the cat box and realize we are out of dog food at 6:30 in the morning with a packed day ahead. Let me scan for jobs and cram for certification exams.
    When is my time? I need a break.
    I am a very tired girl.

  12. Jess on December 10th, 2018 2:22 pm

    “We don’t find our ride or die people by sticking to the script”. Absolutely…. I am a closed book for sure, but there is nothing more liberating that sharing a little and feeling understood.
    Cheers to real answers.

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