Breathe. Smile. Yes, I’m great!
Prior to COVID-19 and the execution of George Floyd, our society wants us to present a veneer (well, the probably still want us to present a veneer but good luck getting a planet of traumatised people to smile and say everything is okay).
Whenever someone asks me “How are you doing Reds?”, my answer is 9 times out of 10, “I’m alive” because well, I am alive. I am breathing (I guess I would have to be to be writing this). I am can see (again, see previous sentence). It may seem glass half empty but often times, I struggle to offer more than that response.
When someone asks “How are you?” and you respond “I am okay” do you really mean it? I am willing to be the 19 cents a month I generate in ad revenue from this blog (shout out to the handful of friends that read my blog instead of calling me! I see you!) that its as genuine as Kylie Jenner being a self-made billionaire (admittedly she’s closer to seeing a billion that I will ever be but still it’s great to see the self-centred, vainglorious people of the world fall in their quest to grace magazine covers they have no business being on).
The truth is that most of us who ask “How are you?” are doing so as a courtesy in an antiquated ceremony out of perceived politeness and don’t even care how you feel. And because they don’t care or are pre-programmed in this ceremony are expecting you to respond in the expected “I am well, how about you Carole?”.
So when I respond with “I’m quite nauseous, my head is spinning, I’ve felt like this for three days and as a result would like to commit suicide because I am tired of battling chronic illness” Carole (who is a completely fictitious lady in my head) freezes and then responds with “Maybe you need a bit fresh air then?” and smiles, quickly shuffling off.
But what Carole doesn’t realise is that you have Lupus, migraines, arthritis, depression and probably some other shit that is making you feel like this and walking down the local canal is not going to make you feel better. Equally, what you can’t relate to is that Carole is a healthy abled bodied woman who can probably outrun a teenaged boy and doesn’t know more about medicine than WebMD.
So there you are, annoyed with Carole for following the established social practices and Carole is somewhere in a corner praying to the polite gods never to see your face again should she have to be faced with the impoliteness of such a realistic response to what is really a rhetorical question.
This is the reality of today. And my ask is that when you ask someone how they are and if they are okay, is that you really mean it and that you be prepared for a response other” than fine, thanks and you?”. We are getting ready to return to a world where people have lost their loved ones, have lost their jobs, are ill, are disabled (whether you can determine that visibly or not) and are traumatised by years of systemic racism and prejudice. Polite surface conversation may be suitable for the stranger you stand next to at the crosswalk but we need to support our neighbours, colleagues, friends and family at a truly deeper level.
If you ask me if I am okay and I say “I’m alive”, just know that I am okay and don’t be offended that I broke the rules of polite society. And if I ask you how you are doing, I want to know how I can help you. If you want me to mind my business, well you can just tell me to f*%£ off.