How are you Doing?

HOW-ARE-YOU-TODAY

I get asked this all the time.

I’m betting you do too.

I’m constantly asking it myself. Constantly answering it as well.

“I’m good! Thanks. How are you?”

“I’m well, thank you.”

“Pretty good. You?”

We ask and respond to this question all the time.

When I’m at my best, I offer a pleasant, polite, programmed response. I often don’t answer truthfully. Nor am I equipped to gracefully handle a truthful answer if things are shitty in the lives of whomever I’m speaking with.

Because nobody wants to hear the truth. We can’t handle the truth.

“My marriage is on the verge of breaking,” one of my friends could say.

“My father just passed away,” another would tell me.

“It’s over. We’re getting divorced. We file on Tuesday,” said another.

“My uncle just died. He was like a father to me,” said yet another. “And my best friend for 30 years was just diagnosed with breast cancer.”

Welcome to the Desert of the Real

Morpheus said that to Neo in The Matrix. Neo was still sorting everything out, adjusting to the harsh realities of the real world after having been living in an infinitely more pleasant dream world.

Not so different from how we experience life as blissfully unaware children and young adults only to mature into adulthood and discover what a magnificent job our parents really had done of sheltering us from all the shit flying around.

And this is where we find ourselves.

Divorced.

Angry.

Lonely.

Mourning.

Sad.

Desperate.

Stressed.

Grieving.

And things aren’t so simple now. I’m still programmed to tell everyone I’m good.

But am I good? And, when we’re not good—when everything feels like we’re being force fed the biggest pile of shit in history—how are we supposed to answer that question?

Should we lie?

Or should we speak the truth?

The Truth: Unplugged

Once in a great while, I don’t have the energy to lie.

“Not very well, actually! I’m sorry you asked,” I tell them.

Or, “Kinda shitty! How ‘bout you?”

Only your friends know how to deal with that response. But when your friends are asking, they actually care about the answer. They’re already invested in your story.

The people that tend to ask you this are strangers and acquaintances.

And what if we gave it to them straight in those moments? What if we didn’t give the easy response to avoid the awkwardness?

“I’m recently divorced. I miss my son and worry about money. Appreciate you asking, though! How are you?”

Or, an infinite number of other things that happen to people all the time.

“I just lost my job.”

“My mom’s in Hospice.”

“My husband’s having an affair.”

“I have colon cancer.”

“My son was arrested.”

“My daughter had a miscarriage.”

“My best friend died.”

And we’re supposed to be tough. We’re supposed to function. We’re not supposed to lose a step at work. We’re not supposed to make other people feel bad. We’re not supposed to get behind on chores at home. We’re not supposed to change.

But all of these things do change us.

And some of us are very convincing while wearing our masks. And some of us aren’t.

There are some days that are so bad, the mask can’t hide it.

But then someone walks by. Smiles.

“How are you doing, Matt?”

They’re not looking for a conversation. They were just being polite. They were just saying what so many of us are programmed to say.

I force the smile.

“I’m good!” I tell them. “Thank you for asking.”

Sometimes I add: “And you?”

And they always say they’re good, too.

But I know that can’t always be true. Because we’re all in this together. And everyone’s got something.

I agree with saying it even if it feels forced. Even if it feels like a lie. It’s the right play.

Tell them you’re good, even when you’re not.

Everyone has problems, and they needn’t carry ours, too.

But more importantly, I think our brains can be manipulated. I absolutely believe we can choose to feel good, choose to feel happy, choose to feel gratitude.

I’ve spent my life choosing to be an optimist and not a cynic.

And I’m going to keep choosing it.

And it’s not because I’m trying to make you feel better, even though I am.

And it’s not because I want to trick myself into feeling better, even though I do.

It’s because I’m right. It’s because being hopeful is the smarter, wiser, truer path, than being hopeless.

I was driving to work this morning. It was wet. Dark. Windy. The kind of morning that makes you wish you were back in bed.

But then the sun peeked over the horizon and began its daily climb. And you should have seen the brilliant leaves. Borrowing the sunshine. Manufacturing beauty with the rays.

I literally said aloud: “Yes.”

Because the sun always rises. Because the weather always cycles. Because the seasons always change.

I don’t feel good, but I will.

I don’t feel happy, but I will.

I don’t feel peaceful, but I will.

That’s hope.

At some point today, someone is going to ask me how I am. And I already know what I’m going to tell them.

I’m good.

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32 thoughts on “How are you Doing?

  1. You’re right of course. Insightful as usual. The French sum it up best, comme ci comme ça

    Like

  2. With utmost respect and honesty please listen and I am happy to provide further ear parcels of inspiration, you, beautiful man you can do it! Rise… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ifq4bYZnYrc&sns=em

    Like

  3. Errantsatiety says:

    Good Lord, you are beautiful. (Shut it, I will have no self-critic overwhelm my praise.) please take the time to listen this offering. With utmost respect and honesty please listen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYdZu3fzEMA&sns=em
    With a deserving lady it is true. I believe we should desire no less.
    There are comment quotes in other languages… Es la vida nada mas.. It’s life nothing less. You have a true heart, a pure heart. Coldplay: fix you; your God knows what is happening you have grace, this is obvious, allow Him to ‘fix you’. Love your spirit and very impressed that you keep it flaming when many others would smolder in the negative :)

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Thank you for saying such nice things. I really appreciate it.

      There is no good reason to try and not have a wonderful day today.

      There is no good reason to believe that in the next hour or so, the best thing that ever happened to you could happen.

      There is always that possibility. Always that hope.

      Appreciate you reading. Thank you.

      Like

  4. […] I wait… Finally!!  A new post.  New words. […]

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  5. Inspiring… Add it to the list. This was gorgeous!

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  6. James Byron Dean says:

    I have felt the same way for quite a while Mat. A typical response that I give co-workers daily after they ask how I’m doing is “I am broken, but not dead”! A quote from Rob Roy. Try it some time! Keep your head up Sir, and never stop writing. JBDEAN

    Like

  7. David says:

    JLBN had excellent advice up above. Some version of the indifferent or sarcastic shrug works great for bad moods. The other party can take it as a joke. No hard feelings. You can be somewhat truthful, too.

    I think claiming your crappy moods is a much better way, even if you only claim it to yourself. That’s better than denying them and always pretending to be happy. Better yet, is exactly what you’re doing: feeling it and being open to the beauty that surrounds you.

    Side note: I got a modern youthful version of how-are-you-doing. I was duded. That single word is so much more flexible than I thought!

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  8. Dawn says:

    “why are you so happy?” “Because I choose to be” That’s been my life motto…even when I didn’t really know it. Sometimes things are bad, sometimes I want to be honest when asked and tell them how things really are. With all do respect, to myself, and to the person who is asking, I choose to take that question and use it as a reminder that I need to choose out of the bad stuff and into the good. So when I answer, “I’m doing good” I really mean it, even if not everything is.

    Like

  9. jessiesgirl says:

    Honest to God, as I was reading this post, I received an email from an old friend I haven’t hear from in years. I think it was a sign. Something I was meant to share with you. The timing was uncanny. And as cheesy as it may seem, it brought a tear to my eye. So here it is: http://www.youtube.com/embed/zf_0jzPQ8lo?rel=0

    Like

  10. Aussa Lorens says:

    I work in a psych hospital and we are obligated to start every meeting by taking turns asking each other three questions:
    1. How are you feeling?
    2. What are your goals?
    3. Who can help you with that?
    It’s actually really interesting because as we’ve gotten over the initial awkwardness we’ve really embraced it and people totally answer honestly. You’ll be in a board meeting and you’re absolutely free to admit that you’re feeling pissy and you don’t have to explain or apologize and no one can give you advice or tell you to get over it. Even outside of psych it would probably be a great practice.

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    • Matt says:

      If you had buy-in from everyone, I’m sure we’d all benefit from that talk personally and professionally.

      Thank you for reading. And for writing. I still haven’t digested everything, but it’s beyond interesting and entertaining.

      So, thank you for writing, too.

      Like

    • sinecostan says:

      I absolutely love this! Now that my wife and I are living with extended family and we have so many different personalities to account for, I am going to try a version of this each day. I think it will help us to avoid making the assumptions we do about each other and to take a moment to discover where we stand and where we’re headed. So glad you took the time to share!
      http://amapofcalifornia.wordpress.com

      Like

  11. Lk says:

    Perfect! Thank you so much for this post! It was spot on! I wished I finished reading it before I went to work today. I had to respond to people by saying that my allergies were acting up today instead of saying sorry folks I’ve been crying all damn night because I’m losing my shit! “I don’t feel happy but I will”. That will be my mantra!

    Thanks!

    Like

    • Matt says:

      I’m not happy to hear this, young lady. But I’m so happy that you want to choose positivity. It’s the best-possible choice. Even on the dark days.

      Like

  12. Nora L Pratt says:

    I LOVE this; because you know something? You’re absolutely right! (you know that, I’m sure…). So well done, thank you!

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Thank you! Sometime I act right even when I’m not!

      So it’s nice when people corroborate my opinions. Really appreciate you reading and commenting!

      Like

  13. Love it! When asked that question on days when I’m anything-but-good, I try to come up with an authentic response that doesn’t upset the social order and makes me feel better.

    “I’m enjoying the beautiful sun today.”
    “I’m looking forward to an evening with friends.”
    “The first cup of coffee was especially warm this morning.”
    “I’m so thankful that today’s a jeans day.” (fellow teachers understand this one!)

    It’s a time when, regardless of the storm we’re in, we can remember to be thankful for what we have.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      I love how you when I’m contemplating something, you’ve often already thought about it, dealt with it, and come up with some really wise and effective way of dealing with it.

      That is a fantastic exercise in gratitude.

      And I appreciate you sharing it. And I promise to think about that very thing when the opportunity arises. Which is nearly every day. Thank you.

      Like

      • :) The other response I learned to give was, “I’m in the middle of a major life remodel” when people inquired as to why I had nothing, lived in a spare bedroom and would cry at weird moments. It gave them something but not too much and it reminded me that I had control over how I wanted my new life to look.

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