A lot of people are in the habit of also asking how you are when they greet you. I am not. I worry sometimes that they think I’m being rude, but I’m not.
I hate being asked how I am, because I know that they generally expect me to say something like ‘fine’ or ‘good’ or maybe even ‘great’. But I can’t answer like that.. because very often I’m not. Or I’m not necessarily not good but how I am cannot be summed up into a simple word. So I am left floundering wondering how exactly I should answer, because I don’t want to lie, because that would be rude, but I also don’t really want to give a truthful answer because I’m pretty sure that’s not what they actually want to hear. And depending on who it is asking, there’s a good chance that I might not really be comfortable with explaining the whole truthful answer to them. Revealing the extent of my struggles is not something I can do with everyone. So if I manage to get past this hurdle and mumble out a ‘fine thanks’ or similar, I’m still off kilter from the momentary panic caused by trying to figure out the right answer to give, that I generally forget that the social convention is now for me to return the enquiry until after they’ve already walked past or moved on or whatever.
So then I’m left wondering if they are now walking away thinking that I’m rude, or maybe just strange, and that bothers me because I’m not rude (well, sometimes I am, but in these cases I am not trying to be), I’m actually a nice, polite person.. it’s just that they were the ones that flustered me by asking me a question for which there is no simple answer. And that in turn makes me feel annoyed at them for putting me in that position in the first place.
Hence the reason that I don’t ask people how they are, even if I am the first one to extend a greeting or even if I have more than a passing interest in their wellbeing, like with Daniel or my Mum or someone else who is a friend rather than just an acquaintance. I don’t want to inadvertently cause someone else the same inner discomfort that I get caused every time someone asks me how I am. And I am reasonably sure that for the people that I do care about, if there is something I need to know about that is upsetting or annoying or making them sick.. they’ll tell me anyway. (Some of them will even tell me multiple times. Not mentioning any names.
Sometimes I wonder what it must be like to not have to struggle. To ask everyone you greet how they are because you genuinely have no concept that for some people it’s not a simple enquiry but an interrogation that sparks off a mini panic on the inside because they don’t know how to answer. I wonder, because I can’t imagine. I really cannot comprehend being so unencumbered by the inadequacies of my own intellect that these interactions could be so simple and honest that as soon as you’ve asked and heard the positive answer, you’ve already moved onto the next topic since that one didn’t require any further action by you.
What do these people do with their brains the rest of the time, when they are not struggling against themselves? What else could I do with my brain if so much of it wasn’t dedicated to just managing to do the things I have to do?