Wednesday, April 21, 2010

how are you?

I had a conversation the other day with TheMostImportantGuy about how to respond to people when they ask, "So...How are you?"

Now, we all know the ins-n-outs of what saying "fine" often means, and what happens when you respond by telling people how you really are, so I wont bother getting into all that here. For me personally, I sorted out this whole little conundrum of how to reply in my early 20's. I came up with a workable formula for myself. It looked something kinda like:

WhoIsAsking + TimeAvailable ~divided by~ DoIEvenKnowHowIamDoing
= HowIamGoingToRespond

Based on the maths, I'd either tell you I was fine, or I'd let you in and tell you a little bit about myself. I have a hunch that I have been operating this way for two decades, unwaveringly. It's totally subconscious by now. Auto-pilot. But lately, I am finding myself responding to the "how are you" question in some very odd ways. It's as if the part of my brain doing the formula-thang has decided to go have a margarita or something.

Ok. Probably not.

I think what is really happening, is that for the past several months I've been working on cultivating the habit of noticing what is going on RIGHT NOW, right in front of me, then attempting to act or respond accordingly. So these days when you ask me how I am doing, I become highly aware of what is right smack in front of me, and then out comes this blurt of how (or what) I am doing (or hearing or seeing or smelling or feeling) right now, right this very second.

And by blurt I mean I am saying stuff like:

How are you doing?
Toast is burnt.
How are you doing?
Grass is green, sky is blue.
How are you doing?
I hate my refrigerator.
How are you doing?
Wash your bowls.

I mean, it makes no sense. It's gibberish. Except that it's my truth at that moment of your asking. It is what is most on my mind or in front of me when you ask, and I kid you not, it just FLIES out of my mouth unless I catch myself. Unfortunately, I've been honing the "being in the moment" practice so well that the "blurt" is now actively taking place before the "I'm fine" response has a kick in. And it's not very appropriate, and it's not making me any friends (just ask people like the grocery store clerk or the UPS guy), and it may end up getting me set up for some sort of psychiatric evaluation.

Okay, so I tell TheMIG about this the other day (as he is currently practicing the cultivation of the In-The-Moment-Thang, too), and he says to me that when he was little, he used to just respond to "how are you" in the moment naturally (the way little kids will do) and he started to realized he was being asked to say "fine" and he didn't want to, because that isn't really what he was he developed HIS version of "the formula". And he's been doing it for even twice as many decades than I have done MY formula.

His formula is to always respond with a statement about physicality.

How are you?
How's it going?
How are ya'?
My eyes are burning from looking at the computer too long.

I bet hungry and tired are his top two. Seems to me he's almost always one or the other. LOL

Anyhow, it's an interesting strategy. It's the truth. It's in the moment. And it's relatively palatable to the outside world. I might give it a try. But usually when someone asks me how I am doing, my impulse is to scan my f-f-f-feeeeelings, not my body. So this could get interesting.


jodi said...


I love the banal, in-the-moment response so much better than "fine". It's so hard to find a way to respond other than "fine" without sounding like one of those sad, needy people who seize on "how are you" as a way to grab someone's attention and talk to someone about their sad, needy lives. Not that I'm slamming people who are sad and needy, just, I'm not, you know? And yet I really dislike just responding "fine" by rote. Next 5 times someone asks, I'm going to say toast is burnt.

Mouse said...

I also like "toast is burnt" as a response.. much better than "fine". I don't like when people ask questions that I'm supposed to answer a certain way.. it makes me fiercely uncomfortable.

Gwen said...

How are you?

How are you?

(and then you're both done) (and you already know it's just a long Hi!) (but I can't leave it alone!)

Me, I'd be saying: Change into your clothes!