I’m sitting on the Eames chair in the living room.
I’ve written to you from here before, but I don’t think I’ve told you that.
This tan lounge chair and ottoman—a gift from my mother and the only piece piece of furniture we have—is a lovely place from which to write.
Sparky, our small pandemic puppy, lays above my outstretched legs.
The pottery-barn-esque, three-person sofa is across the room from me.
Behind it is a thin wooden table I built.
On that sit two favorite stained glass lamps I crafted.
And in the corner, the largest lamp I’ve ever made.
I feel proud to see these beautiful things in this beautiful room in the beautiful home Jane and I have made.
And, I am joyous, right now, to be sharing this moment with you.
Shall we discuss the nature of reality, today?
No. I’d rather not.
Philosophical discussions use too many words.
I’d rather just sit and be here with you.
Last week, with an eye swollen shut from a surgery to remove a carcinoma on my upper right cheek, I biked to my local Trader Joe’s to do some shopping.
Frances, at the checkout counter asks, “How are you, today?”
“Honestly, my friend, I’m feeling the feels.”
I pause, look up to see that she is in fact listening, and continue, “I’m having a hard time. I feel a bit vain from my surgery. If you want an honest answer.”
“I love honest answers. I thank you for that.”
I bag a combination of fruits, cheese, and veggies along with a decent amount of unhealthy snacks, as she asks me which item in my cart is my favorite.
“The marshmallows,” I tell her, “though the label on the side is patently wrong.”
I explain that the serving size is not two ‘light and fluffy marshmallows drenched in smooth, dark chocolate,’ but in fact just one box.
“I’d like to buy you that single serving box,” she says.
Some might think that this—me writing and you reading—is not a real connection.
They would be wrong.
I feel a connection to you, my friend.
If in the 1990’s, you were seated next to me on a flight, you might see me do a variety of one-handed cuts and card flourishes—a desperate cry for attention at 40,000 feet.
Were you to comment upon my dexterity with a pack of playing cards, I would gladly show you a solid hour of magic tricks.
I’ve learned since that most people only have the appetite for about three tricks.
And, I learned, sometime after the age of 40, that there is something far more valuable that I was hiding behind the cards—me.
Our societal collusion to answer the question “how are you?” with anything other than an honest answer is a choice. A poor choice.
“I’m fine” is efficient.
But, it cuts us off from a chance to connect.
To be seen.
And, to see another.
And, we need not cut ourselves off from our humanity, from others, or from ourselves.
Why say “fine” if you are afraid, angry, burned out, calm, centered, cold, defeated, delighted, detached, excited, frustrated, grateful, hopeless, joyous, numb, sad, panicked, proud, scared, or tired?
When asked how we are, we can choose to answer and allow ourselves to be seen.
And, when we ask another how they are, we can choose to listen and see them.
Being open and honest are inefficient compared to being transactional.
And, being real is countercultural—vitally important if we want to see a more loving, less hostile world.
When we are not filled up by the right things, like the healthy foods, we will seek nourishment from the wrong things—like an entire box of light and fluffy marshmallows drenched in smooth, dark chocolate.
We need to feed our souls.
We need to connect to people with vulnerability, humanity, and care.
Of course read the social cues around you.
The person delivering your mail might not want a long explanation as to how you are.
But, you still can be honest.
Let us change the world by making space to see others.
Let us change the world by allowing others to see us as more than “fine.”
This dovetails into last month’s article of seeing people.
And with last week’s topic—shame—and our internalized, unexamined, and absurd plan to keep from feeling shame by hiding from being seen.
Why not take being asked, “How are you?” as an opportunity to connect?
So, that being said, let me ask you, my friend: How are you?