How are you? It’s small talk. It’s what comes naturally after the requisite exchange of “hi.” It’s what the waiter asks when you go out to eat. It’s almost rude not to ask it. And the natural answer is “Fine” or “Good” and then ask the question back. It’s the American greeting, expected chit chat. But this question is not that simple. When someone asks, sometimes I reflexively say “fine” or “okay.” The “okay” might have a sad intonation to it. But these are lies. This simple question, this easy nicety is a hard one to answer. Truth is, I feel sad. Every day and all day long. I’m not sure what the desired or expected answer is. I’ve learned that saying “Sad” right off the bat disarms people. Apparently it’s not what is expected. They stammer and the mood of the conversation, which has barely begun, turns dark. I’ve said “up and down,” which makes people a little more comfortable. They can assume that maybe I’m in an up moment. If I say “fine” or “okay” because at that very moment, in the instance that they ask I might be ok. I might not be crying or unable to get out of bed at that moment, but I’m afraid people will take it as how I feel all the time. It’s a funny thing about our customary greeting, because I can be asked the same question twice within minutes or even seconds of each other.
How are you?
Okay. How are you?
Good. So how aaaare you??
Weird, right? I have become so attuned to what people say and read into them more than I should. Maybe it’s because I have so much time on my hands or maybe it’s because even the simple things are not simple anymore. My life is now complicated by the death of my baby. It overshadows everything I do; it’s the monkey on my back. I think I might have a better response to “what was today like?” or “how do you feel right now?”
I over interpret everything- not just “how are you.” Things I see on facebook- “enjoying some alone time” or “work is an escape from the kids,” feel like personal insults. As if they are trying to rub their living children in my face. This is not their intention, but these are literally the thoughts that go through my head.
I had a break down after an exchange on a babyloss message board. A woman posted about the upcoming 1 year anniversary of the death of her child and how she was dreading it. At first I felt like I didn’t have anything to contribute because I am far from that day myself, don’t have any words of wisdom. But a day passed and there was no response yet. When I post on the board, I eagerly await responses from others and until they come, I feel so alone, like no one is reading or caring. So I finally posted something short- mentioning how I’m not there yet but I was thinking of her and asked if she planned anything to honor her child. Another person finally posted saying how they didn’t do anything to “celebrate” the one year anniversary of her loss. And I felt like such a fool. I felt like that person was criticizing me for even suggesting she do something. I was a sobbing fool over this exchange because I just read so much into everything now.
I’m on edge when I send texts and they are not returned. I take offense if someone says something with good intentions but hit me the wrong way. I cry way too easily. I know this is all part of the process. Maybe this is my way of asking for forgiveness- my answers might seem short, I might seem distant, I might be overly sensitive. I feel so darn needy lately. Forgive me- t’s just that nothing is easy these days.