George's LGBTea: “How are you?” - The One Question To Stop Asking If You Really Don’t Care
Do you really want to know how I am doing today? Or has “how are you?” just become so much a part of robotic conversation that it’s said with no real regard for the power that this question actually holds?
It’s truly sad how diluted conversation with intention has become, and how many of us are suffering in silence because the response “I’m fine, and you?” has become just as ingrained in us. I used to be guilty of this, as well, which is why I feel like I am an expert of some sort and need to speak on both my change in conversation with intention and need for more of us to actually give a damn about each other.
I was a habitual “textuationship” type of guy for many years. That is the waking up in the morning to 5 or 6 “good morning” texts, sending the "how are you?" response and acting like I actually cared. The texts that got you through the day at work, with no real intention behind anything else but something that filled the voids of time being wasted doing nothing. This type of behavior created a normalcy, though, where real feelings about what folks were actually dealing with became suppressed. Both sides of the phone conversation saying everything was all good, all the while we both were struggling in silence not realizing the opportunity we were letting pass us by to actually release some of the burden. For myself, it was right after diagnosis that I realized I could no longer continue to say, “I’m doing well,” or “I’m fine,” since I really wasn’t.
When folks started asking, “How are you,” I would begin to stop and think: “How am I?” The automatic response that I had become accustomed to for so many years disappeared, and emotions began to fill the once emotionless void. “How are you?” became my opportunity to live in my truth, and walk in my truth, and it became an outlet for a world that often didn’t care how I really was. “How are you?” became the light at the end of a very dark tunnel, where tears in the alone time could be wiped by someone who might actually give a damn about how I really was.
I began to realize how many people, important people, those who actually needed to know how I was and how I required myself to be my best self – and so I began to answer this question honestly. As someone who was now required to go to the doctor every three months, “How are you?” became my savior when things were really wrong. When my medication was making me sick, I learned that it was my duty to speak up and say that I wasn’t feeling okay, and that I needed a change. When my mom asked how I was, it was because she already knew that I wasn’t okay, but needed a way in to provide me with her words in that moment of need. The robotic nature that society has conditioned many of us to remain in our pain is another attempt to kill us with a slow death; and one that we never see coming.
Some days I’m not okay. There are some days when I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. Days when I don’t want to take the reminder that is a pill-a-day to help keep me alive. There are days that I am tired of people within my own community acting like the death of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters is some karma for not living our lives right. I’m tired of state sanctioned violence at the hands of the oppressor, and me being forced to watch my death on video to only be told that I am responsible for it in some way. So, when folks ask how I am, I tell them. Those who care always respond with support, of course asking what that support looks like for me. Those who respond generically weed themselves out of my phone; and, more importantly, out of my life.
I wrote this because I want people to understand the power of communication, especially when you ask a person how they are. I think of all the times I asked, “How are you?” and knowing that my friend was lying through their teeth by simply, robotically stating: “I’m fine.” And then me leaving it at that.
Folks are suffering in silence, and we must all do a better job in allowing folks the space to be honest with their responses, even if we are only holding their burdens for a few minutes.