“I’m Fine.” … But Are You?

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“How are you doing today?”

“Oh, I’m good. Just fine actually.”

… Are you?

On the way to work, on a bumpy road inside a crowded city bus, I often find myself thinking about the most random of thoughts.Today’s spontaneous reflections revolved around a word.

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I muse over this word – good. This simply spelled and spellingly simple one-syllabus sound that everyone, including myself, quickly claim to live within. Some call it fine; some well. It’s still all good.

Now let’s see: my day was good. Your day was good. Things are good here and things are good there. Apparently, we’re all just a bunch of content folks, always feeling good about our circumstances… all day, everyday. (That’s “good”, no?)

Interestingly, we all say “I’m good”, although we may be experiencing very different things, perhaps dramatically so. It only makes me wonder: when good is associated with such vague implications, often followed with little to no explanations – that one word keeping the listener hanging in suspense as to what good could possibly mean to the speaker – it sometimes makes me muse:

Do we even know what being “good” is at all, at the frequency that we use it?

Perhaps we all do, and here I am senselessly over-thinking something (wouldn’t be the first, and certainly won’t be the last time). Let’s look at this optimistically: perhaps we DO all have this invisible yet present voice within us that assures us, “tired you may be right now, emotionally exhausted you might feel, but HEY, things are good! Yeah, you tell’em the way it is! Things are fine, baby!” So you happily trust your instinct and blurt out “I’m fine!” with such adorable confidence, that it is only after you have spoken you realize the other hadn’t finished asking the “how are you” question. (Oops.)

But then again… maybe we don’t know what good is at all. Maybe we still don’t know ourselves well enough to understand how we’re feeling and why. Perhaps this is why we seek refuge in the all-encompassing “good”, “well”, “fine”, and thus successfully and gracefully sneaking out of possibly opening up to one another.

Ok, please allow me to be clear about something before you misunderstand the point of this post:

I’m not here to tell you to always be so explicit about your daily business to EVERY “how are you” you receive out of mere politeness. I know a lot of people don’t really want to know, or really care, how you’re doing.

But there are people who do care, and by simple means of a habitual response we give automatically- that “I’m fine” without thinking – sometimes walls that are not intended to be put up are suddenly there. Because the asker is left wondering, Um, should I prod further? Or is this brief answer an indication to keep my nose out of it? The question hangs nervous in midair, like a pair of shoes dangling from cables outside uncertainly.

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But if there is someone you truly care about, and all you’ve been recieving from her or him lately is “I’m good/fine” responses the past few times you’ve asked how are you out of genuine concern for their happiness… then perhaps you may want to tentatively start knocking down that invisible wall that mysteriously started to separate you two without either of you noticing it was being built through all those awkward silences.

“I’m glad to hear you’re doing good. So… Can you tell me what good is for you?”

Don’t do it out of nosiness. Don’t do it just because you’re curious, but have no plans of actively listening should the other suddenly break down in tears before you, or burst out with exciting news. Don’t do it as a social experiment to see how easily people will open up to you – because it seems that more and more people want to open up in this individualistic world that seems so closed.

Do it because you care. If society is going to keep playing the “hi how are you, oh I’m fine, goodbye now” boring game without reason, except to keep up conventional niceties – then we are going to simply become robotic in our interactions with one another.

I mean well, and I truly hope you are well, good and fine when you say you are, in the true sense of the word:

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So how are you doing? 🙂

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(And God knows Best.)

-A.S.

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5 comments on ““I’m Fine.” … But Are You?

    • lol yup! Although sometimes it was a great day, but I’m not sure the questioner actually feels like having me talk about the specifics. He/she may just be asking out of politeness, and in reality be internally exhausting and just want to go home. Opening up automatically might just burden them if anything.

      This is more complicated than I thought, lol!

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