How Are You Doing?

November 20, 2005

“How are you doing?”

This is the rudest, most insensitive, least caring, worst way to engage with some one. Ever. In the history of the world. I hate this question. Hearing it directed at me induces a rage that I can barely contain. The next asshole who asks me, “how are you doing?”, I’m going to hit so hard their family will feel it.

When we lived in Illinois the half bath off the kitchen had pithy sayings on it. One of them was: (more or less) “Don’t tell them about your indigestion, ‘How are you’ is a greeting, not a question.” And therein lies the problem. We have isolated ourselves from everyone else to the point where we want to avoid any connection with another human being, even when we just inquired about them. Pundits would have you believe that the Internet is isolating people. I say that western society (I am using the term ‘society’ very loosely here) started isolating people with the birth of the idea that we shouldn’t expose our emotional knickers to any one for any reason.

Several times in the past 41 days (yes, I am counting them. Want to know the hours?) people have asked me, “How are you doing?”, only to get blasted in return.

“How are you doing?” “I’m fucking miserable. That’s how. i fly into rages for no apparent reason. I cry so hard and so long that I throw up. I can’t sleep with out taking drugs. Food tastes like shit, and that’s only when I can force myself to fix it. I can’t focus on anything for more than about 12 seconds. And I can’t make any of the pain I have go away. Fuck you very much for asking.”

I can see the scared, “oh shit” look in their eyes. I know that all they wanted to do was fill their assigned role in society as the “concerned friend” by asking. They didn’t really want to know, they can’t handle that someone in their midst is so beyond their reckoning so they just want to follow the pro-forma script and get on with their existence. Well I can’t get on with my existence until I fully express how I feel. And if I do that in a way that upsets you, well boo-hoo. The absolute WORST part about this, beyond the obvious, is having to take care of other people and their reactions to Michele’s suicide.

In the few moments of lucidity I’ve had since October 10th I understand that her death, and the manner of her death, is having a huge impact on everyone I know and everyone she knew. Not everyone can handle something this in-your-face real. I am perfectly willing to give those people who will respond in kind a place to sort through their stuff. But those people who just want to anguish over her death, and who want to “fix” me, those people I have no time, patience, or compassion for.

Instead of, “how are you doing,” which indicates to me that you haven’t even really thought about me, why not take two seconds and observe where I am in that moment and base your inquiry on that? For example,

“Gee, you look really down today. Would you like to go someplace private and talk - I’m in a good space to listen.”

“Wow, it’s great to see you smile. I can’t imagine how you manage to smile at anything right now.”

“Hey, I was thinking about you, wanted to let you know that you can share with me anything you want.”

Or if you can’t even bring yourself to figure out how to engage on a real level then just say, “Hey” or “Hi” and move on.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.