Fine is Never Fine.
Five of Fifty-two
I am never fine, nobody is ever fucking fine.
I have spent thirty-one years on this planet and one thing I have learned during that time is that the word “fine” never actually means “good” or “well” or even “alright.” It is a conversation ender, a word designed to shut down and pull away. I’ve used it like that, you’ve used it like that and so has nearly everyone else.
It’s no surprised too that we use it in such a way. Looking into the entomology of the word I was surprised (not really) to learn that the word derives from the Latin word finire, which the Old French fin is based on, or “to finish”.
The word is so curt it almost hurts to hear. But nobody will fess up, nobody will push further when given that response. I’ve started asking, I’ve started pushing.
Maybe we secretly use this word as a cry for help that we don’t, or can’t, ask for. Our problems, our burdens, our baggage, they can feel so massive, so heavy, that we don’t want to bring others down by drawing them into our troubles.
I have a friend, one of my best and a member of my compound, and she has been through more than any one person should have to go through. I’ve spent the past year with her, helping her and having her help me. Together we have healed and yet not entirely. I can see it in her eyes, hear it in her voice.
She says “fine” a lot.
Never once has she meant it, never once has she used it and not prickled the hairs on the back of my neck. It is with her that I started this endeavor, that I learned to trust myself when I engage with others. She says “fine” and I know it is never true, I pry a little and in the end she’ll open up to me.
It can be a dark place she lets me into, but I’m there for her. I try and remind her that things don’t have to be just “fine”, they can be great or amazing. Or they can even be absolute shit, just share with me what is inside you. We are never truly alone in the dark if only we’d reach out.
It wasn’t always like that though. I had to learn this lesson the hard way. There was a day she said she was doing fine and so I opted to spend the time elsewhere. I trusted that if she truly needed me she would tell me. By the day’s end she was not doing fine, she had needed me and I was not there.
On that day I truly learned to listen, to hear not just the words spoken but the choice of words, the way they are delivered. I learned to read people rather than judge.
The lesson she forced me to learn that day was invaluable. Our language is music, the words we choose the notes of a song and “fine” is a bad note, one that rings discordantly to our ears. But we have to teach ourselves to listen for that twang, that flat note that disrupts what could otherwise be beautiful.
I challenge you to try it, push a little if someone you care about simply replies with “I’m fine”. Be empathetic, be compassionate, be genuine and caring. You just might be surprised by the response you get.
Truly tell me how your day is. I want to know, I wouldn’t ask otherwise.