“Hey, How Are You?”

How are you? I get asked this a lot, like a whole lot, maybe you do too. It’s typically asked in two type of ways. One, the kind, friendly, greeting way. No less inauthentic, just a breaking of the ice if you will. Two, is the kind, soulful, even serious stare you in the eye as an offer to give me the truth I can handle it. Maybe concern, but more likely, WTF is going on in your head & there’s no way possible you’re actually okay.

I sincerely do appreciate both. I utilize mostly the latter, but fundamentally we should be asking how each other are more frequently. I do this at every chance strangers & acquaintances alike. Bumping into, calling, ordering something, inquiring about something, & yes in attempt to win favor in lieu of a transaction. But it’s always real. I do care how anyone I interact with is & greeting them first is fundamental.

My response 98% of the time is a simple, “I’m well” or “Good” or “maintaining” or even the more subtle “doing fine”. Followed by a grin & sometimes a gulp. There are only a few milliseconds of synapses of lightspeed assessment wether or not the human inquiring how I am is ready for the deeper truth. The raw uncut. Choosing to share your “drama” or to risk burdening someone with your heavy must remain a well-curated choice. Selfishly, I do scan & evaluate if a individual is the variety of the species that is comfortable with the darkside — like me. The melancholy, the blues, the struggle, the duality of of life. Joy & Pain.

Happiness has levels. Extreme highs & extreme lows. But if you build a strong, genuine foundation of gratitude, you can shift to that center in times of stress or anxiety or even depression. A go-to center of optimism & patience. I feel lucky to have that mindfulness. It’s something I rely on everyday.

I’ve been strong for a long time & remain centered there. But, I’ve been protective too long. I’m not okay now, haven’t been for awhile. I can no longer hide my true feelings for the sake of avoiding the damaging of others. Jon Kabat-Zinn writes:

If you are a strong-willed and accomplished person, you may often give the impression that you are invulnerable to feeling inadequate or insecure or hurt. This can be very isolating and ultimately cause you and others great pain. Other people will be all too happy to take in that impression and to collude in propagating it by projecting a Rock of Gibraltar persona onto you…you can all too easily get out of touch with your own true feelings behind the intoxicating shield of image and aura.

While I never overlooked or discounted my true feelings in private, I have always maintained a posture of invincibility. I got this, I am a leader, a father, a best friend, a caregiver, a ninja. I never wanted to let anyone down. I was afraid of their collapse — I still am as I type this. A subconscious gamble of stoicism that crapped out ultimately causing myself the most pain.

My reluctance, my suppression has now taking it’s toll on me. I believe I gave it one hell of a shot — but I am weak. The strategy has failed. I’m at risk of damaging or losing everything that is important to me.

My single hope is that this realization, this awakening, this moment in time is still salvageable. The power to change, to be forthcoming. To stop hiding the pain & carry on without such a weight of the world. Face the fear, reach out, stare you in the eye & say, Actually, I am not okay, please forgive me please take my hand…