I mean, really.
**Before you answer: push pause on the brains socially conditioned response system and its ability to “yada yada yada”* its way through answering and take. a. breath.**
The ‘really’ is what I am most interested in. And I think-feel-hope there are a lot of us who share that interest.
It can be easy for us to move through the day on autopilot; to weave our way through conversations and exchanges that dance along the edge of connection instead of fully connecting. What I mean by this:
We live in a world that sees it as courteous and acceptable to ask the ‘how’ about our feelings but falls short before we get to the ‘why’. The ‘why’ doesn’t seem to hold as much value; maybe it’s too messy and layered or takes up too much time and reveals too much so we avoid the “really?” and accept that the answer given is the full expression of truth.
I get it. We can be polite and swim in shallow waters. There is nothing wrong in that.
But from my perspective the ‘why’ is where we usually find ourselves most alive. And that makes the ‘why’ the scariest and most freeing waters to swim in – for the one asking the question and the one with the task to answer. ‘Why’ demands our attention, our patience, our vulnerability, our trust (in ourselves mostly) and the possibility that we won’t/don’t know how to respond.
If you were to ask someone the ‘really’ part of the ‘how are you’…would be you ready to receive the truth of their response? The very real possibility that you get a “…my life is a hot mess and I’ve been crying all day and I feel stuck and I’m scared all the time and I don’t know what to do next and I can’t catch my breath and I’ve been thinking a lot about death…”
If you ask, would you know how to receive? Could you ask the question in its fullness and receive the answer in all its really-ness?
Because now it becomes about you, the questioner, and your ability and awareness to be present with the fullness of the answer and any discomfort around it.
And yes, the discomfort will come, how could it not? We’ve gotten used to the automatic “I’m ‘good’, ‘okay’, ‘fine’,” responses and have deemed them a socially acceptable standard of engagement. More than that, certain problematic responses and behaviours that could use a hug, a nap, a “that sucks” or a shared breath in silence get praised. For example:
We are grieving but hold back tears. Praised.
We work 18 hours a day but ignore our health. Praised.
We negotiate our boundaries to accommodate another’s needs. Praised (and classified as love).
We “all good” our way through the day but are in a full out panic attack. Praised.
Sometimes we need a pause instead of praise. Or what if…our pauses get praised too? It need not be a radical act to rest or to be honest about our feelings. But somehow it has become just that.
Part of this praising the problematic is because we’ve been living in an ‘either/or’, ‘yes…but’, ‘anyways’ kind of place. We like things, especially our emotions and feelings, to be neat and tidy so we can divide them up and make sense of them. Linear. In pretty packages. With detailed descriptions and clear directions.
When it comes to the realness of really, I’m not sure what we like or what is easiest matters.
There is no should-ing ourselves through our healing, through our feelings, through our not knowing. How many times do we “just” ourselves throughout the day? Do we “should” ourselves into the security and safety of not fully feeling or be-ing, of not engaging in the ‘really’ and the ‘whys’, of taking on the responsibility of someone else’s feelings and reactions, of fretting over someone else’s capacity to process our expression of the ‘really’?
This is learned behaviour. It’s time to welcome a new kind of learning. We can begin to live and respond from a place of “yes, and” where two things (or more) can be true at the same time.
I am sad and grateful.
I am brave and I spent all weekend curled up in a ball on the floor.
I am strong and exhausted.
I am scared and confident.
I am kind and say “no”.
I love you and I need some time for myself.
We might start by asking ourselves what we need to invite in so that if/when we get asked the “how are you?” we can respond as truthfully and as comfortably as possible. And when we find ourselves asking “how are you?” we are prepared, curious and open for the really kind of response.
Perhaps you take some time today and a few deep breaths to ask yourself how you are and let the ‘really’ respond.
*super outdated reference. Or classic. You decide based on your 90’s television experience.