It's a simple question. "How are you?" The response is almost always the same. "I'm fine." What would happen if we started answering that question a little more honestly? Now I'm not suggesting we start giving a casual acquaintance a run-down of all that's troubling us in the middle of the Kroger when they ask the question. "Well, I'm glad you asked. My sciatica is acting up, my oldest is failing Algebra, and Uncle Bill just fell off the wagon again." That's a lot of information to process in the produce aisle. Although I have seen those saints that will drop the grocery list and pray for a person right there by the tomatoes.
I'm talking about the friend or loved one that is asking that question because they genuinely want to know how you are. Most of the time it's not a random question. Our tribes are intuned to us. They know when something is wrong. Yet, we insist on answering the question the same way. "I'm fine." I have almost always used this answer. I've been using it or some other variation a lot these past few months. "I'm fine." "Everything's about the same." "Today's a little rough, but it will be better tomorrow." To answer any other way made me feel vulnerable. I convinced myself these people that loved and cared for me were just being polite. I couldn't tell them how I really felt.
For a while, the answer was the best I could do. I have had a difficult time figuring out my feelings about having RA. I wasn't ready to deal with what it meant for me. It was easier to answer that I was fine than to admit the truth. Even to myself.
The truth. I'm not fine. I am in pain every single moment of every single day. I am frustrated. I am impatient. I wake up every morning hoping this is the day the meds finally kick in. I'm not fine. I'm tired of feeling helpless. Of being weak. It takes me fifteen minutes each morning to get out of my bed. I have to psyche myself up every time I need to stand or walk. I'm not fine. I'm frustrated. I miss subbing. I miss the kids. I miss my teacher friends. I miss feeling productive. I'm not fine. I'm scared. For a percentage of RA patients, traditional medicines and solutions have not worked. I am at the beginning of a journey that I don't have any control over.
Then comes the guilt. Maybe that's the other reason I answer that I'm fine. There are others that leave a doctor's office with a worse prognosis than mine. Some have illnesses that will eventually take their lives. Who am I to complain about mine?
All of this made me start thinking of others like me. How many of my friends and family members plaster on a smile and say they're fine? What truth are they hiding?
What about you?
You're not fine either. The divorce papers came in the mail yesterday. Bills aren't paid. You're battling postpartum depression. You aren't fine. Your mother is showing the first sign of Alzheimer's. Your oldest child is addicted to drugs. You're not fine. You're overworked, overstressed, and overwhelmed. Underpaid and underappreciated. You are dealing with things no one could understand.
Here's my thought. Let's start being honest with those that love and care for us. Let's get together and have an ugly cry. Let's go for coffee and listen to one another's problems. Let's pray for each other. Let's give each other a space to be vulnerable and weak. Let's trust our friends with our burdens. Let's be cheerleaders, shoulders to cry on, sister warriors, and confidantes.
If your friends care enough to ask how you are, it's because they want to know. The truth. Not the watered down version. Your true friends are your biggest blessing. You do not have to go through whatever you're going through alone.
Let me be the first to ask. How are you?
This song has been my anthem during this time. The promise that my God works everything out for my good. And I will put my trust in Him.