How’re You? The Question With No Good Answer

It has been intriguing during this pandemic. Whether it’s because people have more time during lockdown, or an increased desire for human connection, I think we’ve all been reaching out to each other more. I’ve reconnected with old friends from university, had happy hours with friends, and generally tried to message people I care about more. But there’s a question we all ask that truly doesn’t have a good answer.

I honestly just don’t even know how to answer when people ask me, “How’re you doing?” Terrible? Okay? Great, considering?

Even as I answer the question, I know that so many people have things so much worse than I do. There are those who have lost their jobs, their careers, their entire industries. Others are grappling with friends or family who have become sick, or died.

How can I complain about being exhausted when I only have one kid to take care of, instead of friends who are trying to keep more kids occupied all day? Is it even worth mentioning the mental juggling act of working from home and parenting when I have a supportive spouse and a designated workspace in our home?

I’m not even sure how to talk about the fact I can’t do pilates every day the way I was. Sure, the studio is hosting virtual classes every day, but it’s just so hard to get into the groove when I’m home and have interruptions, or even can see the dirty dishes or laundry I need to deal with while I should be focused on my breathing. Not to mention the fact that all I want to do is eat. Is that even worth mentioning, or just super inappropriate under the circumstances?

It also makes me re-evaluate my relationships with people. Is this the person I can answer “how are you?” with “crippled with anxiety today, and you?” or should I just say “holding up thanks!”? Who am I honest with, sharing my current fears, frustrations, or even successes? Is it okay to share a cute story about Harley when the news is dire?

It’s supposed to be an innocuous question. “How’re you?” was always answered with “Good, you?” or “Keeping well thanks!” – but not anymore. None of us are good. None of us are keeping well. We might be doing well under the circumstances, or as good as could be, considering. But actually good? Actually keeping well? Doubtful!

I’ve come to accept that there’s no such thing as wrong feelings. I’m allowed to feel however I feel from moment to moment. As my friend Jonelle described, it’s okay to not be okay right now. But sharing those feelings? It depends.

This pandemic has changed so many aspects of our daily lives. From work and family life, to grocery shopping and the fact I’m considering which masks would be ideal fashion accessories going forward, our lives will never be the same after all of this. It’s just bizarre that it might also change the flippant way we ask each other, “How’re you?”


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