That simple, seemingly innocuous, greeting makes me cringe on the inside. I want to be authentic and be real with people. Yet, when I am asked “How are you?” I am put in a very awkward social situation. I hurriedly go through scenarios in my mind to try and figure out how to genuinely answer the question. Does this person want to really know how I am? Some people asking the question genuinely want a real answer. Others are asking it rotely and going through the motions of an informal greeting.
If this person wants to really know how I am, how much information do I want to share with them? That is trickier. Some friends of mine really want to catch up with me and want to know how I am really doing. Others just want a brief synopsis of how it is going of late. If I surmise my friend wants details, how do I narrow down my harrowing week into a brief comment that doesn’t sound horrific? I want the greeting to end on a positive note and move the conversation along away from me and my issues. All of this swirls around in my head in a split second and then I smile, nod and say, “I’m fine, how are you?” The woman inside of me is screaming “Stop! Say something! It’s your chance to connect! Let them see you! Take off the mask!”
Then, to my dread, I hear these words, “You look great, you must be doing better.” I smile, and say “Thank you.” The woman inside screams again “SEE ME! Please SEE ME!” I keep the mask firmly in place simply because it is too complicated to be authentic.
All of us have different images of ourselves we project to others. We decide the image based on whom we are engaging and the role we play in their lives. You project a different image as an employee than you do as a parent. You project a different image as a significant other than you do as a son or daughter. The images become difficult to manage, but manage them we do! The secret to authenticity is to manage those images as close to the truth as possible, and as closely resembling each other as possible, so your boss knows the same person as your parents.
The nature of a chronic illness adds a level of invisibility and deception to your personal image. Invisibility because, for many, the illness cannot be seen. You don’t look sick and others have no idea how skilled you have become at wearing the mask of wellness. Deception because you wish to hide aspects of the illness and share certain information with only those you can trust.
I don’t know why I cringe so much when simple greetings are said to me. Yet, I cringe. In order to give an authentic answer, I have found it is best to look at the whole of myself and not just components or compartmentalization of self.
“How are you?”
“I am well.”
The whole of me is well.
That is what I am.
I am well.
Alias In Town is an anagram of the author’s name. In every town there are alias people living with chronic illness, chronic pain, addiction and depression. Alias In Town is one of those people. Learning to live well while ill is a necessary and difficult endeavor. She learned multiple coping and life strategies to be Well. “I am more than my body. I am body, mind and spirit. My body is simply the weakest unit of the triad. Though chronic illness affects the entire triad, I have made considerable effort to strengthen my mind and spirit to find the balance of ‘Well’. – book excerpt Her style of writing is to combine multi-media formats into stories. She utilizes short essays to tell her story in words. She creates original artwork to tell her story through the end of a brush. She includes personal journal and diary entries to remain open, honest and raw in her writing. One of the most anxiety releasing activities she utilizes is art. She explores art through several mediums and included them in the book “Well.” She does not claim to be a proficient artist but utilizing art is cathartic to her. She has an art website. . She has been married for 35 years with 6 children and 7 grandchildren and lives in central Ohio.