I’m convinced that the most difficult question one can be asked is, “How are you?”
“Who me? How am I?” I freeze. I mind-stumble over words and can’t speak. I ponder—perplexed and suspicious of an ulterior motive. Why? I have no idea. I mentally sub-divide this one question into three of my own: Do I lie? Do I care? Do I even know? Moment of truth: the one with an ulterior motive is me — my aim is to please the asker. Should I be fine? Have a problem? Or maybe they’d be relieved with a simple “okay.” They do, after all, need to move on with life.
The situation escalates in importance. I search for truth like a bloodhound who knows he buried a raw-hide bone somewhere. Sounds crazy, I know, but this is my process. I’m caught in a self-made trap of how I wish to be perceived (generous, earnest, grateful, serene). I want to at least portray a person who’s really trying. Finally, I reach out in sympathy to the caring person who asked. I speak. “How are you?” I ask.