It’s a rainy Sunday, overcast and wet outside. I ventured out early to capture the sunrise on the East River, instead I was welcomed with grey clouds and mist. Beautiful in its subtly, but not as majestic as even a partially cloudy day. A day like today can be difficult for those going through hardships, the bereaved, the infirmed, caregivers, those suffering from mental illness, parents with young children, parents with older children, the lonely, and anyone else who is dealing with their own life struggles. One of the worst questions, yet most often asked is, “How are you?” How do we answer that in a pandemic?
When we ask, “How are you?” we see the slight hesitation before the respondent says, “Fine.” The habitual question and answer are from pre-pandemic times. It’s automatic, but not current. I make mistakes from time to time and ask how someone is doing. I then double back, and qualify it by inquiring, “How are you given the pandemic?” At least then I’m acknowledging some hardship in our present reality. Nonetheless, the question remains flawed. Perhaps we can find other ways to connect.
We can ask “What’s new?” I’m joking. What’s really new when we’re still socially distanced? I’m more inclined to ask, “What are you reading?” “What are you watching?” “What are you enjoying these days?” “Do you cook or order in?” “Anything you can recommend?” I ask all of these to assess how my friends, colleagues, and family are doing.
I remember a neighbor who used to ask how I was. I’d always say, “fine.” However, her ask was more of an invitation to ask her how she was. When she answered she was long-winded. It surpassed the parameters of polite neighbor banter, and leapt into intrusive and annoying. Needless to say, I smile politely when I see her now, but I pass by quickly with no curiosity of her…