How are you?

There is a chemical called sodium aluminate that is delivered to the wastewater treatment plants that I operate. The delivery company is based out of Columbus. I have had the same driver for a few months now and of course he’s been subject to my question-asking that may sometimes seem more like a mild interrogation. Hey, what can I say, I enjoy asking people questions. That’s how I learn new things and most people like talking about themselves.

I found out on the drivers latest delivery that he served two, year long tours in Iraq between 2004 and 2012. He now has to deal with P.T.S.D because of those two tours in Iraq. The P.T.S.D causes him to have trouble in large crowds and also causes him to be very suspicious of objects as he’s driving; things we would barely notice if we even would notice at all. Objects like potholes, guardrails and telephone poles. In Iraq, these were very good places, from my understanding, for the enemy to plant explosives.

This conversation made me think, what do we really know about the people we with whom we regularly come in contact?

I dread the typical exchange of, “Hi.  How are you?

“Good.  How are you?”

“Good.”

This drives me absolutely crazy.  

This just doesn’t seem genuine to me. The person asking, “How are you?” seldom, – if ever – really wants to know how you really are. And the response probably, rarely is genuine.  We answer, “Good.” whether we are discouraged, depressed, sad or actually ‘good’. Then, if time permits and we actually take the time stop and talk, meaningless small talk ensues.  The weather.  Current news.  Sports.

This conversation with the delivery driver made me contemplate what other people are could be going through as they pass through life and possibly by me during the day and they, like most of us, put on the smile and pretend everything is “Good.”

Is the lady I said, “Hi” to in passing dealing with a controlling or possibly even abusive spouse who refuses to lend a hand around the house or with the three kids he helped produce?

Could the man ahead of me in the hardware store be spending most of his evenings with his ailing mother and helping her out as he misses a lot of time with his wife and kids at home?

Is the lady running the register at the convenient store wondering how in the world she’s going to take off work because her child has the flu and still have enough money to pay all the bills?

Are the other parents I’m talking to at the sporting or school event trying to figure out what to do with their oldest son who’s into drugs and flunking out of college as they blame themselves and try to figure out where they went wrong?

So many other countless numbers of situations people are trying to deal with like, a death of a loved one, job loss, paying for car repairs on a tight budget, paying for countless medications as they’re living off a social security check, a cheating spouse, depression, addiction, guilt, insecurities or anxiousness and yet they put on that fake smile and pretend they’re okay as they are out and about in society.

It’s actually very sad that we have to go about our life, in a lot of ways, alone and unwilling or unable to share how we’re really feeling.

I understand why we can’t share most of the time. We’re busy. We fear looking weak, soft, or possibly unstable. We risk making ourselves vulnerable. If we do share, there are always those people who will pretend to care but then turn around and turn our pain into the latest gossip.

If we could just share our situations and issues openly with those who are close to us (I understand we can’t spill our guts to complete strangers) it would make our lives so much better. It would help ease our burden because it is helpful just knowing that someone is listening. It’s a bonus if they may have even been through it themselves and can now share how they survived or even overcame this time period in their life.

So hopefully if you are the person carrying the burden you can find that someone to listen you. If you have a set of ears maybe you can take time to truly listen to someone and give them that opportunity to say, “You know what? I’m not good and things aren’t alright.”

And a little advisory: If you don’t want to talk, be asked lots of questions or divulge anything, steer clear of me!  Because once I start asking questions even the strong don’t survive. I’m a master interrogator. I don’t do it to be nosy.  I ask because I want to get to know you and I care.  

 

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