How are you? It seems like such a simple, benign question. Yet it almost always catches me off-guard. Is anyone else as baffled by "How are you?" as I am? I like the the memorized, robotic answer you practice when learning a new language. Memorize the question. Memorize the answer. Como estas? Muy bien, y usted? How great is that. When speaking Spanish, I am always very good. End of story.
But in English, I get a little confused. Do they mean how am I now, in this exact present moment? How am i generally? How am I spiritually, financially, psychologically? How am I compared to how they think I am? How am I compared to how I used to be? Is the question rhetorical? Metaphorical? Casual? Am I supposed to be honest? How now brown cow?
I get caught up in my own mind games just by being asked "How are you?". Sometimes it seems an invitation to list a bunch of complaints, or to list a series of accomplishments, or to list how many errands I have done so far today. I'm perplexed. And since it happens quite often, it seems time to face the demons.
To bring a complete end to this daily dilemma, I have devised a study. We will call it the "How Are You Study". It is longitudinal. Which means it will last a long time. Anyone can participate and you can opt out at any time. Here's how it goes:
For the first ten years of the study, starting now, every time you are asked "How are you?" these are the answers you can choose from...
1. Better than I've ever been.
3. Super deluxe.
Notice the responses you get from other people. Write them down.
So that part lasts until July 21st, 2023. The middle part lasts until 2033, it includes neutral answers. Here are the replies for the years 2023 to 2033:
1. Beep beep.
2. Woof woof.
3. Oink oink.
Keep a journal of how the neutral responses make you feel when you use them.
For the last part of the study from years 2033 to 2043, we will experiment with "negative" answers. Here are the choices:
But then go on and on, elaborating on why you feel that way and who is to blame for your feelings. Write down how that makes you feel. Remember: you can opt out at any time.
Okay, then in 2043, we will all get together on July 22nd in a location of my choosing, probably the Canary Islands, and we will discuss our findings. Briefly. Mostly we will just enjoy each other's company in complete silence, watch the ocean, meditate, and enjoy delicious food.
To officially enter the study, raise your left hand over your heart, feel its beat, breathe deeply, and say "I promise for the next ten years, when someone asks me how I am I will say either "Better than I've ever been. Phenomenal. Or super deluxe. I realize that all my feelings are valid and I will give space to them even when I am answering the question with the requisite answers. For purposes of the study, I will stick to the outlined replies and see what happens." Now walk up to a mirror and kiss yourself on the lips. How are you?