How Are You?


Hello, How are you?

I have to admit, I don’t ask enough people how they are anymore. When I do ask, I sometimes use it almost like punctuation or a knee jerk reaction as if it's something I have to do. I also have to admit, with shame, that at times I have felt that I am so busy I am scared I would get an answer so long that I have to invest some of my time into listening and putting my problems on hold to feed someone else’s into my stream. As I write this I feel like a cretin, but I have to be honest and I am sure there are others that have done and do the same.

The flip side is that when people ask me how I am, I just automatically say I am fine when I am not. I know we have all done that. The temptation to respond with, “I feel like I am failing, I just want to be sat on a beach with a book and I haven’t been on a bus in over a year because I am too scared…” is almost overwhelming.

How did a few minutes or even an hour or so of my time taken out to maybe listen to someone or make them feel some kind of worth become such a chore?

I never remember being as busy as I am now. Even a few years ago, I felt I still had time to take a holiday or even just take a day to watch movies, read a book, listen to music (not in a work capacity) and generally hibernate. There is always that ticking in the back of my head, that stopwatch that measures each task and when it should be done by. That never-ending to do list that at times looks like a bowl of scrambled egg and has no logic. I am in my 30s now and I am worried that I haven’t quite reached the level of success that I initially wanted to. I also work within the realms of what my passion is which at times can be debilitating. When you are so invested in something then any negatives that come along are more amplified because things mean more. All this has contributed to me not taking enough time to keep in touch or even check in with friends and even family sometimes.

I was speaking with someone recently who expressed that they felt no one really cared about them anymore. They worked in a demanding job and when people did contact them, it was to ask for stuff, they never really truly asked how they were. They said they felt so incredibly lonely as any down time was spent recharging and not interacting with anyone. That downtime then lost its appeal so they would just throw themselves back into work again to forget the feelings of loneliness.

Another person I spoke to said that because they kept cancelling on friends due to anxiety and panic attacks that eventually those friends started to leave them out of plans. They said it was heartbreaking because they would see photos on social media of all the activities the others were doing and they were not included. But, they felt too embarrassed to explain what the reasons were. The friends eventually thought that they just didn’t want to hang out anymore.

I can’t remember the last time I actually registered that question properly, “how are you?”. I have to admit when I reflect on past conversations, it never stands out anymore. It should be one of the most memorable aspects to our interaction with one another. We need to truly know how people are.

I recently went for breakfast with someone I now consider a friend. They contacted me to explain about a situation at work and because of my experiences and work with The Respite Room they felt they could speak to me. When I look back on that, I feel to incredible honoured because that person chose me to talk to. The trust they invested is nothing short of humbling and I think we should all think of each other in that way.

Imagine the butterfly effect of really caring about the answer to that question or indeed giving an honest answer. The impact on lives, the prevention of things getting worse, the stigmas it would help dissolve.

This week, when you speak to anyone, please try and be mindful about the question, “how are you”. Why not give an honest answer? You never know, it might be the start of a new friendship, the reconnection with someone or indeed the impact on someone’s life that will make a remarkable difference.

I will start, how are you?

[Halina Rifai]

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Halina Rifai