It hit me today that “How are you?” is an important question. When someone asks, do they really want to know? And when I answer, am I being genuine with them?
I’ve been studying my relationships to identify the people in my life who ask a real question and get a real answer. I don’t expect everyone to have that level of intimacy with me, as I’m not capable of having that level of intimacy with everyone. I see value in acquaintances, in relationships that involve mutual cheerleading, and in relationships from childhood that remind us of the kids we once were. Those are all good relationships. But I want some relationships that demand truth. I want some relationships that regularly ask the question “How are you?” and always insist on a real answer.
For a long time, I thought I wanted only one person in that role, but I’ve learned that I need more than one because sometimes people exit your life unexpectedly. Sometimes they want to go. Sometimes you show them the door. Either way, the end result is the same: a once trusted person is gone and what remains is a hole of doubt and uncertainty. Who will care about me now? Who will trust me to love them? When something exceedingly good or bad happens, who will I call? Who will call me? Will I have confidence in my ability to identify the permanent connections from the temporary ones? It’s hard not knowing how to answer those questions.
I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time and energy in the last six months trying to answer those questions for myself. Today, I realized that I’ve been limiting myself in trying to come up with a single answer. For me, there is no one answer. There are answers. There are the people who call and text and email to ask how I am and to tell me they’ve been thinking about me. Some want to make dinner plans. Some want to make workout plans. Some want to make vacation plans. Some just want to talk. There are also people I reach out to because I know they’ll understand why something is incredible or awful. I’ve been overwhelmed by these people this week.
I crave real connections. I am desperate to understand and be understood. And I’m so grateful when someone in my life – whether they are a new friend, an old friend or a downright ancient friend – reaches out and asks me, “How are you?” and gives me the freedom to say, “I’m a mixed bag right now.” Because the truth is, I am a mixed bag. Thank you for asking. Tell me, how are you?