Tuesday, January 16, 2024

How Am I Doing? - Michael


How are you doing? 

Such a simple question, but so very difficult to answer. How am I doing?

Some days, I am doing OK. My mind is dealing with life as it now is. My heart has a manageable level of pain. I am able to put one foot in front of the other and make a dent in the days responsibilities and tasks.

Some days, I am doing less than OK. My mind is reeling with life as it now is. My heart aches and hurts. Putting one foot in front of the other is a feat that defies every known law of physics and making a dent in the day's tasks and responsibilities is more akin to slogging my way up Mt Everest.

Some days, though, are worse...

I have never been one that cries. Oh sure, let Lassie save Timmy from the rabid grizzly bear, and I will find my eyes leaking a bit.  Let the underdog hero save a bus load of orphans and puppies from falling into a raging river, and I may find a tear streaming down my cheek, but we are talking orphans and puppies...

These days, I find myself in an odd place when I am doing less than OK. There are times I will stare into the middle-distance and want to scream like a banshee or whimper like a lost puppy dog. If I could do both at the same time, I would, but I can't so I end up doing neither. Instead, I stare into the middle-distance as a waterfall of pain and hurt pummels my soul.

How am I doing? Some days, I just do not know. I can't get a bearing on me. Lost in thoughts of the could-haves and if-onlies; I find myself wishing for I do not know what... Just something different from where I am, from the road I am on, from the heartache I feel, from the dizzying confusion of reality as it has become.

How am I doing? Some moments, I am blissfully engaged in doing and/or thinking on something else. These are mere moments because fairly quickly a red SUV will drive by or I will catch a glimpse of something that reminds me of the son I can no longer hold, and suddenly, I am wrestling again with this monster that has taken his place and has become a most unwelcome companion. I never wanted, never asked for this thing to be in my life, and yet there it is lurking, stealing, haunting, mocking in the shadows ready to snatch me away from moments of peace and thrust me again into the tumult and confusion.

How am I doing? Some days it is all of the above with a dark kaleidoscope of variations - just for fun.

How am I doing? I honestly am bewildered by the question. It seems so full of expectations on the part of the one presenting the query. I remember reading an anecdote some years ago. A man from Africa came to an American university to study. Walking across the campus, he passed a man who said, "How's it going?" Not realizing that this was a mere greeting on the part of the other, this newcomer to American life told the man all about his recent experiences because to not answer such a kind question concerning his welfare would be rude and impolite, but the other man was busy and just wanted to say something to acknowledge the African man's existence. The expectation was "fine;" "I am doing fine; how are you..?" That is all. Is this what people are asking? How are you doing? Fine, I am doing fine; how are you? Just a quick acknowledgement of my/our existence and no more.

I am concerned that there may be other expectations regarding this question. My fear is this inquiry is merely to find out if I am ready to let this grieving thing go and get on with life. Forty days was all they did in the Bible, right? That should be good enough for you, as well - this is the suspected motive. The Bible speaks of mourning for forty days, but grieving is different. (Future post coming from DeEtta.)

What I really want to know is this; is there earnestness in the question?

How are you doing? Are there burdens I can carry for you? May I quietly sit with you and let you ramble awhile about whatever it is you are wrestling with today? Do you need a shoulder to cry on? I am reminded of the scene from Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King. Frodo and Sam are trudging their way up Mt Doom. Sam, ever wanting to  help his friend, realizes he cannot take the burden of the ring from Frodo - it was not his to bear, but Sam could carry Frodo. This is the essence of bearing someone's grief. 

How am I doing? It depends. This is a lawyer's answer, but there is truth in it. Most days, it depends on when you ask during the day. Some days, it does not matter; it is just a bad day. Most days, though, the answer is "decent," but that depends on other things...