Again, with the “How are you?”

Quite some time ago I had written a post entitled “How are you?” and now I find myself in that position once again. A position when, as an individual living in our world’s art of dysfunctional etiquette, I am quick to respond with the typical “I am fine,” or “I am okay,” or in this case “I will be fine.”

Strange isn’t it? How we are trained to say the exact opposite of what we are feeling in spite of being trained that it is only polite to inquire about how someone is coping? As a society, we are led to believe that we should ask without listening. That it is okay to pretend to care while jumping to the next task as we cross this one off of our daily “humanitarian” list. How is it that we have succumbed to being more “genuine” in the fake world of Facebook rather than being genuine in the real world of face-to-face interactions?

I am no different. It is something that I had learned as a child. You know, to “fake it until you make it.” I think most of us have, yet it often goes unnoticed as we are so accustomed to this fakeness that we fail to recognize our shortcomings. Worse yet, is that we have become so entrenched in the “Likes” and smiling emoticons that we fail to change even when we do recognize a problem. I mean, who would not want to wake up to numerous “Likes” and smiling faces? Or better yet, the laughing-so-hard-that-I-am-crying face? Who would not want to believe they have brightened someone’s day by making them smile or laugh. I would, but the problem is they are not real. I know this because I do the same. We all do.

You may be curious as to how or why these feelings have started such an unfocused journey of trickling through this squishy gray matter that I have not only grown quite attached to, but also like to think of as some sort of resemblance of my mind. Well, I cannot even begin to count the number of times I, like many, have responded to someone’s Facebook post with that all too sought after smile or laughing-so-hard-that-I-am-crying face while I was actually crying. Or at least feeling as though I wanted to.

Most recently was when my brother passed. We had a number of mutual friends so of course, most were quick to respond how sorry they were for my loss and that they were sending hugs and positive energy my way (which I did and do greatly appreciate), but here is where my turmoil lies.

I have not had the slightest fragment of what could be considered a healthy relationship with my brother. In fact, it had been years since we last spoke. I would even go as far as to say that we have spent a far greater number of years apart and entirely disconnected than we ever did together. Basically, we had what I would have described as the epitome of tumultuous relationships. When we originally lived together he was my best friend. He was my protector. He was pretty much the only person I cared about being around and I think I was the same for him. During those first few years though, we went through a lot together. Then our experiences left us with the same indescribable and undeniable pain, but no longer together. Unfortunately, there was a moment when that pain left a crack in our very being. That crack eventually turned into a crevasse. And that crevasse turned into a canyon. And that canyon turned into an ocean, which felt like an entire world. And that was simply too much for either of us to bear. It was too much for our relationship to bear.

We tried. Over and over, again and again. We spent years apart. We reunited. We faltered. We failed. That canyon grew wider. And that ocean grew deeper as we grew more apart than ever. Our relationship had become this never-ending cycle of repeated failures. So when people began the ever-so-dreaded, yet equally appreciated “I am so sorry for your loss” routine, it left me at a loss. An unexplainable loss. I wanted to respond by saying, “No, I am sorry for your loss,” because while I did not have any sort of meaningful relationship with my brother, I felt the need to acknowledge that they had. That they knew an entirely different person than I had known. I was left battling my feelings of wanting to scream about how unbelievably hurt he had left me against each and every person’s kind words, which of course got me thinking.

I have many things that remain unsaid to him. I have many unexpressed feelings that will never be shared with him. He will never know the lasting damage he left upon my scarred soul.

However…and this is the biggest “however” that I will probably ever write…I will never know him. I mean truly know him. I will never hear his thoughts and feelings. I will never know the true damage people left upon his soul. I will never have the chance to have that brother I once had so long ago. Instead, I am left with this emptiness where he should have been.

So, in the end, everyone was right…it was my loss and I am also sorry for that.

Which leads me back to how this all transpired. Once again; actually, let’s be real, over and over again I find myself clicking on emoticons of fake response upon fake response. Why? Because it only feels natural. Funny how being real feels strange. In fact, being real feels fake.

At the same time, I am recognizing the need for it. Not only for humanity, but also for myself. So next time I am asked (and hopefully every time going forward), when someone asks, “How are you?” I will be responding honestly. Exactly how everyone should be able to.

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