You are walking down the sidewalk and notice a familiar face. You smile. They smile. The time honored greeting now begins: "Hey there ... How are you doing?"
And you respond in the traditional, habitual way by saying ... "Fine ... I'm fine."
Shallow. Incomplete. Flat. This Fine response.
What does Fine mean anyway? What kind of an answer is Fine? Why do we say we're Fine? Why do we automatically use that expression as a fallback response? To the casual acquaintance, why do we feel the compulsion to paint our lives as "pretty"... as though everything is always coming up roses. It is important, I guess, for us to show ourselves to these casual encounters at our best. We don't disclose the drama ... heaven forbid! Nor do we tend to disclose the fabulous. We prefer to be just "Fine."
Our route response may be derived by a degree of insincerity. We want others to see us as "solid" and "together." And when a casual acquaintance asks you that question, something inside of you Knows that they really don't care about the answer. If you aren't in that "good place" personally, it is difficult to own that. You KNOW that they are expecting a simple response and anything more complicated would be a shock. Or, maybe you don't truly want to share. Maybe as Colonel Jessup said when cornered to tell all in A Few Good Men: "Truth? You can't handle the truth!"
So, you realize that if you started to say something outside of the standard ritual, you would be met with a blank, shocked gaze. Easier to say "fine" and get on down the sidewalk.
What is Fine? My Yoga instructor captured it beautifully during class the other day.
F = "effed"-up ...
I = insecure ...
N = neurotic ...
E = emotional ...
Okay ... that I can relate to. That is who I just might be when I say "I'm fine." Some days one of those might apply ... sometimes all. But that definition is one I can get behind. That is a more honest definition.
People are too 3-dimensional to be Fine. Too complex to be Fine. Too hectic and busy and creative and energized and dynamic and multi-faceted to be just Fine. Life has too many challenges and opportunities to leave us fine. There is too much excitement and laughter and joy to remain fine. Chocolate cupcakes. Walks in the rain. Laughter of children. Good books and music. Kissing. Holding hands. Sunrises and Sunsets. Beaches and stars. Amidst all the beauty around us, I struggle against being just "fine." I don't want to be "Fine."
So when I walk down the sidewalk and you ask me how I am and I say "I'm Fine" ... well, you can be pretty sure there is more going on. Subtext and stuff. The old definition of Fine I use in that casual sidewalk encounter is an overgeneralized assessment of a response too complex to answer. There may be days when I'm fine. But, I'm gonna fight that. I'm more apt to choose to be "outstanding."
So ask away. I may be Fine ... some days. Or, I may surprise you.