What is in the middle of “fine” and the whole sordid story?
I confess that sometimes I verbally vomit the entire story on unsuspecting people who have innocently asked a socially acceptable question. At some point along the way, I’ve lost the social acceptable response … or have I?
Why do people ask how you are when they don’t really want to know all of it?
I’m sure I’ve asked the question when I didn’t really want to know the whole story. I know I have responded automatically, as if by rote, when someone asks me how I’m doing. It’s the polite thing to do, after all, to inquire. Yet, is it really polite to ask the question if we don’t really want to know?
When did politeness take the place of real concern?
I confess to having a weird relationship with social graces. On the one had, I have internalized the social cues and requirements of my Midwestern upbringing. I’ve read books by Emily Post and found myself nodding at all the small things that I learned from my grandmothers and great-grandmother. I still cringe at things that are completely acceptable here in South Florida. I’ve had to adjust my idea of acceptable social touching since moving to the South where everyone is embraced and kissed on the cheek automatically. It’s taken me decades to break out of the polite acceptance of violations of courtesy or my expectations in public.
Being diagnosed with a terminal illness and carrying all of the consequences to my mental health along with the cognitive damage from chemo has finally burned away many of my closely held societal expectations of my behavior and the behavior of the medical professionals I see nearly every day. I’d always been inclined to fill out surveys and it was not abnormal for me to complain about bad service. Cancer and all that comes with cancer finally burned all the rest of any hesitation away.
So, despite the fact that I am sure it is often socially unacceptable, I reserve the right to burden anyone who asks me how I’m doing with the whole story. You see, I have a story. I have a deliciously detailed story with many anecdotal conclusions. I’ve figured a lot out over the last nearly three years of having a terminal illness. I’ve come in contact with lots of different people and I’ve accumulated knowledge like a squirrel preparing for winter.