Usually, when people ask how I'm doing, the real answer is I'm doing shitty, but I can't say I'm doing shitty because I don't have a good reason to be doing shitty. So if I say, "I'm doing shitty," then they say, "Why? What's wrong?" And I have to be like, "I don't know, all of it?" So instead, when people ask how I'm doing, I usually say, "I am doing so great. "Free Churro". Bojack Horseman. Writ. Raphael Bob-Waksberg. Tornante Television, 2018. Netflix.
So, I’m obsessed with Bojack Horseman. This is going to be a short post because I worked last night and I haven’t slept yet and I’m tired and I should sleep.
Anyway, the quote I chose is from an episode in the fifth season. I’m not going spoil it in case someone was really jonesing to see it and hasn’t seen it yet. But I will say, he’s giving a eulogy.
I’m still obsessed with the show but lately I haven’t been watching it that much. A few months ago, I watched it every day, all the time. When I was awake, I was watching it. When I was in the car, I was listening to it. When I discovered the show three years ago only the first, second and third season had come out. I binged the whole thing in a single sitting. Then, I waited anxiously for the fourth season, then the fifth and now finally, the last half of the sixth and final season.
When I discovered it, I was in a very dark place. Cue cliche. But it was true. Three years ago was just another stopping off place for the long journey that has culminated in certain events in 2019 that led to drastic changes in my life that have improved it tremendously for the better. I’ve rewatched the show probably 100+ times since 2016, given that I basically rewatched it every day. As soon as it would end, I’d replay it. All the episodes currently add up to about a 24 hour period. So, a little math means that every two or so days, I was rewatching it. It got to the point where I was sleeping with it on. I’ve seen it and listened to it so many times I don’t even need to see the screen to know exactly what’s going on. The show helped me through a lot.
I digress, like normal. Anyway, when I saw Free Churro for the first time, that quote resonated with me. It has stuck with me ever since. That quote was the first time I really felt like I had words to explain a feeling I’ve felt for a long time. I just never really knew how to put it into words.
Someone who used to be a good friend, I still consider him a good friend, messaged me and said, hey, are you okay, you went social media dark, haven’t heard from you in a while. And I thought I should just tell him what was going on but then I started overthinking it and telling myself, oh my god no, you should not do that. That’s unnecessary, don’t be a burden. So, I said I was doing fine.
I’m fine. Yes, I’m fine. Hi, I’m doing fine, you? This should be my catchphrase. I’ve been using it for years. I even use it for my mother, the one person in the whole wide world I probably trust more than anyone else besides myself. I can’t bring myself to tell anyone how I’m truly feeling.
I like to think it’s not because I don’t trust them or because I’ve been burned so many times. But I have. I can’t count how many times someone asked me how I was and I told them the truth and then they acted annoyed like, I wasn’t asking for that response, just say you’re fine. Or how many times I shared something intimately personal and made myself vulnerable to someone only to be met with silence or worse, invalidation or judgement.
However, I think, most people aren’t prepared for that. They aren’t prepared for someone to reply, I’ve been feeling really depressed lately and I’m not eating and I can barely drag myself out of bed, when they ask, “hey, how are you?” Also, I think the question is one of those polite platitudes that infuriate me so much about society in general. I’m terrible at small talk. I’m also very literal. If I get asked how I’m doing, I immediately want to be truthful. It’s taken me years to train myself to resist that urge.
Here’s an interesting cultural example. I’m half Chinese. In Mandarin a standard greeting is, Ni chi le ma? Which literally means, have you eaten yet? It doesn’t mean, hey if you haven’t eaten, I’ll buy you lunch. It’s not an invitation to go out to eat either. It’s sort of like say, how are you? If you’ve eaten, you’re good. If you haven’t, maybe you’ve had a hectic day or worse, maybe you’re homeless and can’t get food, in which case, you’re probably not doing so well. The expected reply is, Chi le, which means, I have, as in, I have eaten. But again, while the question literally means, have you eaten and the reply literally means, I have eaten, the point is just a greeting. Generally, they’re not going to reply, meiyou, which means, I haven’t eaten because the polite thing to do is to offer a meal and they don’t want to bother their friends.
Which brings me back to English. How are you? I’m doing great, you? Then, the conversation carries on. If a person replies, not so great, the generally polite thing to do is to ask why. But generally people don’t say, not so great, because they don’t want to bother their friends. It should be stressed that the Mandarin example I gave is generally used between people who already know each other. You wouldn’t necessarily use it with a stranger. Greeting someone you’ve never met is more formal. Sort of like how in a lot of formal greetings and first time meetings the focus is usually on how nice it is to meet that person rather than how they’re doing, platitude or not.
Regardless (I promise I won’t use generally again), I don’t say I’m not doing great with people I don’t know well. But even people I do know well like some close friends and even family, I say I’m fine, I’m doing great. I’ve been doing it for so long it’s second nature. My mom has gotten into the habit of saying, how are you? And don’t say fine. But despite that, I still say it and then exuberantly reassure her that I really am doing fine, even when I’m not. Sometimes, I’ve told her after the fact, months later, I was in fact not doing fine that time. Most of the time, when I share those things, I’m met with silence.
It hurts, especially from my own mother. But, I don’t hold it against her. I’ve gotten better at just keeping things to myself. I realize that, sometimes, it’s too much to share things like that. It’s too much to say, even to your own mother, I’m not doing well, I’m self medicating with alcohol, it’s all I can do to get out of bed to go to work, I can’t remember when I last ate or showered. Or, I’m not doing well, I’ve been self mutilating and every day these intrusive thoughts tell me I should kill myself. Or, I’m not doing well, insert bad thing you might be struggling with. Sometimes, it’s just easier to say, I am doing, so great.