“How are you?” my friend asks through the phone, 1,800 miles away. “I’m good!” I respond. “Busy, but good.”
It’s my go-to answer when people ask how I am. That’s true for most of us, isn’t it? Some version of “Fine,” or “Good,” or “Great.” It’s not that it’s not true — I am good. Pretty good, anyway. Most of the time, in a vague, overarching sense. I mean, it’s not like I’m in the midst of a tragedy or contemplating jumping off a cliff or something. I’m happy. I count my blessings and practice gratitude and all of that good stuff.
But “good” is such a generic word, isn’t it? What does that even mean? Does it mean just OK? Does it mean fabulous? Does it simply mean “not bad”? It’s pretty much a non-answer — a socially acceptable way of avoiding the question so you can move on to other topics.
But what if we really answered the “How are you?” question with raw honesty? When I say, “I’m good,” there are a thousand things I might actually be feeling inside. Things like:
I’m so tired I’m seriously considering the logistics of a coffee IV drip.
If I hear one more child whine about the food they’re about to eat, I think I might start bleeding out my ears.
I’m terrified every day that I’m screwing up my kids.
I feel like I’m constantly trying to juggle five things at once. And the things are glass, and no one taught me how to juggle.
I’m so deeply in love with my children I sometimes question whether or not it’s entirely healthy.
I think my brain might explode one of these days. Like, literally, physically explode.
I’m worried. Not just right now, but all the time, about everything. Kids, work, money, America, the world, my cat who won’t stop peeing places he shouldn’t. Everything.
I cry in the shower sometimes.
I’m in a perpetual state of awe watching my children grow and learn.
I slept like crap and feel like I’m being crushed under the weight of motherhood.
I had a full night’s sleep last night, and now I feel like I could fly.
I love my children more than life itself, but I also want to run away from them.
I’m trying desperately to figure out how to be a wife, mother, sister, daughter, employee, artist, citizen, and individual all at the same time.
I don’t really remember who I used to be, but sometimes I miss myself.
I want to halt the hands of time because the thought of my children growing up guts me.
At any given time, even when I am happy and thankful and contented and “good,” there’s a current filled with the complicated feelings of motherhood that runs underneath it all. Constant worry, consuming exhaustion, crazy stupid love, conflicting wants and needs — it’s all there, churning and frothing below the surface. Sometimes it bubbles up, usually in the shower. Occasionally, it erupts like a geyser, spraying all over my husband after the kids are snug in their beds. But I always feel it there, this river of emotion flowing through my heart.
Should we share these feelings with others? I’d argue that we should share them at least with our close friends, especially other moms. We’ve all felt the pull of that current. We’ve all wondered if we’re the only ones who feel so chaotic on the inside. If we don’t tell each other the truth, we end up feeling alone in the same space.
On the other hand, do people really want to hear the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? I don’t know. I just know that “I’m good” doesn’t really cover it, and that honesty is almost always the best path. So when a friend calls and asks how I am, maybe I can just say, “I’m a mom” and leave it at that. For those of us who are in this boat, that truly says it all.