Friday, December 12, 2008

To tell the truth

image: amazon

I recently read Maya Angelou's Letter To My Daughter. The book is a series of lessons based on Angelou's life experiences which she has found useful. Although she has never had a daughter, the book is an offering to all the daughters of every race, ethnicity, shape, education, background, etc.

One particular chapter intrigued me called "To tell the truth." She opens with the three word question of "how are you?" Everyday, people ask this to one another. It has become just a simple conversation starter. Do people
really want to know how you are when they ask this question?

Angelou mentions the fact that people may say blatant lies about someone, such as "you look great" when they've lost dangerous amounts of weight or vice versa. As she says,"we all swallow the untruth in part to keep the peace and in part because we do not wish to deal with the truth."

She goes on to say how liberating it is to be honest, and that we should try to answer truthfully when people ask how we are. There will be people who do not want to hear what you have to say, however, Angelou says, "
But think of it this way, if people avoid you, you will have more time to meditate and do fine research for a cure for whatever truly afflicts you."

I think about those three words, "How are you?" Most the time, I simply answer FINE. For some the FINE acronym is "Fucked Up Neurotic Emotional." I guess it seems easier to answer this way (especially with my parents) instead of going into all the complicated, irrational, fearful thoughts I may have. There is still such a fear of worrying people, of feeling pity, of shame, of them thinking what a basketcase I am. Even the instances where I've been truthful (other than therapy), there isn't a feeling of people really caring. The truth can place people in awkward positions, and they don't know what to say or how to react; instead, they just go on talking about the weather.

How do you answer the question of "how are you?" Do you tell the truth or the untruth? What does meaning the truth mean to you?


Charlynn said...

Haha, I love Fucked Up Neurotic Emotional. That covers it on most days! :P

Tiptoe said...

Charlynn, LOL. I'm sure many of us can raise our hands to that! ;-)

Cammy said...

I am a chronic "Fine"-er also, but now every time I say it I'll think of your acronym, that cracked me up. ;)

Reagan said...

I usually give a one word answer like "fine" or "good" and then a quick sentence explaining why. Like, "Oh, I'm good. Just finished my last final!" (which I will be saying next week- yaaaaay!)

Sarah said...

Lately, I answer 'good' and really mean it, and when I say good, it kind of makes me remember how far I've come. In the past (esp during my bulimia) I wouldn't even look the cashier in the face at a store, so they wouldn't ask how I was haha. With everyone else I tried to avoid the subject of how I was. I'm done putting on a different face for everyone, it only hurts me in the end.

kb said...

I do think it depends on how well I know the person. At work, I can usually get by with an eye roll or an "Ugh", which seems to say "I'm busy and stressed" and that seems to communicate quite well how I am. With people that I do consider friends, I do tend to be open if I'm not having a great day. It doesn't mean that I delve into the details with them, but to me, one part of recovery is being truthful with friends and with myself.

- Kristina

Tiptoe said...

Thanks for sharing your comments.

Cammy, yes, I still think of the acronym even though I say FINE all the time.

Reagan, welcome to my blog! Yes, I'm sure you will be feeling "good" when finals are done.

Sarah, it is great that you are honest and genuine when you say you are "good." I think it does show how far you have come.

Kristina, I agree that it can depend on the relationship of that particular person how you say you're feeling. Close friends, hopefully, will understand more even in subtle gestures and words. It is wonderful you're adding this to a part of your recovery.