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?