• Jody Kussin

#44 Family Matters "How ya doin?"

In These Times by Dr. Jody Kussin, April 27, 2020

We need to come up with some new responses to the inevitable ‘how’s it goin?’ and ‘how are ya?’ and ‘how was your day?’ Our auto reply list is too small: “I’m fine thanks, how are you?” “All’s good.” “We’re fine.” “Okay.”

Given the new amount of ‘freer’ time we have, I believe we should take a beat, when asked after, and broaden our answers. We can have a continuum:

“Not too bad for a Monday – wait, is it Monday? Ok, then, not too bad for a Wednesday.”

“Okay-ish. Rough morning and afternoon by thankfully it’s 5:00 now so I can have a cocktail….wait – it’s NOT 5:00 yet…..then I revise my response to it will be okay when we make it to 5pm.”

“Honestly, I am so not okay. On a 1-10 scale with 10 being the highest I am at a 29. I don’t know what to do. Do you have any suggestions and if not, can we just chat for a bit or go for a walk on the phone together?”

One of my lovely young teen patients told me we should all start saying “MEH” much more often. It has such a nice ring to it, and is broad and vague, but also it does not suggest that we are all doing fine.

Which is actually perfect because there is no WAY we are all okay. It’s just impossible.

When we say ‘we are in this together’ it’s interesting to note that ‘we’ are having bad dreams. We are not sleeping well and when we do, we have vivid, sad, scary dreams. I don’t recall hearing about national dream states prior to this, not even during the 911 days. Perhaps I just forgot, which is clearly something I do very well these days. But also, I think during those days, we were all trying to ‘do something.’ We stood in line and gave blood. We wrote letters. We reached out and visited our friends and neighbors. We had lots of ways to interact with one another, so maybe that kept the night willies away.

Today we have many opportunities for volunteering, but many are either done remotely or at risk to ourselves, our health, or our family and roommates’ health. It’s not quite as easy. Although there are some clever do gooders – the children painting rocks with sunshiny sayings and then just putting them here and there and all around the neighborhood. That’s pretty cute. The teddy bear and dolly scavenger hunts in many areas. Adorable. More significantly, all those stocking food banks and delivering food and serving food and raising money to feed people. Amazing. All those reducing rent or reaching out to tenants to see what would be helpful. Kudos. Of course, our first responders, teachers, parents, maintenance workers. Thank you.

And yet, we also are having many sleepless nights. We toss, we turn. We get up and bake (again) and then pace around the house (again) and then watch some episode of The Office we’ve seen 87 times. There is a wonderful children’s book “There is a Nightmare in My Closet” by Mercer Mayer. After bravely opening the closet door and coming face to face with the nightmare, he begins crying. The child is worried the nightmare will wake up the parents, so the nightmare is invited into bed and tucked in. The story ends: “I suppose there may be another nightmare in my closet, but my bed is just not big enough for three.”

In these times, we may have to lean into our fears and invite them into our beds.As long as we set a boundary and not invite in more than one a night, we may be okay.And if not ok, then perhaps, MEH.

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