An acquaintance asks us how we are and the automatic answer is, “I’m fine.” It’s the polite and socially acceptable response. I’m fine, you’re fine, we’re all just fine! People don’t even really hear it because that’s what they expect. Sometimes it’s true, but often the truth is much more complicated than the innocent reply.
Saying anything other than, “I’m fine,” can throw people totally off balance. How do they reply? Are they supposed to ask more questions? Does this mean you want to tell them your problems? Some people will react this way. They’re interested or concerned and want to know.
Others will either pretend not to hear you, or just say I’m sorry and look frantically for the nearest exit. It may not be a very supportive response, but life is difficult enough for some people without taking on other’s problems.
So, when you’re not fine how do you communicate that? You blog about it!
I’m not fine! Stop reading here if you don’t care why.
First, I’m having some health problems. It’s nothing serious – just some back pain, a pinched nerve and headaches – mostly due to the weather and my aging body. It’s high pollen season around here and sometimes I think I’m Superwoman and forget basic body mechanics. I got a steroid shot in my spine the other day and that helped somewhat. It’s tedious that all the health things happen at once.
Second, my girl Rosie hasn’t been feeling well, so we went to the doggie doctor and discovered she has bladder stones. It cost $275 to discover this and will cost another $1,000+ for the surgery to correct it. Since she’s 14 and has other health problems, this has been a very difficult decision. I love her dearly and don’t want to lose her. The doctors assure me that after the surgery she will be much better, so she will have the surgery. But I really didn’t need this financial hit right now.
Third, I have a great job and work for 2 wonderful guys. Most people would fight to be in this position. But I’m not happy. We sold 1/3 of our portfolio last spring and let 1/3 of our corporate staff go. The problem is, we kept all the higher salaried people (because we wanted to keep all the talent to continue our future expansion) and we released all the people who did all the tasks the people with higher salaries don’t want to do anymore. In other words, we now have too many chiefs and no Indians.
Every Thursday I relieve the receptionist for her breaks and lunch. I worked my ass off for years in low paying jobs and studying for my master’s degrees. I answered all the phones I ever want to answer. I don’t want to do it anymore. I don’t think it’s beneath me – I just don’t want to do it. Plus, the woman in charge of the front desk doesn’t like me. She’s been here 6 months longer than me and has never liked me or treated me with anything other than disdain. Since this is the way she treats most people in the office, I’ve just let it roll off me. But now for 1 ½ hours per week I have to work for her. I HATE this!
To top it all off, last month I was given one of the monthly service awards. Normally when they announce the awards they give a glowing report of why you’ve been nominated and received it. All they did was say my name. I thought it was odd, but was pleased to be recognized. Then the e-mail went out to the entire company about the awards.
For perspective, I’m the assistant to the president and the chairman of the board. I arrange, prepare materials for and take minutes for all board meetings. I’m in charge of our annual convention including finding the location, negotiating with the hotel, arranging the travel and all the banquets and preparing all the presentations. I handle all the big special projects including office moves. I am privy to all the confidential matters in the company. I have a varied and somewhat important job.
The e-mail said I had been recognized, but the only specific thing mentioned was for keeping the break room clean.
I was so pissed, I sent an e-mail back to the VP of HR and the president and told them that after 7 ½ years of service, being recognized for keeping the break room clean was both humiliating and discouraging. I tore up the certificate.
They both sent back responses assuring me there were many other reasons for the recognition and that perhaps the e-mail had been poorly worded, but the damage was done. That night I updated my resume.
I know I can stay here until I retire in 6 or 7 years. They’ll keep me on and continue giving me raises and bonuses. It’s an easy job because I have a routine and know all the shortcuts. I’m good at what I do. Until about 3 months ago, I was content to stay here until I retired. Now I’m unhappy and unsure.
But when people ask me how I am, I smile and say, “I’m fine.”