I just ran into a friend outside a store, earlier today. She asked me, "How are you? What's new?"
This is a standard greeting. I think the typical response is supposed to be, "I'm doing well. Not much is new. What about you?"
You have probably gathered by now that I rarely offer a standard reply. But why is that?
I was asked this once when I was living in the Findhorn Community. The person asking was physically on her bicycle moving in the opposite direction. I was feeling especially sad/lonely/isolated/homesick. I asked, "Do you really want to know?" because I didn't feel like lying, if I didn't have to. She said, "Yes, I do." She hopped off her bike, so I shared. It was probably a 30-45 minute chat. But I *needed* it. I didn't know how much, until I heard myself talking and sharing. I was thankful she asked and was honestly interested.
I try to assess when "fine" is the desired response (in case someone doesn't have time for me to share deeply), but I also like to take the time to respond sincerely and intimately. How else am I going to connect? To reduce isolation? To know what's honestly going on with myself AND them?
So my friend today asked me what's new and rather than hurry off to my next thing (which was nothing, honestly), I shared intimately. This is not someone I see regularly, but even though I tend to feel self-conscious about sharing after the fact ("Did I share too much? Was that appropriate? Does she even care? Was she offended?"), I more often than not feel some relief about sharing more personally. It's not that she needs to care or be affected in a deep way, either. It's just that I have a choice in how isolated I let myself become. When I don't share, I isolate. It's not about me and taking up space, it's about reaching out and connecting. When people commit suicide or die from an addiction, I think about how many times and instances of isolation it took for that to decision to take hold. And I don't want it to take hold with me.
I also want to be a safe space for others, should they choose to get out of their isolation. When I ask, "How are you?" I truly mean it. Or I'll say, "I can't talk now, but I want to know, so let's make a plan to get together."
I shared my personal thing, then my friend shared her personal thing and what could have been a literal passing each other on the street, turned into connection, a solid moment when we were both able to hang out in the Seattle drizzle and be real in person.
I can't have 4-5 hour convos like I used to. It's just not realistic. And I can't have everyone over for dinner, or write everyone a long letter of intimate thoughts and feelings. I have tried, but it's too hard with my current life. But I can still connect, reach out, be available, and make conscious choices about isolating or not. I can put my value of connection at the top of my priority list.