“I’m fine. And you?”
“No, really. How are you?”
“I’m fine. Really.”
“But you don’t sound fine.”
“I guess this is how I sound when I’m fine.”
There are the jokes about what a woman means when she says she’s fine. We are warned to prepare ourselves for an avalanche, if a woman tells you she’s fine, pours a glass of wine, and then goes on to tell you how she really feels.
I’ve seen this time and again. I’m sure you have, too.
Have a disagreement with a narcissist – dare to stand up to one – and all hell breaks loose. You’re accused of projecting, or misreading, or misunderstanding. They tell you that you take everything personally. You work up the nerve to tell them that your feelings are hurt, and they manage to come off as the victim.
Your head begins to spin. You replay the exchange over and over, wondering if you did do or say something wrong. What else could possibly bring about such a violent reaction from him? Clearly, you’ve done something to piss him off. Now, if you could only figure out what that was…
You reexamine past arguments. You try to establish a pattern. You look to see if it could be your demeanor, the tone of your voice, your posture or your delivery. You wonder if it could be blamed on one too many beers, but then you know you’ve had these disagreements in the morning, too. Too much caffeine, maybe?
Maybe he hates your haircut. Maybe he hated that new enchilada recipe. Maybe he had a bad day at work. Maybe his favorite team isn’t playing well.
You tell yourself that things will look better in the morning, only how can they, if you can’t sleep what with playing the argument over and over in your head all night long.
You tip toe out of the bedroom in the morning, make the coffee, pack the lunch, pull a pound of hamburger out of the freezer to make the kind of enchiladas he prefers, and you prepare yourself. After he has downed the first cup, you are going to gently ask him to see your side of last night’s argument. You are going to reframe your words and perfect your delivery.
You pour him a second cup, he looks up, smiles warmly and says, “Good morning! What do you have planned for today?”
It happened again.
He acts like everything is fine.
You’d have to be a complete idiot, or a glutton for punishment, to open up that can of worms.
So because he acts like everything is fine, you act like everything is fine.
You’ve been stringing along those fine moments to make a life. Sure, they are few and far between, but when the fine moments come along, you cling to them like they provide oxygen. Because they do.
I bet you grew up with that definition of fine. The definition that no one finds in Funk and Wagnalls. Look up the definition for fine and none of them have anything to do with having a soul mate rip you to shreds, and then wake the next morning appreciating you for making the coffee, shuttling the kids to school and having dinner on the table when he returns, with no explanation for his tirade at the dinner table the night before.
But that’s what you know.
So when they ask you how you are, you say, “I’m fine.”
And you mean it.