How close do you have to be to somebody to tell them how you really feel? When does "How are you?" become less a greeting and more an actual inquiry into someone's true state of being?
As far as the teller at the bank and the checker at the supermarket know, I'm doing great. I learned a long time ago from a man I worked for that that's the only way to be, as far as the public is concerned. "How are you?" "I'm great!" That was his answer all day every day for the four years we worked together. People were always happy to hear it, too. It always brought a smile.
I let the guard down a bit with Tim today. I've known him for fifteen years, but we've never spent more than a few minutes together a couple of times a year. We talk almost daily on the phone, but I don't know much about his life and he doesn't know much about mine. That's the way I want it, but today when he asked how things were going I said, "Terrible."
Immediately after saying it, I regretted it. I started backtracking. My impression is that he doesn't really think I deserve stake in The Kennel, that he's only going along with the Boss (his father) to cut me into the action. I know he can't stand it when the Boss makes any negative comments about the direction Tim wants to take the company. So I should have said "great," but I didn't.
He laughed, though, which is good. I told him that I usually lie, but I was so overwhelmed at the moment that I had to tell him the truth. He took that as a joke, which is what I was hoping for. He didn't realize I was telling him the truth. I hope he never does.