How are you? Probably the most ubiquitous conversation starter, right? I bet we each hear this no less than five times a day, sometimes many times more. It's meant to be a lighthearted inquiry, and often it's used as a mere phrase, without much meaning attached. After all, doesn't the asker usually expect the response to be, “I'm fine, how are you?”
In saying there is no meaning attached to asking this question, I might be overly cynical. I'll grant that. It's likely true that some people don't really know any other way to start a conversation, or it's so ingrained a habit that they don't realize they're saying it half the time. Still, others do ask it with sincerity, and they are hoping for an honest answer.
Do you have a typical answer to this question? I don't. I'm one of those annoying people that always, always, think about my answer before giving it. And, because I'm not good at concealing my emotions, I usually answer with blunt honesty. If something is going poorly, that's what I say. If there was a highlight to the week, I'll talk about it. You get the picture.
I'm usually speaking on behalf of my whole family though, so I do try to take them all into consideration and not just talk about myself. For my son, in particular, we are seen as a unit, not really separate from one another. For this reason, though sometimes the question is aimed at me, usually it's implied that I'm going to answer for him as well.
So, special needs boy and mom unit, how are you?
We all know the answer to that, if we are speaking frankly, can and will vary wildly from one moment to the next. There are physical and social obstacles, medical interventions, education proficiency questions, language barriers, goals met, abilities stagnated, friends gained or lost, mental exhaustion, joyful interactions, and on. My response to everything going on can also vary wildly depending on my perspective. Or my son's. Or both.
I feel a bit guilty for those on the receiving end of my answers at times. I've probably made more than a few people uncomfortable with my own lack of filter. But I really can't help it; I'll probably never say “I'm fine” and move on because if I say that, people might stop asking.