Dear Chump Lady,
You have such an amazing way with words that I thought I’d ask you about something that bothers and confuses me. What do you say when you’re in the middle of all this chumpdom, and people ask you “how ya doin?”… I’m stumped.
I’m not as crumpled as I was, but certainly not “fine.” I’m taking baby steps to bad ass, not there yet, but I will be. What’s a good response in the meantime?
“I’m not quite bad ass yet, but I’m getting there,” sounds like just as good a reply as any. It really just depends on how well you know the person asking and how much you want to reveal about your emotional state, if anything.
For me, when I was deep in the “middle of chumpdom” (as you put it), I was emotionally sloppy. Except at work — there I was all business until the day I had to ask my boss for a vacation day to leave my husband. (They were shocked I’d kept all the Jerry Springer drama in for so long. One co-worker — a rather macho guy — nearly wept. Another kept patting my shoulder to ask how I was holding up.)
Nadine, I don’t think there is an etiquette on this. The grief and turmoil was like balancing an invisible bucket of toxic slop on my head all day. Most of the time I could walk around poised like one of those African women coming back from a well — but sometimes I got off balance and tripped — and the whole bucket spilled out all over everything and everyone.
If that happens to you — forgive yourself. You’re in crisis. People in crisis tend to overshare. Look at those people interviewed after a hurricane destroys their home. Most of them don’t demure and politely say “Oh, we’re holding up. Really nothing to talk about.”
No, they look stunned as they tell their stories. They feel COMPELLED to tell their story. The storm came. I was in this place. I heard the news from this person. Then I escaped. This is how I found what was left. This is what is missing. That is gone. Tonight I am sleeping here. I miss my dog.
You’ll find the people in your life will divide into different camps — those that can bear to hear your story — and those who cannot. And you will be surprised who those people are. Sometimes it’s the person you don’t know very well at all who is the most empathetic and kind. And other times you expect a shoulder to cry on from a friend or family member, and find it’s turned away from you.
A long time ago my pipes burst. A friend had just committed suicide. It was all too much and as the pipefitter was there to give me an estimate of the damage, I went to my office to cry. He could see I’d been crying and he said, very kindly “Look, it’s only a house. It’s just money. It’ll be okay. It’s only a house.” Then he told me very matter of factly that he’d suffered a loss too. His 21 year old son died that year. Told me it put everything into perspective, of what matters and what doesn’t. Broken pipes can be OVERCOME.
I didn’t expect my plumber to comfort me and I was (and remain) very touched. Some people can walk into your pain and some cannot. Most of the time we do our best to not burden others with the real answer to “How’s it going?”
That’s why places like this forum are important for your healing. You can tell other people who have experienced the same kind of loss how you’re doing really. You can share your story and your evacuation plans. They won’t judge you and ask how you allowed this to happen (something they never ask hurricane survivors). Find a good therapist and tell them too. I find the more you tell your story, the easier it becomes to transition back into the world of small talk and social pleasantries.
Just know that you won’t always feel chumpy. The day is coming soon (a Tuesday) where you’ll answer “Fine! And you?”