two crabs digging through sand

Just Trying to Get Through the Day

When someone asks how you are, what do you say?

Fine, thanks.

Still sucking air.

I’m swingin’!

How do you view that question?

Does that question drive you batty? Do you see it as a welcome opening to a meaningful conversation? Is it simply a signal that you are in a friendly space with them?

For me it is an opportunity to make the questioner feel good. Granted everyone that asks is coming from a different place, but that doesn’t matter to me. Sometimes I initiate the question - always with a smile, and most importantly with a softer, sing-songy tone of voice than I usually use. I'm sending out a feeler to acknowledge them and put them at ease.

Digging ourselves into a hole

Why do I bring it up? I think we can really dig ourselves into a hole of crabbiness. A hole so deep that we crab at the walls and only hear echoes of our crabby voice, casting an illusion that the world is crabbing back at us when really it is a world we dug ourselves into — and need to climb out of if we want to ever have a happy moment again.

Pushing love and light

Long ago I realized that happy moments start with what I give people, not what they give me. Waiting for understanding, compassion, interest and sympathy and grumbling that I didn’t get it was what made me dig my crab hole. But giving others what I needed carved one more step out of the crab hole and into a sunnier, kinder world. I warmed my environment by pushing love and light into my speech and watching people’s faces soften and relax. Suddenly I wanted to make their day, not ruin it.

When we’re in the crab hole we scoff at that sentiment. After all, telling people what they want to hear is all about selling snake oil to suckers. That’s how television evangelists get old ladies to write checks for large sums, how Ponzi schemers part investors from their fat portfolios. Why can’t we just be honest with each other?

How crabbiness can manifest

Brutal honesty makes perfect sense when I’m in the crab hole. But that’s the problem. Not everybody is in one. And the ones that are, well, they’re in their crab hole, not mine. And what happens when two crabs crab? Do they make a deep connection from sharing a common crabbiness? They might. But I doubt it’s deep, and I’d barely call it a connection. It’s the kind of thing that drives gossip, or worse, mob justice. Scape-goating. Torches and pitch forks. Lynchings. Hate. That’s the lowest, most malignant manifestation.

Lighten the burden of daily life

At the other, less dangerous end, the crab-me misses a chance to lighten the burden of everyday life, for myself and for that elderly woman with the walker who wanted to open the door for me at Family Dollar yesterday. She was no crab, though she had every right to be. She was more disabled than I was and it didn’t matter. She wasn’t comparing or keeping score. She just wanted to do somebody a kindness.

Being kind to myself and others

Even in my crab state I never resented people telling me I look good. Vanity, perhaps. I want to look good. I still think of myself as a blushing rose, capable of turning heads, inspiring artists to create masterpieces as their muse. I’m old enough to be a grandmother but I don’t really want to own that. I avoid lingering in front of the mirror for the same reason. The sting of brutal honesty isn’t going to grease my wheels. Being kind to myself and others makes the day trundle along with much less friction.

And isn’t that what we’re all trying to do? Just get through the day, minute by minute, hour by precious hour, hoping nothing goes wrong.

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