Re-de-fine-d

Ask me how I’m doing
and I’ll say “fine”, not
because I’m actually fine,
but because “fine” is the only
socially acceptable response.

If I said that I have been lying
here, for three hours now,
willing my body to move,
that would elicit unsolicited
advice and tarnish my “fine”.

I’d berate myself for breaking
my promise not to moan,
knowing that complaining
provokes a compulsive need
to fix, which just infuriates me

Because my concept of trying –
which is defined by getting dressed
each day – does not match trying
every new therapy, drug, exercise
offered by well-meaning but clueless

others, who may experience fatigue
at times, but have no understanding
of what is is to be exhausted after
something as simple as bathing,
let alone debating what I haven’t tried.

So, ask me how I’m feeling, and
I’ll say “fine” and we move on
to the weather, or the latest
movie must-see, and I can bask
in the warmth of the contact

carry the conversation into the
void of the rest of my day, smile
to think that I still have friends
who accept my “fine” even though
they know I anything but…

(Re-de-fine-d first appeared here February, 2016. Edited here. Image my own)

Published by

VJ

Permission to write, paint, and imagine are the gifts I gave myself when chronic illness hit - a fair exchange: being for doing. Relevance is an attitude. Humour essential.

79 thoughts on “Re-de-fine-d”

  1. I pray for those who say they are “fine” just in case they are not. Somehow the finality of “fine” can be an escape from a long conversation. Very few are fine. That is why there are so many poets.

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  2. We don’t know how to go beyond the “fine”, like it is the finality of the conversation. How many really have the time to listen. So sometimes all we can do is write poetry. I pray for the ones who say “fine”, just in case they are not.

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    1. You’ve hit the crux of the issue, Mary. We are really not taught how to handle the not “fine” ones. Thank you for reading.

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  3. So nice written, 21 year’s I am doing the same. Car crashed. Living alone. Just not giving up, not to end in a wheelchair as doctors said in summer 2001, changed so meny therapys, lost a will for a boyfriends because every stress they brought defeated me, people’s just don’t understand and don’t care, it is not their struggle. Today I am struggling to use a right hand, fingers, Prayer is on a radio during I am writing this, I am barely writing. Some stress last days and health is worse. Self pity and pity is undesirable. Pray and normal view on everything is desired. Fears came after several years also. That is horrible to stand. Body is damaged and fears came without control. Of course I am telling my neighbours and friends “I am fine, day by day” and with a small dog I pass them. Bathing is challenge,I am preparing mentally for that. Separate in 2 peace, hair and dry it. Later just body. Today I can only body. In that condition last 2,5 month I barely survived a bed mutation of Covid. At home, Christmas days I overslept in a painful unconscious state. I wrote to a Prist to pray Healing prayers for a me. It helps. After 14 days non-eating a food I started with a bread. Better and better, but still no one understands as those one who passing that. A picture is beautiful which is with a this story You shared. God Bless You πŸ’•

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    1. I am so sorry to read your story. I must tell you that the strength of your spirit shines through. Tried to visit your blog site but the link does not work. Can you leave me the info?

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    2. After reading what you wrote… I can understand you looking into someone’s eyes, and telling them when asked… after a miserable day… fine…!
      πŸ‡―πŸ‡²πŸ–οΈ

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  4. You touch on a topic that is so confusing. I have a friend with a chronic condition and when I would ask her how she’s doing she would go into a litany of complaints. Feeling that I was making her feel worse, I would do the ‘fixer’ thing and try to make her feel better, One day she told me to stop trying to make her feel better, and I did. Now I just don’t ask how she is doing. I’ll jump right in to talk about a poem she might know of or ask about her painting. That has greatly improved the relationship although during the pandemic we have become more distant. So I am glad you reposted this, VJ. (See this is your intuition!) I need reminders to not try to make people happy when they are down and need to go through the ‘down’ at their own pace. Thanks!

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  5. Wonderfully written and heartfelt poem. I just got introduced to your site from Yvette and am intrigued to learn more about your experience with chronic illness. It’s something not talked about openly and I understand what you mean when you answer “fine” because it’s socially acceptable, but inside there’s so much more going on.
    Nice to meet you! Esther

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  6. I just out of a two year period just as you described. Thank God I am enjoying a return, not to normal but to a better life than my last two years. My health crashed when my kidneys shut down and bladder failed. Thankfully for some doctor who will go beyond what they only know that day. Again, good poem and I am not a poet.

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  7. Australians commonly say “I’m good” rather than “I’m fine”. A friend from the UK always found that very funny from a nation founded by convicts, that we feel obliged to keep pointing out we aren’t naughty.
    Lovely poem VJ, thanks for sharing.

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  8. I’m sorry you’re not fine! I totally get this, though, about not wanting to be the one viewed as a whiner. So we can’t be honest with each other. Although my mom probes a bit more deeply. Yesterday I told her how good my shoulder is doing and that I felt great because of it. She said, well, what about this, this, this? They were all health issues that have come up before. Of course, none of THOSE are fine. heh Thanks for a very relatable poem.

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  9. Such a well-explained succinct description of how you’re feeling, and how one suffers those inevitable predictable but unwelcome responses including a ‘compulsive need to fix’ (I myself do that without thinking however). A great social commentary of how we interact when trying to care and how it fails. Great write and photo, VJ. Wishing you well ❀

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  10. I struggle with fibromyalgia. It’s hard when people find out. They don’t know how to talk to you all of a sudden, in the beginning. As much as it’s appreciated, advice isn’t always warranted. We just want to escape ourselves with your company. It’s hard for everyone unfortunately. Thankfully time brings peace with things and acceptance with others, most of the time. I wish you the best of luck on your journey . God speed. Great post. I really enjoyed and related to this. Thank you πŸ™‚

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  11. What a wonderful touch of reality to teach us that there are many who have to exhort great effort to make it through every day. I admire your tenacity to provide us with your great posts!

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  12. I like to respond with ‘Fine’ – no matter how I am feeling phyiscally or emotionally because I want to shut the conversation up! I don’t want to explain to anyone what’s going on with me….What can I say?:)

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  13. How are you has replaced a simple hello. It is a greeting most really don’t want a true answer to. An most of us are cautious with whom we answer truly. I absolutely love this photo.

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      1. That sounds good. I wrote this in response to people who would ask me how I was and then proceed to tell me how apple cider vinegar cures everything, or how they knew a lady who has the same disease and is now a fitness instructor. When I was so sick, I couldn’t get out of bed, these things exhausted me. I didn’t want to have to defend myself against their good intentions. I appreciated a friend who could just accept that I wasn’t okay, but also that I didn’t need to go there. Moments of normalcy. Sorry for the long explanation, Liz, lol.

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  14. well said VJ, “fine” is usually the only thing normies are capable of hearing anyway. no words can express how we really feel. if we say “exhausted”, they respond with “oh I get tired too.” and that just cuts to the bone. only those who have the illness can understand. i understand VJ. xox

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  15. At the moment I am surrounded by people who are 20-30 -40 years younger than me. They smile and say “How are you today?” I always reply “Good how’re you?” “Good thanks.” They answer. These are young people at the barn where I ride. They do not have arthritis, replaced joints or other vagaries of older age. But despite being older and all that goes with it I am lucky enough to actually feel pretty good. So there is truth in my response. However I understand where you are coming from in this post VJ.

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  16. “Fine” is not a problem, but I can usually tell in someone’s eyes or words that they are no where close to being “fine”. I’ve also been “fine” too many times in my life, and I wasn’t even close to being “fine”. Some people can handle the truth, and others can’t …….. ❀

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