Illustration for the post "I am miserable. How are you?" Illustration of a calendar with the current year crossed and the new year written in with symbols of luck around the edges like a horseshoe, four-leaf clover, stars, etc.

How are you?

I’m miserable, thanks


“Hi, I’m Jane. I’ll be taking your blood today,” she said with a polite smile. “How are you?”

I didn’t know what to say.

My snarky side wondered – quite loudly, I might add – why I didn’t say, “You’re about to stick me with a needle, so I can’t say it’s my best day,” but I try to actively avoid snarky when talking with polite strangers, especially when they are about to draw my blood.

The standard reply is the polite, “Oh, I’m fine.” Also considered appropriate is a simple “I’m good” or “I’m ok.”

None of those came to mind.

I’m sure any socially upstanding individual would happily stand next to me and coach me through the appropriate words, encouraging me as they explain, “Just lie to the nice lady and move on. She doesn’t want to actually hear about your life.”

No, she doesn’t.

She is just trying to do her job, and it is a polite formality to ask me how I am.

And yet, I couldn’t just say the expected words. Nope, not today.

So I honestly replied, “It has been a terrible day,” with a sad smile and a shoulder shrug.

She didn’t miss a beat, “I’m sorry to hear that,” she said as she focused on prodding my arm to find a viable vein to poke.

Ah, I see people have flouted propriety and been honest with her in the past because that was a good, practiced response.

I contemplated further honesty.

No, you don’t understand. I didn’t accidentally stab myself in the eye with my eyeliner or drop my coffee in my lap on the way over. My computer didn’t die on me. I didn’t wear the wrong colored socks. My boyfriend and I didn’t argue over breakfast this morning. My Instagram account didn’t lose any followers. Even traffic wasn’t terrible on my way here.

No, I don’t mean that I’m having a bad day, a sucky day, or a day filled with inconvenient mishaps. Nope, I mean that I am having a terrible day.

If I were honest, I’d admit it has been more than one terrible day. It has actually been a terrible year, an absolutely no-good, miserably bad year. I’m contemplating changing all my calendars in the hopes that it will fool fate or the universe or God or whoever is in control of this habitat to stop the chaos that has become my life, perhaps even hand over a few blessings. While it probably won’t work, it feels like it would be worth a try.

I dream of checking my daily calendar and finding a SKIP page, like from Uno, that will allow me to just skip the day, skip the month, or even skip the year. Because at this point, I would be tempted to slap that skip down. Played!

It has actually been a terrible year, a miserably bad year. I dream of checking my day calendar and finding a SKIP page, like from Uno, that will allow me to just skip the day, skip the month, or even skip the year. Because at this point, I would be tempted to slap that skip down and celebrate. Played!

As she continued to probe my arm, I considered all the difficult things that have happened this year: leaving a job, staying in the hospital to support a family member, packing up a family member to move into assisted care, dealing with Medicaid, losing a friend, being sick, needing to pay medical bills, needing surgery…all understandably difficult things.

The most recent difficult moment – my aunt past away last night. The one who did my hair for me when I was a kid. The one who always had a smile and a hug for anyone who needed it. Once, she drove 185.6 miles to support me when I was the lead in a school play. She even brought me roses.

Of course, I didn’t say ANY of this to the nice lady transferring my blood into a tiny vial.

“That was fast,” I remarked, praising her for finding the vein the first time. That was better than getting poked five times, which happened the last time I was in a lab, only two weeks ago.

“Oh, you’re welcome. I hope it makes your day a little better, “she said with a smile.

Well, you did stick me with a large needle, so I can’t say it has upgraded my day, but you were kind and polite, and you did get it done and over with as quickly and as painlessly as you could.

With a smile, I remembered the appropriate response (better late than never) and simply said, “Thanks.”

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