Hanging in There and Giving Away Pebbles

“How are you?” seems to be a generic greeting now-a-days. People don’t always wait for an answer. Some don’t even expect an answer. But if a response is given, it’s almost always either a quick and cheerful, “I’m good! You?” or a somewhat frazzled, “Oh, you know. Busy as always!” Rarely does this question lead to a response that gives true insight into how the recipient of the question is actually doing.

And the truth is, we’re not always “good.” Sometimes we’re not even “OK” or “fine.” And the busyness that we let take over in our day-to-day lives is sometimes used as a distraction from how we’re really doing. I was recently in a place where I was wearing thin. I was physically exhausted. Emotionally drained. Mentally foggy. I was depleted. And I just couldn’t continue giving the expected response to the casual greetings anymore. So, I found a more truthful answer:

“I’m hanging in there.”

It’s vague enough that those who don’t want to know more, those who don’t expect an honest answer to the question-greeting, can just move on. But it also hints to the asker that there’s more to my story than surface small talk can cover. That there’s depth and struggle hidden within my response.

Some who felt compelled to ask follow up questions abruptly learned that I was not good. I was not OK or fine. Not at all. My life had been derailed, unexpectedly shattered. And I was keeping it together, keeping my emotions in check, only for the sake of my three year old. My answer was far more than the expected answer, but it was my truth.

Moms have so much on their plates. Behind your “hanging in there” response could be a struggle with infertility. Or miscarriage. It could be loss of financial security. Lack of physical safety. It could be struggles with breastfeeding or a colicky baby. Anxiety or depression. A personal medical diagnosis or a sick relative. The recent loss of a loved one. It could be feelings of inadequacy or frustration when faced with difficult parenting issues: Special needs, behavior disorders, learning disabilities. Or maybe you’re just plain overwhelmed with parenthood and life in general.

Whatever it is that takes you to that place where the fake smile and the “I’m good” response starts to wear on you, I encourage you to share it. Start with a more honest answer. Find your “I’m hanging in there” response.

Because I have learned something huge in doing so. The difficulties we face as mothers, wives, and daughters can feel as heavy as boulders sometimes. But every time I have given a truthful response about how I’m doing, every time I have shared my struggle with someone, a piece of that heavy boulder has broken off. A tiny chunk the size of a pebble has been given to the person listening. And my load lightens.

We don’t all carry boulders at the same time. There are times that our load is easy, our arms are empty. We are strong and confident and filled with peace. During those times, it’s easy to carry a pebble for someone else. Some people are even capable of carrying a pocketful of pebbles.

Give your pebbles away. And when you’re on the other side, be ready to put a pebble in your pocket.

So, here is my challenge to all moms out there:

Be truthful about your struggles. Give your pebbles away.

And when you’re able, when you’re on the other side, be ready to really listen to the answer of the “How are you?” question. Listen for depth and truth behind the response. And be ready to put a pebble in your pocket.

After all, we’re here to support one another, right?

Amber loves jellybeans, morning snuggles, and new adventures. Personality tests peg her as 93% extroverted. She loves to write, but most of the time, you’ll find her behind her camera lens. Amber left her teaching position in 2016 to turn her passion into a full time photography career. She now spends time photographing homes for real estate agents, updating headshots, freelancing for local magazines, and creating branding imagery for businesses by capturing their spaces, products, people, and processes. She also does portrait sessions for families, children, and high school seniors. Amber recently got married in a small pandemic friendly wedding. As mama to one and stepmama to four, she thrives on the happy chaos of a large, blended family. Amber lives with both Cystic Fibrosis and CF Related Diabetes and thanks God daily for His blessings and the medical advances that continue to keep her as healthy as possible.

2 COMMENTS

  1. It’s good to have an answer planned so you won’t blurt out “fine” when your not. Sometimes I plan a distracting response about the weather or what’s blooming in the garden so I won’t need to talk details. You are wise to suggest something which leaves open the possibility of sharing without requiring the hearer to respond on a deeper level if they are not willing/able.

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