One of the hardest questions to answers when life gets complicated is the dreaded “How are you?” I have never learned the aplomb to pull of a graceful yet honest answer. I say “I’m fine, thank you. How are you?” whilst imagining a more honest reply “I’m coughing up blood and bits of my lungs over a toilet bowl that I am too tired to keep clean. How are you?” fine Or whilst suppressing the inevitable mad giggle: “I am as high as a kite on prescribed industrial strength pain killers as I dislocated my hip an hour ago. You?” Or “Don’t mind the Darth Vader sound effects or the hovering husband with an EpiPen syringe in his hand. I’m sure the nebulizer will have me breathing well in no time and he can put the needle away. And how is your day going?”

Living with a chronic illness or disability makes it difficult to find good answers, but thankfully, the women at ChronicBabe put together a  leaflet with 100 excellent suggestions for short, succinct options. Here’s my personal favourites.

Top 5 for neighbours, work colleagues, acquaintances and distant relatives

  1. Give me a chocolate bar and I’ll be fantastic! *Fill in your own appropriate to the situation – a cup of coffee/tea, a slice of cake at a birthday party, your favourite drink when meeting for drinks etc. (Number 36)
  2. (Just answer with the same question): How are you? (Number 4)
  3. I’m glad to see you! What’s new? (Number 99)
  4. Ready for tomorrow. (Number 23)
  5. Same old, same old. (Number 45)

Special reply for nosey people

…(bunch of grunts, gurgles, and other random noises) pssh, fft, mmhm, ya know? (Number 33)

Top 5 For close friends and family

Close friends and family often check in nearly every day and I don’t always want to provide a blow-by-blow account, but I also don’t want to brush them off with a short list of replies so instead I tend to pick one or two replies that work for a particular person and just vary it slightly.

  1. I could complain, but I am not going to (Number 5)
  2. Not my best day, but not my worst day, either (Number 28)
  3. I’ll let you know when I figure it out. (Number 21)
  4. I don’t feel that great, but my hair looks awesome, right? (Number 94)
  5. Trying to fit the good in with the bad, you know? (Number 34)

chronicbabe how are you

Great for text-based communication

I have added these to my personal dictionary on my Android phone complete with 2-3 letter shortcuts to save me the time and effort of trying to remember a decent reply or trying to remember where I  save the list of good replies.

  • Somewhere between blah and meh. (Number 40)
  • Just hug me and leave it at that. (Number 43)
  • Under construction (Number 53)
  • Instead of waking up on the wrong side of the bed, I think I woke up underneath it (Number 59)
  • I feel like crap! Know any good dirty jokes to cheer me up? *Personally, I ask for cat videos, baby pictures or recommendations for a good book, good game or good film. (Number 63)
  • Do you want to join me in a nice long, relaxing scream? AAARRRGGGHHHH!  (Number 85)
  • I’m feeling more like Oscar the Grouch than Elmo right now. (Number 90)

Top 6 for guys

ChronicBabe is a site for young women with a chronic illness and some of the replies are most definitely feminine, but I asked my other half to pick his top 5 that he would be comfortable using in a conversation. He picked these six:

  1.  I’m fine. How are you? (Number 1)
  2. I’ve been better (Number 25)
  3. Upright and still breathing (Number 6)
  4. Same old, same old (Number 45)
  5. Do you want the short version or the long one? (Number 17)
  6. Keepin’  busy, which is a good distraction from my other tough stuff (Number 97) 

For the complete list of 100 ways to answer the question “How are you?”, see the PDF here.