How are you doing?

I get that question a lot. Friends. Family. Coworkers. Every visitor and phone call. Every text and email. When people started using it after my heart attack last week, it seemed like the social lubricant “Hi, how are you?” we all say to start conversation.

Except it isn’t.

Normally, we use it to start conversation, not really expecting much other than “fine” or “good, and you?”. Normally, it is like permission to have the rest of the conversation. Social lubrication.

But now, it is a serious question and people, very reasonably, want a serious answer. I am grateful that people care, and I don’t mind the question at all.

The problem is how do I answer the question.

Last week, I had major heart attack while shoveling snow. We called 911 and I got an emergency stent implanted. Surgeon was clear that any delay would have been fatal.

I should feel like crap. I should be in pain. I should–oh, I don’t know–feel like I had a heart attack, whatever that means.

But I don’t.

My wife asks me how I’m doing multiple times a day, which is as it should be. The level of detail she wants, especially as a nurse, goes deeper than I share with others. She reads the answer from my face and body as much as my words.

But there still isn’t a lot to say.

I told her the other day that it felt like I had a bit of a flu bug. The anesthesia messed with my stomach and I wasn’t hungry. I was fatigued and needed frequent naps.

If you saw me in the grocery store, you would not think anything is wrong. That seems weird for something as major as a heart attack. How many people are out there dealing with this and we can’t tell? That slowpoke in the veggie section may be dealing with this too.

I’m not very far down the path of processing all this. I know in my head, that I have heart damage and I get fatigued easily and I need to be really careful. But I don’t think that I know in my, um, heart yet. Is the answer what I am current feeling physically? Is it what I am feeling emotionally? Is it what I think will happen? Or what I am afraid will happen?

I stop doing things not because my body screams stop. I stop and rest because I worry that my body will scream stop. I also stop when my wife tells me to “Go sit down. You shouldn’t be doing that. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.” (She is much nicer than that, I just went for the Monopoly joke.)

So keep asking the question. Just know that if I struggle with an answer, it isn’t because I am trying to avoid it, or make up an answer. It is because I am having a hard time figuring out what the truth is.


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