It's important, now more than ever, to ask that difficult second question

Beach scene

It gets harder to find the joy, says columnist Lythan Nevard - Credit: Pexels

“How are you?” “And how are you really?” I’ve been asking these questions a lot recently.
The first is obvious. I am British after all. The usual response is “fine” and we move on to the weather. But I have been trying to make sure I ask the second question too.
Quite often I will also add how I am feeling, which is “not fine”.
I’m not in a crisis, my family are all doing well, but life in general, over a year after the first lockdown began, is not fine. 
It gets harder to find the joy. Even then, people find it hard to talk about how they are really don’t you find? It is as if we have hibernated our emotions so much, we are fearful of letting them out in case we start to scream and cry in a very non stiff upper lip way. Actually, I have seen a bit of that coming out in misunderstandings and hot tempers. But maybe that is just me?
What can we do about it then? Be kind. It’s a two word sentence that gets trotted out a lot at the moment but has power when we actually take it seriously.
Be kind to the people that you are finding difficult because they might be struggling. Be kind to yourself because even when we can see the light at the end of the tunnel there is still a lot of dark to get through.
Be someone who is ready to stop and really listen to what is behind the “fine”. In the Bible the writer Paul suggests that “When others are happy, be happy with them, and when they are sad, be sad.”
Acknowledging that someone’s feelings are legitimate is important. It’s okay not to be okay and it’s also okay to find joy even in the midst of the mess we are dealing with. 
So – how are you really?

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