How You Doing?


“How you doing?”

I asked my Mom this question at the beginning of almost every call, or visit, and her answer was always the same.

“I’m fine,” even in her final days.

This was not a conversation, it was a pattern, our pattern. I knew she was not fine. She knew she was not fine. This was how we showed our defiance. The only thing doing well was the cancer.

So when I ask you today, “how you doing?” I think the same is true. One study claims one out of three of us are depressed, anxiety is sky rocketing, panic attacks are on the rise. I don’t know about you but I’m inordinately confused (and ornery). Can I, or can I not get a haircut, a pedicure, or my teeth cleaned? Can I go out to eat, get my dog groomed, or walk on the beach? I’m fine, but not good. The only thing doing well is COVID19.

Anne Lamott says, “my automatic response to overwhelming situations is to try to organize everyone into small functioning groups. This usually requires a clipboard and Post-its.”

I’m not into post-its or clipboards, when my illusion of control is challenged, anger tends to rear its ugly head. Do you know what I mean? This seems to be happening to all of us (I did a casual survey for those of you into fact-checking), I’m seeing an increase in fits of pique across the board, as the coronavirus saunters merrily along disrupting just about everything we’ve come to rely on.

I need some new skills to up my game.

How about you?

And by new skills, I mean a new mindset, something I can get my hands around. (I don’t know why but that reminded me of a scrawny neck?) But I digress…

I need a Bootcamp designed to strengthen my ability to remain tranquil and at peace especially when chaos ensues. Can you imagine? A morning routine that increases ones flexibility of mind, strengthens our hearts, expands our ability to look at the bigger picture. I read somewhere that suffering occurs when we seek to protect our own agenda above all else. Sort of like I am my own worst enemy. Maybe this Bootcamp should include training in adaptability and letting go of rigid patterns of thinking?

Let’s not get too crazy.

  • No one can make smart choices when they are in the grips of strong emotions, it’s irrefutable, walk away. I go to my sisters, you are welcome to join us, I’m sure she won’t mind.
  • Stimulating my own twisted thoughts is self-serving, as one would expect, culminating in an eruptive response of disordered thinking, not helpful in most situations, unless something is on fire.
  • Shifting my thinking is possible, but I might need to recuse myself, throw socks around my room for a couple of years. As my Mom always counseled, “come out when you’re in a good mood.” I hated that.
  • I’ll just say it, “I need to chill,” and yes, I want to throw a sock at that one too, because it’s easier said than done.
  • If I must communicate my frustrations I need to stick to the facts, no judgment, or worse demoralizing your actions over my own. I realize this is borderline instinctual, but according to Darwin, some of us have evolved.
  • I could go for a walk and I don’t mean to the refrigerator and back.
  • Admit that I have triggers and try to avoid them. Bahaha.
  • Maybe I should heed the advice of the wise ones who stress acceptance (Budda), or turning the other cheek (Jesus), along with being quiet, and staying calm (Muhammad).
  • I suppose I could consider the possibility that unwanted adjustments can have unrealized benefits? Like more time to evolve because no one is going to the office!
  • If it won’t matter in five years don’t waste your time getting your panties in a wad (or boxers if that’s your thing).
  • When my mouth works faster than my mind that’s a problem.

Let’s consider a recent row between Looney and myself.

Cheryl whines, “We planned on going to the lake this morning!” Standing forlornly in the hall carrying my duffle.

Looney says, “I changed my mind.” He may have elevated his voice but I don’t want to exaggerate.

“You have changed your mind? You’re out of your mind. I’m going today.” I definitely raised my voice.

“No, you’re not.” I wanted to do the Cher thing, “snap out of it,” but I showed enormous restraint and superior character.

“I’ll do whatever the hell I want.” That was helpful.

“We’re going tomorrow.” He was not social distancing.

“Too damn bad, it’s my birthday month.” I drove to my sisters.

And may I just add aggressive responses from the opposing party are not only manipulative, anger evoking, but extremely ineffective when dealing with Swedes. Okay, I agree, there’s room for improvement, let’s move on.

Anger management is actually possible, and I have my go-to favorites, which might need a little dusting off under the current circumstances. Humor is a good tool for releasing tension, but not always possible in the heat of the moment, something like, “I’m going to use your toothbrush to scrub out the lakehouse toilets.” I think that’s funny but I realize we’re not all gifted with a funny bone.

Speak when you are angry and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret warns Ambrose Brierce. Timeouts are a good strategy but he refuses to go to his room? Many experts stress sticking with “I” statements, such as “I feel extraordinary displeasure when plans change last minute.” Yeah, no.

Identifying alternative solutions is good if it can be done calmly, or just accepting the idea you were holding in your head is no longer happening, and move the hell on. What I’ve learned from decades of doing it wrong is that most of the time things work out, not the way I planned, but it wasn’t the end of the world.

With Corona on the loose, it is the end of the world as we know it, and I think this is taking a collective toll on our ability to continually adjust our plans and expectations, so when some little change occurs (we’re not going to the lake today) I find my reaction to be ever so slightly overblown.

It’s helpful to know if it’s a person or a problem? Does my anger prevent the problem from repeating? No, it certainly does not. So it could be me, I didn’t think so either, so it’s definitely him. Glad we got that resolved. Buddha said, “holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Exactly.

The truth is there are some people who love to provoke others, they can’t help themselves, but I can control my reaction to ridiculous provocations. Right? If the goal is to cause contention, I don’t have to attend every argument I’m invited to, I can go to Nancy’s!

It’s self-preservation to brush up on our skills because when we get frustrated, our bodies release negative hormones, and this not only affects our health, it compounds the problem. Confucius said, “only when a mosquito lands on your testicles, you will truly learn that there is always a way to solve problems without using anger and violence.” I can only imagine?

So here’s what I learned from my wise son-in-law Nic who says, “it’s going to be okay, scan for the positives, because they are hiding in every situation. It’s all fine, and best of all you’re surrounded by the people you love, can I pour you a glass of wine?” He says these things with the sweetest smile, exudes saintly calm, and when he throws an arm around my shoulders I know I’m not alone. Love him.

I have to share this Indian tale with you, I tell my students every year, it claims, “there is a fight going on inside of everyone, it’s a terrible fight and it’s between two wolves. One is evil. He is anger, envy, regret, sorrow, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, superiority, false pride, lies, and ego. The other one is good. He is joy, peace, love, humility, kindness, benevolence, generosity, empathy, truth, faith, and compassion. This fight is in all of us. Who wins you might ask? The one you feed.”

We don’t need to save the world, we just need to ask, “How you doing,” and consider how our actions affect the hearts of others says Pema Chodrom.

I’m Living in the Gap, tired of chasing my own tail, maybe throw me a bone?


  • Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy. – Aristotle
  • Nobody makes you angry by speaking the truth, only you decided to use anger as a response.
  • Be careful with your words when you are angry, they can be only forgiven, not forgotten.
  • The strong man is not the good wrestler; the strong man is the only one who controls himself when he is angry. – Prophet Muhammad





Leave a Comment

  1. Cancer is horrible. My grandad past late last year and every time I saw him he said I’m fine. I would love that boot camp as well!
    This post was wrote beautiful.
    Thank you so much for sharing

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I’ve learned with time to control my anger much better, I’ve said things in the past out of anger/spite I’ve instantly regretted once I’ve calmed down and it’s the worst feeling. When I’m angry now, I go away and have time to collect myself. I do find it really difficult though! Lovely post & well put. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Rachael, controlling our emotions is always challenging but especially when we are all feeling so out of control. Thanks for stopping by Living in the Gap and taking the time to comment. Be well, C


  3. So sorry to hear about your mom. And you’re right, we’re not fine. Controlling anger can be so difficult when you’re in those emotions, especially when dealing with someone who is provoking the situation purposely. But as you said, I cannot control them, but I can control myself.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Kristine, I agree strong emotions are difficult to overcome, to learn from, to manage but they do signal that all is not well, and indeed we are not fine! Thank you for taking the time to read and respond, hope to see you here again. Be well, C


  4. I enjoy your posts and always wonder, “are you okay?” if they don’t show up on time…see what you have created?!
    Hope you are getting to enjoy some relaxing time at the Lake (even if it came a day late).
    Love you!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Gail, at first I thought you meant the content of my blog might indicate that “I am not okay” but on further inspection, you meant my consistency is challenging! Bahaha, what have I created! I’m just so thrilled that it matters to you. Thank you.

      Yes, the lake (although a day late) was extremely relaxing and fun, lots of big dinners with the family, and friends. You know the drill. Looking forward to seeing you all up there sometime soon. Miss and love you! Cheryl

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Cheryl,
    You do a great job in articulating the pent-up emotional frustrations caused by Covid-19. True, that angry words can be forgiven but not forgotten or unheard. It is critical to not feed the angry wolf (I love this!) during this stressful time. It does seem that people who are successful seem to remain calm in the most stressful situations.
    Confucius said, “only when a mosquito lands on your testicles, you will truly learn that there is always a way to solve problems without using anger and violence.” I had to laugh at this one. I would say technically, that if a mosquito lands on your testis, you need a scrotal repair, however, overlooking that technicality, I would recommend wearing more clothes.
    We are all learning to adjust to the Pandemic. I am particularly having trouble with the mask all day at work. I don’t speak clear enough, and am getting skin irritation, and frustration seems to be growing.
    My coping mechanism is exercise, gardening and music. Best shape of my life.
    Two days ago, a friend and his wife (or a friend and her husband because they are both friends) called us out of the blue. We had not spoken in years. It was so great to hear their voices, and hear how their lives are progressing. It gave us joy, which is something precious at this point of time. Gail and I decided that a spontaneous, out of the blue phone call can be uplifting, and we started making some calls (kinda passing it on.)
    To paraphrase Bogie in Casablanca, our problems don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.
    Love the immensely talented Dollie Parton.
    I am sure you saw from the news last weekend that Mid-Missouri (Lake of the Ozarks) knows how to party.
    So, ….how you doing?

    PS Life seems different in Missouri than in California, so in answer to the question: Can I go out to eat, get my dog groomed, or walk on the beach? All this can be arranged here, though the beach sucks.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Mike! Good to see your comments, it intrigues me to know what people take away from these reflections, you start with an appreciation for a nifty anger articulation and the wolf story! But you also note that successful people tend to remain calm no matter the provocation or circumstance. I couldn’t agree more!

      I stumbled on that Confucius quote while I was researching and could not resist adding it to the post. Not sure about its authenticity but I smile every time I read it. :))) Maybe clothes optional is not such a good idea.

      I can’t imagine how you manage to wear a mask all day I can barely make it through a grocery run. They fog my glasses, they’re hot, and I feel as if I’m struggling to breathe while it’s on. I hope that changes for you soon.

      Good to hear you are coping by gardening, working out, and listening to music. I’m going back and forth from the refrigerator and it’s really not working for me! I need to go back to work but that isn’t looking promising either as we start to open up we’ll see where this leaves the educating of our children.

      Love the phone calling idea! That’s cool. Maybe a zoom call with you and Gail, Jim and Sue, and Nancy next time we’ll all up at the lake? I’d love to catch up with you two.

      So I leave you with I’m fine, but not exactly marvelous! xxoo

      PS – Saw the news on the Lake of the Ozarks parties! Crazy! And Santana rocks!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. My refrigerator is snuggled into the cabinetry, so I suppose you could take the cabinet. You might need a crowbar or at least a step stool to see what’s inside.

    Always lots to think about here, Cheryl! I enjoy lingering here. Oh, and I’m fine.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Crystal, for taking the time to read and ponder my scattered posts. I’m sitting here this morning wondering what to write about for next week’s post considering the current state of the world. I’m at a loss for words and yet I know storytelling is our path to healing. Be safe and well, Cheryl


  7. So sorry about your mom. I think this world needs a lot of anger management. On a good note, we just had a protest of about 2,000 people and it stayed peaceful. There are more good people than bad, the bad ones with anger issues just stand out more.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Diane, I agree, there is an overwhelming amount of good in the world. Our protests have been peaceful so far but I worry about all the looting and violence. There is a message embedded in all this anger. Something we all need to consider…thanks for joining me in the discussion. C

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you David, I think? Or did you mean I’m sort of scattered and all over the place? Love the meat reference due to the chew factor and I’m going with that being your intention! So glad you have joined our community here David and I’m ever so appreciative that you take the time to share your thoughts. All my best, C


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