It seems to me that we go through life asking and giving polite but meaningless greetings to everyone we meet, even those close to us. But when I get asked 'How are you?', I don't always feel like answering with something positive (or even something polite). For it seems to me that the person asking has by-passed my disability and is treating me like any other able-bodied person.
Setting aside the fact that I'm in a wheelchair, and a power chair at that, they ignore the fact that I'm limited in where I can go, how I can get there and what I can do. They probably don't realize that I'm in constant pain, such that riding down the sidewalk hurts. It would never cross their mind that I might be discouraged, or feeling badly about my lost ability to travel. Or that I might simply be having a bad day.
A few times recently I'll admit I've been really tempted to answer 'Well, I'm having a sh&$!y day thanks, spending all day in this f&%$@*!g wheelchair, and to tell the truth it's a sh)(*&y life altogether!'
Thankfully I haven't stooped to that level of depravity yet. but I have found myself answering 'Well, I'm surviving', which isn't a very inspiring answer at all, though perhaps it tells them where I'm at. For much of my life I've made a point of answering 'I'm great!', which seems more positive at least.
This is multiplied when you're talking to someone close to you who knows quite well what you're going through and yet asks the same old question, 'How are you?' With them you can be more honest and tell them how tough life is, or what a difficult time it is for you just now.
Of course my current cynicism may all just reflect being stuck inside for the winter, made worse this year by even things like church being cancelled due to the pandemic.
I do think there are ways the question could be asked more honestly. Even asking 'How are you today?' implies that you know the bigger picture, but you can honestly ask how is it just now. This works well for people you see fairly regularly. Asking 'What's new?' is similar and opens the door to a sensible answer.
However, the fact that I might be tempted to give an impolite answer to the question in the first place raises the important question of how you do stay positive in the face of life-changing injuries.
If there's one big surprise in the past three years, it has been how my brain immediately adapted to my new situation. Right from the beginning I have thought not about what I've lost but about how to adapt to my new situation. My 'self' doesn't reside in my whole body, it resides somewhere in my brain (or maybe my soul). I can be happy or sad, discouraged or successful regardless of the fact that most of my body no longer works. In that context I can honestly answer I'm great' unless I'm having one of those really bad moments.
I'm not sure that family caregivers, spouses or adult children, react the same way. Their life has been limited entirely through something that's happened to someone else. They have no control over it, they just have to give care. And therefore I think it's more stressful for family caregivers than for the disabled or ill family member themselves.
All this is to say that I need to measure my days based on my own definition of great, even if it's very different from what you might consider great.