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Thursday, December 24, 2015


THE STORY OF "ARE YOU WELL?" Linda Mary Montano, Saugerties NY, 2015

I preach art is life and life is art and a few years ago I actually practiced it. Here is how my attempt to eliminate the boundaries between the two imploded on me, exposing and exploring my theory . Notice how I didn't really pass the art/life test of seamless, pleasant, transparent union of the two. Here is the story: One afternoon I was standing on the front of the line at the Port of Authority, NYC, waiting to board the NY to Kingston Adirondack Trailways bus. Usually people are still in city mode and keep to themselves unless they have to go to the bathroom and then they might break silence and ask the person in front or back of them to watch their stuff. So when I heard a voice from way in back  call out in a friendly and cute way, "Hello Linda, are you well?" I bolted, blanched, bleated and barfed a spontaneous spoken word intervention and answer from deep in my bowels and in not so good  performance artist in action fashion, literally sounded, shouted and not so happily addressed the question with the following rude answer to the said female actress I hardly knew. It went like this: "Am I well? Am I well. What do you mean am I well.  I have alzheimers (a fear); dementia (a fear); leaky gut (a fear); urinary incontinence (a fear)."  And maybe I said more. I don't remember. And then I said,  "Shelly, are you well?" I  am forgetting what happened next because it was all so traumatic, the appearance of my performance artist persona off the stage, that is. And what is notable is that it was dementia-like of me to respond that way which totally complicates the entire scenario. Fabulous art/not so fabulous life.

Stuffing the event deep into my unanalyzed and therapeutically untreated back brain, it recently got triggered again. You see,  Shelly was a few years ahead of herself using the are you well greeting because NOW, everybody is saying it or emailing their endings, "Be well. Or, hope you are well." I'm obviously not over the big, pulsing need to correct them when they say the "well" stuff but  the worst part is that the performance artist is over it, but Linda the non performance artist is addressing the situation in a way that is completely embarrassing and out of order. The wreckage is  much more personally damaging than my Port of authority slippage because NOW, I'm  correcting friends, acquaintances and non-friends when the words are heard in my presence or written in emails. And it is not pretty. I don't know Linda the corrector as well as I do, Linda the performer and as an uncertified stop-wellness officer, I am becoming scary to myself and a persona non grata to those who might want to say Hi to me but are afraid that I might bark a correction.
And by the way Shelly, if I ever see you again, I will say, " Remember that day at the Port of Authority? I'm SO sorry. I was wrong, wrong, wrong!"
  This is not good and it is taking me soon, I promise, to a therapist who I hope will help me trace the trigger to the source. Ooopps, trigger is a bad word too!! But meanwhile, (notice the word mean), I went to my Facebook community and email community and  posed the question.

I am collecting 1-2 sentence responses that you FB me to my question, "Why r people saying "ARE U WELL when they greet each other?" And why do they end emails, "Be well. Hope you are well!!" Will include  your responses in an essay. Thanks, Linda
Here are their answers:

SUZANNE HELLMUTH: Well,well,well I had to find the entomology. The word comes from Latin vele to wish, & earlier proto-Indo-European that evolved to Germanic, old English, Welsh having double meanings of good/fair/kind/health & related meanings to that group AND drawing/springing forth as water from a spring... tears from the eyes.
    Would a spring or well of water be good as in a fulfillment of wish --thus a water source or a well --& that water-wish word came to also mean for good/fair/kind/healthy...?  Or, having water...is well, is source of well-being-- ?  Etc. 
English have towns with Wells in their name for example, Turndote Wells, where there are natural springs. Wellington, etc.
   But, really, what is wellness now? 
Margarat Nee I blame Garrison Keillor for "be well" because he closes his poetry segments on the radio with it. I've never been greeted with "are you well" but it seems like a very clunky substitute for the usual "how's it goin" "how ya doin'" etc.

(My complaint is that people shouldn't open with that unless they really want to know, otherwise dopes like me forget sometimes and answer the question)

Mary Disney good ? I wonder if people are trying to shorten their correspondence and at the same time heighten their meaning with the CAPS. I think people are saying in the emails when they sign off is that they hope their friend is doing all they can to be well. I often end my emails with "Bee well" because I am a beekeeper.

Abina Manning When I moved to the U.S. and people would ask me "Are you well?" I would answer them. Until I saw their eyes glaze over. smile emoticon.

Margarat Nee When I was in Ireland it took me awhile to understand that when when folks behind a shop/cafe counter asked "are you ok?" they meant did I want to buy/order something from them.
CAROL SACHAL  I learned a long time ago, 50 years or more, NEVER to ask my Ukrainian Grandmother, Nanny, "How are you?" when I went to visit her each week, 3 times a week as required in my family.  The reason:  she would tell me:  "This hoits, that hoits, oh my, the pain!"  (hoits=hurts)   If I didn't ask her, she wouldn't tell me and it was a much more uplifting visit, so I learned to not ask that question.


Linda Mary Montano im learning alot keep them coming.

Eileen Kane Here in Tucson, where lots of my neighbors are elderly, we don't ever ask that question!

Victoria Singh In New Zealand people tend to say "howzit goin?" no equivalent to "be well" springs to mind


Mary Puddycat Collins My friends and I started closing our letters with the Latin "Vale" - be well - that we learned in high school.

 Tobe Carey  Well...or when I ask my "older" friend how he is, he always answers, "Rotting away, thanks."
Paul W McMahon Humans need water to survive, even more than food but not air. so if you are well, you are also well and water of life flow thru you. if you are not a well you may be getting swampy so dig deeper in order to be well again! it's meta 4 4 minstrel psychical. i never met a 4 i didn't like.
Gene Loeb (Shinananda)  I think when they ask " Are you well, " they are asking u to say to yourself, "Why, do I look like shit?"
Lizbeth Rymland   ( I cant find her response but I remember she said something like, forget it when it happens or maybe she was saying , it isn't worth the energy, getting upset about someone saying, "ARE YOU WELL?"

RICH BRANDES: Research reveals that travelers in Merry Olde England visiting pubs and taverns in unfamiliar villages might ask an establishment if they served a favorite dish known as Beef Wellington.  The question “Are you serving any Beef Wellington?” was shortened to “Are You Beef Wellington?” and later to simply “Are You Well ington?” 
As meat eating has become less popular the phrase “Are you well” has fallen out of favor.
CONCLUSION: Thanks to all of the participants, I'm cooled down. I promise I will never correct WELL again when it is said or written because I have found the source of my trigger in Eileen Kane's response:  "Here in Tucson, where lots of my neighbors are elderly, we don't ever ask that question!"
And by the way Shelly, if I ever see you again, I will say, " Remember that day at the Port of Authority? I'm SO sorry. I was wrong, wrong, wrong!"

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