I’m not a Cowboy. I was not raised by Cowboy. But I learned something from Cowboys.
Over the past 4.5 years, I visited family for months at a time in the rugged, majestic State of Wyoming. Where the colors brown and gold permeate the landscape and culture. Where wild horses roam free. Where cows outnumber people. Where Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons National Parks reside. Where Colorado residents downplay its mountainous and rugged beauty. Where pick-up trucks, cowboy boots and hats, denim, and camouflage reign supreme. Where you hear “God Bless . . .” or “family first. . . ” This State is where the Code of the West still is practiced and preached. Even my brother’s doctoral diploma holder came with a copy of the Code of the West.
What is the Code of the West? It’s like Pirate Code but Cowboy Code of Ethics. Literally, there is a Center for Cowboy Ethics and Leadership. The Code of West codifies a life style, honor code, and mentality embraced by the rugged frontiersmen of years past spanning to the modern cowboy. We could all learn a lesson from the Code of the West and embrace the positive merits of Cowboy Ethics. My city slicker side learned valuable life lessons from my rugged, rural counterparts whose Cowboy Ethic shaped and still shapes the West.
Code of the West
1) Live each day with courage.
2) Take pride in your work.
3) Always finish what you start.
4) Do what has to be done.
5) Be tough, but fair.
6) When you make a promise, keep it.
7) Ride for the brand.
8) Talk less and say more.
9) Remember that some things
aren’t for sale.
10) Know where to draw the line.
This is an interpretive guide to the many colorful verbal and non-verbal responses a person with chronic health conditions may respond with to the seemingly non-threatening inquiry into their health and well-being: “How are You Today?”
1.) Rolls eyes & no verbal response:
Said individual heard, “What is your problem?” instead of, “How are you today?” He or she may feel physically poor or not, but their mental and emotional state is complicated. Struggle or exasperation is apparent. You may want to leave us alone.
2.) No verbal response, glassy eyes, & unresponsive:
The person either is in-pain, entered a medication induced haze, or is experiencing significant mental exhaustion. In my house, this response prompts further inquiries and occasionally, neurological testing. Please, be patient with us.
3.) “Hmms,” “Mhmms,” & other Guttural Sounds:
I acknowledge your effort and consideration, but presently I’m annoyed and potentially confused about how to answer. Bugger off.
4.) The Shoulder Shrug:
Oops. Oh no, I didn’t, but yes, I just did. The shoulder shrug translates into, “Who cares how I feel?” or “Why do you always ask me questions I can’t answer?”
5.) “I’m fine.” + sarcastic tone:
Today, I’m cognoscente enough to acknowledge and respond, but I have no real desire to discuss my personal health and well-being. Next topic.
Today isn’t such a bad day. I still don’t want to discuss my health and well-being. Next topic.
7.) “Good.” or “Doing well.”
This non-obligatory statement either is expressing a better stretch of health or hiding/covering personal suffering or struggles.
8.) “Okay.” or “I’m okay.”
This is one of the worst responses a person with chronic health conditions can respond with, because these statements cover anything from a near death experience to life is good. Usually, “okay” refers to a peaceful or resigned mental state despite the actual circumstances, but can indicate great suffering. When I was hospitalized at 15 years old in pediatric oncology/ hematology, my doctors forbade me from answering their questions with, “okay.”
9.) “Today is a good day.”:
Break out the party hats and plan a fiesta, because this is a rare response that may actually indicate what is entailed.
10.) “I feel bad,” or “I don’t feel well.”
A rare glimpse of honesty that smacks of sheer concern or desperation. Be prepared for a long day that usually involves a change of plans anywhere from calling 911 to increased medication for coping with concerning symptoms or canceling that dinner reservation . . .
Some individuals are better at expressing their emotions and state of being, but many people with chronic health conditions learn to cope by shutting down or minimizing our struggles. We assume, “Who wants to talk about that day after day,” or “What is the point?” Usually, we will risk expressing certain concerns or frustrations, and react with surprise when a person interacts with sincere empathy and compassion. If you are just going through the motions and don’t care, we can tell and vice versa. We prefer discussing others’ health and well-being versus our own. And tend to be acutely attuned to the suffering around us, especially those silently suffering. So I ask, “How are you today?”