“How are you?” is a question I appreciate best when asked only on two occasions. One is during times I expect it the least, like when I am sitting on my bed looking out the window on a hot afternoon and bam! A friend remembered me out of the blue and missed me enough to want to hear from me.
Second is during times that I expect people to reach out to me the most, like when they know I’m feeling sick or when they see that I’m tired. It’s a comforting thought that people notice and are concerned about me.
Ask me how I am outside those two occasions and I’d feel defensive. In my experience, people strike up a conversation only when they want to know you in a romantic way, or when they feel awkward and want to break the ice, or when they just want you to ask them how they are. I guess everybody has their own way of interpreting the question “how are you”, and bless those who ask genuinely.
I don’t think even my closest friends know this, but the best and the most authentic response I’d give — especially when I’m not okay and someone asks me how I am — is nothing. I would acknowledge the effort made to reach out, and I would express my gratitude for sending good thoughts. But beyond that, I’ve got nothing.
I will answer you with an unthreatened silence, hoping that it will point you to my personal boundaries.
I will give you the sound of my defenseless peace, trusting that you will carefully wade, not dive.
Please don’t ask how I am and demand that I return to you with words, with details. When you ask, ask me how I am with my interest in mind and not yours. Let the little strength that’s left in me be used for my healing.
Please. Help me through words that assure rather than pressure.
Your quiet presence that keeps me company, that is the best gift you could give me when I’m not emotionally well. And I promise I will be the first one to reach out to you when I can. Will you patiently wait until I’m ready?