It seems like an innocent and helpful question. Nobody means harm when they ask it - however the question fills me with sadness and maybe a little anger.
At the very worst time in my life, a time that was so dark and so painful, I am impressed with myself for living through it, I got asked that question a lot.
I always came up with something: some "tender mercy" that made other people feel better about me or my life.
The reality for me was, it felt like I was digging through three tons of crap to find a couple of M&M's The digging was awful. It stunk. It was hard work. I had to look so hard for the stupid little tiny pieces of chocolate, but once I'd found the M&M's, was I supposed to eat them? I didn't want them. They didn't make ME feel any better, but people around me sometimes seemed to pretend like these crap-covered chocolate pieces were a ten course meal. I was so blessed and so lucky to find them.
My life was too painful, and I lacked the ability or the awareness to really express it at the time, but it felt awful. I felt like I was being masked over, asked to hide or disappear. Instead of feeling loved or supported, I felt very very alone.
Todd and I have been talking about ways to bring mindfulness to our meals. He had the idea to list things we are grateful for before we eat. It sounded like a good idea, and I was all for it. And then he asked me what I was grateful for as we sat down to eat dinner, and I just cried.
It felt like he was asking me to pretend and hide: to disappear and only show him what was acceptable and not what IS.
In my tears, I could easily recognize my feelings are not based in the present. I have much to be grateful for, and I am very grateful for a lot. Sometimes, I still just need to cry for what was.
As a survivor of abuse and PTSD, eating disorder, major depression and anxiety, that question did not offer me relief or hope. It offered the people around me relief and hope. It gave them a chance to escape my reality by forcing me to comfort them. I know they meant well, but it really hurt.
It would have meant so much more for people to ask me about what I wanted to tell them, because most of the time I would have chosen to say sugar-coated sweet "positive" things to protect them. It meant a ton to me when people let me share my pain with them without expecting me to sugar coat it with gratitude s and "tender mercies".