I realized it had very little to do with me; it was all about them...

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2010/10/02 12:01 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2010/10/02/10070691.aspx


The email came, as most emails seem to, in the middle of the day to the account I don't tend to check much in the middle of the day.

Not their fault; it just wasn't a work email and one can't spend all day checking one's personal mail and facebook if one has a job!

Okay, on second thought some people do that. But it isn't really for me....

Ok, end digression. The e-mail:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Redmond Area MS Support Group Starting
A new support group for people living with MS in the Redmond area is being planned.
Find comfort and strength with your peers as you learn, cope, laugh and celebrate
the challenges and successes of living with MS.
Monday, October 11, 2010
6:30 - 7:30 p.m. PST
Redmond Library
15990 NE 85th St
Redmond, WA 98052

Join us for the group's first meeting with an open discussion about issues that
matter to you!
- Who else in my neighborhood lives with MS?
- Where can I meet others coping with similar symptoms?
- How do I build on a positive approach to managing my MS?
- What speakers would I like to hear from?
- What resources am I looking for?
Contact Sue Dahlin at sue_dahlin@msn.com[mailto:sue_dahlin@msn.com] if you plan
to attend or are interested in attending future meetings.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Interesting.

I've had kind of a tenuous connection with support groups over the years.

I went to one not too long after I was first diagnosed and kind of in denial about the whole thing.

I was working for neurologists and neurourgeons and even without the Internet I knew probably too much about MS for my own good. It was easy to not really think of myself that way since I sometimes couldn't even convince myself it wasn't in my head.

Anyway, being the person least affected by the disease, I found the support group to be depressing. I'm not the sort of person to derive hope from people who bear terrible burdens well. When I think about parts of Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land like the bit about Rodin's Fallen Caryatid Carrying Her Stone:

"This poor little caryatid has fallen under the load. She's a good girl - look at her face. Serious, unhappy at her failure, not blaming anyone, not even the gods... and still trying to shoulder her load, after she's crumpled under it.

But she's more than just good art denouncing bad art; she's a symbol for every woman who ever shouldered a load too heavy. But not alone women - this symbol means every man and woman who ever sweated out life in uncomplaining fortitude until they crumpled under their loads. It's courage... and victory.

Victory in defeat, there is none higher. She didn't give up... she's still trying to lift that stone after it has crushed her... she's all the unsung heroes who couldn't make it but never quit."

I am simply not inspired in that case or in the ones where the looad is being shouldered.

Generally, I found myself moved to pity, which I knew that they didn't want.

And that moved me to a bit of shame that I couldn't cast out the pity.

So not going just seemed easier.

I was invited to other groups and other events from time to time, but usually found suitable excuses. And as I got worse but kept on living life people started suggesting I could be some kind of inspiration for others.

But I knew how I felt about that same group of people from that first meeting -- I felt pity. And I really wasn't interested in inspiring pity. Whether I had fallen under my load or carried on in spite of it all.

Which is not to say everyone would feel that way, many probably wouldn't.

It wasn't until a few years back that I took a Negoitiation Strategies class that I learned a lesson really outside of what the class itself was teaching, and applied it to my life....

What I realized was that yes, some people will be moved to pity. And others to denial or discomfort or shame or pseudo-empathy (it wouldn't be my pain they were feeling, it would be their reflection of what they thought my pain might be).

But all of that? It isn't about me -- it's about them. Those are their issues.

If I understand that then I can move past however it might have made me feel and accept it or deflect it or ignore it or whatever. But I could avoid letting it bother me....

I suppose one of the reasons I enjoy going out again (after a bit of hermit-like break) is that now with the iBot it changes the reactions a lot, and I don't mind mixing up the landscape a bit.

And there are times I forget that "it's all about them" lesson for a moment, but not for too long. Because it's still all about them.

So maybe I could get something out of that meeting on October 11th.

It's weird to think I had a bunch of years where I wasn't healthy enough to be spending time in a support group, but that was kind of where it was.

Now of course there is a new problem -- the iBot can be kind of distracting.

I'll think about it, in any case. It's probably worth the time to give it a shot.

If you have MS and are interested, maybe I'll see you there. :-)


Jeffrey on 2 Oct 2010 3:29 PM:

The email you received is very confusing (and amusing) if you read it with the understanding that MS=Microsoft.  As I first did.

Michael S. Kaplan on 2 Oct 2010 4:18 PM:

I've taken advantage of that particular confusion in the past, here in the blog. :-)


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