Maximizing Sympathy

18 08 2009

salad_spinnerIt’s one of the oldest, albeit least-used, things in my kitchen cabinets.  It’s big, it’s yellow, and it’s been taking up a significant amount of space in my sometimes very crowded cupboards for the last 28 years.  It’s a salad spinner, designed to quickly dry my freshly washed lettuce leaves.

I tried to sell it at a yard sale once, but the only person who showed any interest in it was a little kid.  He was intrigued by how the thing worked.  His mom quickly put the kibosh on any thoughts of actually purchasing it.  I guess she didn’t want to have it on her shelf for the next 28 years.

Somewhere I read you could secure a paper plate in it, squirt in some paint, and start spinning.  Supposedly you’d end up with an artistic masterpiece.  I never got around to trying it with my kids.  But  someday there may be grandchildren…

Now it’s been with me so long I can’t imagine getting rid of it.

This delightful kitchen convenience was a wedding present, one of many presented to me by assorted friends, neighbors, church ladies, etc.  They came in a steady stream to our house in the days leading up to the big day.  It was probably the part of getting married that I liked the least, in part due to a fear I had of unwrapping a gift in front of a generous church member and not having a clue what it was.  (There was a strange bowl/candle holder thing that really had me at a loss for words.)

But mostly my dread stemmed from the fact that these generous people were doing all this to honor me (oh, and George too, I suppose.)  I felt totally undeserving.  I wanted to scream “Wait until we survive each other for a few years and weather a few storms.  Everything is fun and games now, but later, when the chips are down, where will you be then?”

In some ways, talking about MS feels like that.  Immediate sympathy.  But wait.  Giving the injections can be a real downer, and the ailments that come and go may be daunting, but this is just the first paltry assault.  When I really need your compassion is later when the major salvos are launched.  Save your sympathy for then.  Hence my initial inclination to keep my diagnosis on the lowdown.  Until the chips are down.

In retrospect, I’ve found that I have more control over people’s reactions than I initially imagined.  If I come across as broken, weak, and defeated, the sympathy is there.  But if I present myself as in control, self-confident, and strong, I get no pitiful looks or lowered expectations.  People react to me, not my diagnosis.

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