When I went through surgery for a heel spur, I felt uncomfortable discussing the condition due to feelings of disdain for anything that looks like I’m seeking attention, sympathy, or assistance. At the same time, I felt disingenuous hiding the year-long pain that overshadowed my desire to participate even minimally in most activities.
Ever hear of “organ recitals”?
Organ recitals are when (old) people get together and drone on about their illnesses and conditions. I tease my friends when our time together turns into a bitch session – when lamenting the aches and pains and conditions that plague us as we age becomes the main theme versus a side note.
Organ recitals are pervasive. Listen in on any group of senior citizens, whether it’s a group meeting for morning coffee or socializing at dinner, and you’ll hear talk of aches and pains, symptoms and possible solutions. It is the level playing ground as we age … everyone has their experience to share!
It’s different though …
Talking about my health when we’re all chiming in is different than just picking up the phone to say I hurt, or I’m scared, or I’ve been diagnosed …. So many times, I learn of a friends illness nearly after the fact, but I understand their reluctance to broadcast a new diagnosis or health problem. (“Hi, nice to see you. I have kidney stones, and I’m miserable.”) So, I try not to scold friends when they don’t let me know about their health problems. The onus is on me to stay better in touch.
I’ve run the gamut from breast cancer to this most recent heel surgery with lots of little issues in between. And each time I’m never sure how to bring up the subject without feeling like I’m looking for sympathy.
As we age, however, it’s important to do just that … talk about our physical ailments … especially with friends and acquaintances!
TV advertisers would have us believe that this pill, ointment, wrap, or treatment center can solve all our physical problems.
Sidebar: Have you noticed the number of medically related advertisements on TV lately? Well, I’ve counted. Depending on the time of day, the number of ads directly and indirectly related to physical and mental problems can run as high as 60 percent of all ads within any given four-minute commercial break! These ads exist because our health and well-being are on our minds, even if we’re not currently experiencing any health crises.
If we don’t talk to our friends about our illnesses and physical problems, we’re left believing these highly stylized commercials that, in our hearts, we know are nothing more than just that – slick sales jobs for products, services, and facilities that promise lots but are not guaranteed to deliver anything to solve our problems.
Where is the line between not enough and too much information when it comes to gabbing about our health issues? While I might feel uncomfortable sharing my health challenges, I sure as heck want to know about yours … so I can be a good friend who listens, supports, and shows compassion. Now, there’s a double standard: I don’t want to share my stuff, but I want you to share yours!
My Organ Recital
I’m not sure what the balance is in sharing health info. I do know, however, that when I’m in the middle of a crisis or a chronic pain problem or an annoying condition that seems relentless, it’s all- encompassing, and I can’t push it aside to pretend it doesn’t exist. I tell some and not others, careful to present my comments in the least depressing way.
I want to include you, but I don’t want your sympathy. I want you to share your experiences, but also know your aches and pains are not my experiences. I want you to laugh and cry with me. I want your patience. I want you to tease me when I make a huge deal out of a small issue. Doing all this can reduce fear and solidify our oneness.
And, finally, I hope you can have patience when my glossing-over, flippant remarks turn into a full-on organ recital.
I think some of it is just not understanding what’s happening to us. After all these years our bodies are rebelling and we’re uncomfortable in our own skin. Many of us have maladies for which there seems to be no answers. When you see people hobbling, or covered with bandaids, etc. you’re automatically going to want to know what’s wrong. I don’t think it’s misplaced sympathy–I think it’s genuine concern and empathy. At least that’s where I come from. When we had children at home, we talked a lot about that. It got us through concerns, fears. This is the same thing. God forbid we should all button up and turn back into the PollyAnnas the previous generations were forced to be. Hiding is not strength.
I LOVE your last sentence, Christine: “Hiding is not strength.”