Technology has done many things to advance us as a culture. It has not done as much, however, to enrich our manners or etiquette. The result, according to a number of studies, has been a dramatic decrease in our attention spans. How dramatic, you may be wondering to yourself? Well between YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, video games and the like, the average attention span has shrunk to 9 seconds.
I know this to be true because I find myself losing interest while I am telling a story. That is never a good sign.
As Chronic Migraineurs we are asked with great frequency how we are doing. For most of us, this is a strangely perplexing question. Are you asking about me as a person, or how I am doing in this moment, or are you asking how my health has been trending , or are we doing that social thing where we rhetorically greet each other?
There is no one right way to answer. So here are four choice ways to navigate social storms without getting rained on.
1) Look for key words.
When someone asks me how I am doing, I used to to go straight to the health stuff because it is often at the forefront of my daily experience. Under further review, I’ve realized that while migraine takes up a lot of screen time in my world, it is not “who” or I am. Culturally speaking when people ask after our wellbeing it is as a whole human. The words themselves can mean very little. Much like an acceptable response to “What’s up” can actually be “‘Sup”.We are touching in on a more basic level where words take the place of a hug or a wink. Looking for key words like HEALTH can be very helpful. If someone asks me, “hows your health” ? I know exactly what they are looking for and I disclose whatever is comfortable at that point. Watching interest dwindle while you share intimate details is never ideal. You choose your own adventure. Discuss it all or just the weather.
2) Create Opportunities for Success
If you are heading out to a social event it can be a good idea to cram. Life is stressful enough without the added mayhem of migraines and new drugs and doctors appointments running around inside your mind. Find 15 minutes to call a close friend and talk about the tough stuff. You will find that you feel lighter, are less likely to be emotionally triggered and find chit chat less draining because you feel connected to your emotional support system. I can’t tell you how many times I forgot to do this and accidentally told an acquaintance far more than I meant to. I walk away feeling like I have violated my privacy and I often feel awkward for hours afterward. Emotional hygiene allows you to manage your energy effectively and walk away from an event with more peace.
3) Remember to Respect your Privacy
No one has the right to demand information. Yet people do. Why did you get divorced? How much did that cost? How much do you make? I was raised in a household where none of these were appropriate questions and I guarantee that no one would make the mistake of asking twice. You have spent hours discussing your health with your doctors and specialists, your family and close friends, and I am going to guess that even with lengthy discussions, you probably don’t feel entirely understood or heard. So with the road to hell being paved with good intentions and all, even sweet acquaintances with their 9 seconds of zest will not be able to provide a deep sense of understanding. They will likely share an old wives tale that worked on a friend of an friend’s spouse. The satisfying sensation of understanding you seek will only come from within. That will nourish your soul in the most profound ways.
4) Keep Some Quips in your Back Pocket
There is always one in a crowd. That person who pushes the conversation when you change the topic. Or the gossip who trades on other peoples pain. These folks can make social interactions pretty awful. Generally, I try and be kinder than necessary in every situation. But there is no purpose in being someone else’s entertainment. I’ve had migraines and various invisible illnesses long enough to spot one of these insincere jokers at fifty paces. They try and mine your social and health data to discuss around the water cooler. When they inquire after my well-being, I say, “It’s great to see so many people come out” or “I’m enjoying the beautiful music”. Whatever. I use this moment as an opportunity to practice my gratitude's. Sure I may have a banging migraine or perhaps I have been in bed for a week, but I will look around and find some small thing that makes me smile and give it praise. “Wow, I am just so impressed by how perfectly the food was prepared”. If I can’t kill someone with kindness, I will as a last resort use intelligence. If all of this doesn’t stop the silly questions, I will finish with.. “It takes a team of specialists to work with my condition, if you are really interested I can have them call you and explain my health issues to you, I really just want to relax and enjoy everyone’s company tonight”.
Anyone who has an invisible illness knows we live in a culture that is extremely uncomfortable with pain. illness and aging. Our first job as patients, is to take care of ourselves. We do not have to comfort others insecurities or placate people who fear impermanence. Share with those who nurture your soul and who add to your light. Be kind to everyone but start with yourself.
Most of all, listen to your intuition. It will never steer a Royal wrong.
I hope you find some tidbits that make your next gathering a little more enjoyable.
Remember you are nobly born and you belong.
Please let us know your thoughts and your social circle #hacks in the comments below. We love hearing from you #Royals!