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Years ago, my friend called apologizing, “I’m sorry. I didn’t know. I didn’t understand.”

I was clueless what she was talking about. Apparently, with her husband gone for a week, she took a look inside my world. Her world: married with two small children. My world: divorced with one small child.

What she now knew of my world – a world with no spouse – I couldn’t just go for a walk or out to eat or to the bank. I had to get a sitter or take him with me. Instead of calling her husband up at work to pick up a forgotten ingredient for dinner – she had to dress two boys in snowsuits – put them in carseats – get them situated in a grocery cart …. and 30 minutes later – if she was lucky — return with her carton of eggs. While her husband was gone there was NO BREAK. She took my shoes and walked in them.

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This post came about because I went to the Farmer’s Market with this same friend. Due to my MCS (multiple chemical sensitivities) I had to back away from a former colleague because she was wearing a fragrance. I couldn’t go to the stand to buy peaches. As I stood there, I literally had to run away because  a few women came up behind me with a load of perfume on. My friend bought me the peaches and she said, “That made ME sick.”

SO WHAT NOW?

It didn’t feel good that my friend was sick too. But it does make me feel good that she gets IT. She often catches “triggers” to my condition before I do.

BUT WHAT DO YOU DO IF YOUR FRIEND IS VERY DIFFERENT THAN YOU? And they or you DON’T get it?

This obviously came up with my friends when I became disabled. How do you understand something you don’t live? My suggestion – LIVE IT and then you’ll be able to have empathy.

If you can’t understand why your teacher friend is exhausted by 8 pm and can’t stay awake for the video you thoughtfully rented:

Then set your alarm for 5 am (earlier if you need to fit in a work out) and go volunteer in a classroom for a day or a week, come home to do 2-3 hours more of school work and then worry about dinner and maybe quality time with the kids and spouse and then housework… 

And you’ll have a small idea why your friend is exhausted.

If one friend is married and one single live the other’s life (not including bedroom time). Let’s take the single friend that thinks marriage would make life perfect.

Go empty out half of your closet. Stop sleeping in the middle of the bed or hogging the garage. Have your friend be your pretend spouse. Discuss what’s for dinner, what you’re doing for the weekend, would it be inconvenient to have a get together with your buddies at the house, what happened to the last two slices of bread that you were going to use for lunch…. If you should buy the new car. Who ate the last chocolate chip cookie? As you’re ready to go out with friends — STOP — because your partner just puked and they’re too sick to deal so after you clean it up he/she needs a cold compress… text your friends you’re out of commission.

I’m not saying marriage is bad. The point is to not decide you KNOW ALL ABOUT someone else’s life you haven’t lived. Don’t just look at the hand holding, snuggling on the couch or having someone around for Valentine’s Day. It’s a real let down when you make up fantasies about someone else’s shoes.

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When I was in college the person I most admired was named Bonnie. My friend was confident and socially secure. Day one she greeted everyone on the floor. I was paralyzed in my room trying to think of something cool to say to my new roommates. She organized our first floor party and then the dorm party and then get togethers between the dorms. She organized the MDA telethon on campus.  Of course she was secure enough to be an RA in the dorm. I really wanted to be her. She liked everybody and everybody liked her.

The group of us that met freshmen year were all tight. We usually ate dinner together. I was late this particular night due to team practice. Everyone was leaving. Everyone had a class or something that they HAD to go to. SO I sat down at a long table in a large cafeteria and ate by myself.

The next day Bonnie came up to me, “I just want to tell you. I really admire you. I want to be you. You are so independent and confident. I NEVER could have sat there by myself and eaten dinner alone. I would have felt everyone was staring at me thinking that girl has no friends. I would have left without eating my dinner.”

So who do I admire now:

my friend and her family

my hair dresser

 parents, brother, son…

they have all tried to walk in my shoes. They’ve ditched the fragrances. They speak out when others are bringing scents into a space I’m going to be in. My son actually has MCS. So I know he understands. The others have put on my shoes even though they feel weird on their feet and are willing to walk the distance with me.

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SO WEAR MY SHOES TODAY (If you aren’t already one of the millions suffering with an environmental illness):

Wear a mask in public and try not to get upset when the pregnant lady runs away from you

Don’t go to the party you’re invited to because your “friend” won’t tell the revelers to not wear fragrances

Start walking up the street and go back home because your neighbor is doing the laundry

Back away from most people who walk up to you because they are wearing a fragrance.

Carry Benydryl with you because you never know when your throat is going to close off

Allow no one in your house except the very few people who are willing to ditch the toxins…

I hear many say there is a RIGHT to wear fragrances. What they are really saying is there is a right to wear toxins.

What about mine and the human race’s right to survival?

Sound drastic?

If you’re wearing my shoes right now, you know it’s not drastic at all.

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