Wednesday, September 22, 2010

In a Season of Love, Let's Love Completely

Happy First Day of Fall! In my eyes, it doesn't get much better than this time of the year: the warm sunlight of summer still hanging on and the crisp, refreshing air coming in. I love the changing leaves and the hot apple cider vendors popping up in my neighborhood. Near my parents' home is the Jericho Cider Mill - a highly anticipated, seasonal farm stand with the unrivaled slogan: "Live HappLey AppLey." I smile seeing the pumpkins and decorations and the kids excitedly skipping to their first weeks of school. I'm also partial to fall fashions, the lack of humidity, and of course the start of school. It's comforting to settle into a routine and try my hand at new classes. Perhaps most of all, though, I love the coziness that autumn entails. It means the start of a season filled with family time, holidays, delicious food, and friends. This year, it also means the arrival of Kate! So...what's your preferred season and why?

On the subject of friends and family, I thought I'd share a New York Times article that Betsy passed along yesterday. It's called "Coping with Crises Close to Someone Else's Heart " and I think it's a good reminder to all of us - healthy or chronically ill -to offer our help in times of need and to really follow through. Of course, everyone responds to pain and trauma differently and sometimes, in the midst of great hardship, we might see things in our friends or family that may surprise us. It may even hurt us. Professor of pediatrics Dr. Barbara M. Soukes reminds us, "when you're confronted by someone else's horror, there's a sense that it's close to'll change from person to person...the only certainty is that traumatic events change relationships outside the family as well as in it." How we respond in times of need can make our relationships infinitely stronger going forward, but if the ball is dropped on one end it can often be hard to overcome.

Professor of psychology Dr. Jackson Rainer reminds us that many people offer what he refers to as "pseudo-care, asking vaguely if there’s anything they can do but never following up." Just as we expect a certain level of respect, empathy, and a sense that the people who love us "have our back", we all need to take stock of how we offer it in return. Dr. Rainer suggests taking concrete measures to help a friend in need. He says, "There are any number of tasks to be done, and they’re as personal as your thumbprint...If you really want to help a family in crisis, offer to do something specific: drive the carpool, weed the garden, bring a meal, do the laundry, go for a walk."

The article hit home with me for many reasons and probably mainly because of my lifelong struggle with friendships (explained most in depth in this May post ). So often I thought I'd found a friend to invest everything in and, when my disease was at its worst,  many just headed for the hills. This article reminds me that this tendency can be in human nature - it is fear of the unknown, fear of doing or saying the wrong thing, and fear of being overwhelmed by another's struggle. It hurts less when we come to understand what's really going on inside the other person. Today, with a life filled to the brim with love and support and friendships I've prayed for, the small disappointments seem much easier to ignore.  But let's remember there are many ways to really "be there" for the people we love and, as long as we're there, there's no wrong way to love.

Enjoy your families and friends and don't be scared to show them how much you care.


  1. What a WONDERFUL article! I am going to work on a blog post about it now too! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Hi Britta! I'm so glad you enjoyed it and took something from it :) I'll look forward to reading your post about it as well and I hope you're feeling well.

  3. Fall is my favorite season. I love the colors and the crisp air. I am not really a summer person and I hate cold weather.

    I have to agree with the article. I agree that people fear tragedy rather than lack empathy. Since my diagnoses, I have had a lot of friends that have dropped off the face of the earth. Even though it upset me at first, I have learned that I am better off with them. I have this quote up at my blog:

    “Life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets. So love the people who treat you right, forget about the ones who don't, and believe that everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said it would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.”

    I believe that we can only live for today and worry about the people who really stick around. I also think that unless you learn empathy, you can’t really know what it is.

  4. Thanks for the great article. Be well and enjoy your favorite season.:)

  5. pumpkins and fall colors and cider and newly fallen leaves crunching while on a walk and halloween...these are a few of my favorite things!

    i think this maybe a good time for me to comment on my trip to nyc last month where i met maya in person for the first time. i thought i had made positive strides in being open about my disease rather than keeping it private. however, after my trip, another friend i visited with while in nyc, from a different stage in my life, told me that it can be off-putting to be as open as I am. this took me by surprise but after giving it some thought, i guess i need to find the right balance and friends to be open with. i am still newly diagnosed and still need my "training wheels" to help me learn to cope gracefully without crashing. to be fair to who i still consider a dear friend, i not only was dealing with my disease and seeing maya in a rough flare, i was also dealing with the grief of the death of a loved one, and many life changes.

    upon my return home, i realized that I have the most understanding and supportive friends right here in my daily life; those who have been by my side through my joy and sorrow over the years. although maya is a great friend and significant part of my support system, it is not her diagnosis that unites us. spondylitis is what brought us together, but it is our mutual empathy and kindness that will keep us strong.

    i love you, maya!

  6. Lana: Thanks for your great thoughts :) I really love the quote on your blog and, as I was writing this post, I actually had it in the back of my mind. It's a powerful concept that can give us a great sense of calm when we learn to internalize it. I think it comes with time and wisdom. I'm only just learning to live for today and, because of it, I think I've found my happiest place thus far. Thank you so much for the reminder.

    Thomas: Thank you! Glad you enjoyed the article too

    Betsy: I love you right back and yes, it is more than Spondylitis that has and will bond us. I'm so glad I could be here for this crucial time in your life and honestly I often forget you are new to all of this because you handle it like such a champ. You are amazing, Betsy, and you deserve that understanding & supportive network because you are certainly an integral part of many people's. Keep that beautiful smile <3