I’ve been reading the above book. It’s hard to give an opinion yet; my first reaction was that it was written by a talented 15-year-old, but then I can be snotty. I’m still reading.
I’ve been knee deep in social media lately, mostly with writing assignments but also with this great medical adventure, and it’s on my mind. And given the sorry state of my mind, I’m having trouble with coherence.
When I let above mind wander and think about the world as it is, I usually end up focusing on two things. One is that we Americans have a tendency, and always have, to slide toward provincialism if we don’t keep our guard up (and it’s provincial of me to talk only about America, but there you go). It seems easy for us to imagine that everyone else is just like us, shares our values and taste in movies. I run into this all time; there are people who are absolutely baffled by the notion that someone who looks sort of like them and lives in the same school district might have a completely different opinion on something.
The second, though, is a tendency among certain people to see life as a zero-sum game, particularly when it comes to change. A new thing means an old thing dies, that’s it, end of story. I don’t happen to share this worldview.
You can still write a 5-page letter to your mother, you know. You still can. Write it in pencil or crayon, fold it up, lick the envelope if you want and mail it. YOU CAN STILL DO THIS.
Or you can write a long email. Or a short one. Lots of choices.
The other day, in the middle of my long surgery day, I pretty much experienced all forms of human communication aside from sex and mime. I had long, thoughtful conversions with people sitting next to me. I had short conversations with people wishing to impart information to me, and shorter ones with people just offering me support.
I also had short text messages, shorter tweets, longer blog and Facebook comments, and longer emails. And I did the same. I had some time on my hands.
I believe in adjuncts, in other words, lots of tools to help in particular situations. You don’t have to live on your cell phone; it’ll come in handy in your glove box sometimes, though. And feel free to dismiss Facebook as a fad for fools and kids, but 1 out of 12 people have a Facebook account. Not 1 out of 12 Americans, either; I’m talking half a billion earthlings, earthling. It’s one way we communicate, and it’s a great way sometimes. There are other great ways.
My experience last week wasn’t unique or unheard of, but it sure was 21st century. Had this all happened in 1980, say, the vast majority of my friends (and Julie’s friends) would have heard about it via Christmas card, maybe. And I still would have been comforted by close friends and caring hospital volunteers in the waiting room, but look at what happened.
There were at least 50 people waiting with me, all told (I counted). Going about their lives but with part of their brains focused on me and mine. I can overuse, maybe, the word sustained but not in this case. I was sustained.
It made me think, and say, only half joking, that I should write a primer on social media and sickness. Like this:
Just off the top of my head; I welcome suggestions.
But then, being a good anti-provincialist, I can’t really assume my situation will be similar to yours. I’m also not real keen on giving advice. Having had some bad experiences.
So I’ll just say this: I got text messages all day long, starting before we arrived at the hospital. Text messages felt like someone walked into the room, squeezed my hand or shoulder, said “I’ll be right around the corner,” and left looking over their shoulder.
Facebook and blog comments, on the other hand, evoked an image of someone going about their business, maybe working at their desk, all the time with a picture of my wife in their peripheral vision. They look at it from time to time, and stop.
And I got emails, the best of which were like this:
“I’m ______ (a phone call, 5 minutes, 30 minutes, a quick flight) away. Call me and I’ll be there. Whatever you need. I’ll be THERE.
I got several like that. Simple, direct. I’ll be there.
The hardest part? People would ask questions. Understandably. I would ask questions too. But they tended to wear me out, particularly on Facebook. Even if I didn’t answer them, and usually I didn’t, they’d hang there, waiting. What hospital is she in? When’s she coming home? How long have you known? As I say, understandable. But hard, after a long day at the hospital, to see them, and to know that the answers were around. Just my two cents, then. It can be tiring.
But overall, it was an incredible experience, knowing people knew, knowing they were thinking of us, knowing they cared and were concerned, and shared my waiting, and share in her recovery. For me, I’ll know in the future what I’ll do if someone I know, even slightly, has a similar situation. I’ll get all provincial, then, put myself in their shoes, empathize and say so, the best way I can and as often as I can, knowing that it matters, it helps, it did.