As I come upon the 4th anniversary of one of the most major surgeries I have ever had, I find myself looking back at posts I shared on Facebook about my experience with breast cancer (and the ensuing reconstruction surgeries and “catapulted into menopause” experiences). I am happy to have shared the in-depth experiences, as I know that several people who are near and dear to me went to their doctor for their mammograms (one found out she had pre-cancerous cells that needed to be removed) after not going for a while. I praise God for that, and I will willingly share my journey with anyone who asks about it. Not only can it help others, but it is also pretty cathartic to me, as well. I believe sharing a tough time with a dear friend or a new friend divides the pain. I feel less pain, and they feel more comfort.
I would like to express, however, that I don’t believe that every single thought, feeling or experience needs to be shared with the general public. I am often AMAZED at how loudly and how much people share on airplanes (I don’t really need to hear the woman behind me share with her husband how mad she is at him for not remembering to pack Wet Wipes for the baby). Your feelings of anger for your significant other might better be shared in a private venue.
This morning hit the mother-lode, though. As I was standing in the Dunkin’ Donuts line, getting my Diet Pepsi, I was broadsided with the following conversation between a customer and the poor server:
Server: What can I get you, today, sir?
Customer: I want a turkey sausage croissant.
Server: Coming right up
The man paid for his food then watched her as she began to put it together.
Customer: Hey there, Miss?
Server: (turns around) Yes?
Customer: Was that turkey sausage made today?
Server: Ummm….I believe so….
Customer: I need to know if it was made yesterday, because if it was, it will give me the worst case of diarrhea. It gets so bad….
And….Shelly out. After I saw the look on the server’s face and heard the “Whaaaa…?” from her lips, I knew I had no business (or interest) in hearing the rest of that conversation.
Now, I am not saying that I don’t sympathize with the man’s bowel issues. I just don’t believe that everyone in the Tucson airport around Gates A5 – A8 needed to hear about his intestinal problems with day-old turkey sausage. What is the alternative, you might ask? How about simply not ordering a menu item that might or might not produce problems for you and the people on the plane around you? How about going to another restaurant just in case? Or….better yet, how about not sharing your fecal matters with the rest of us???
I was listening to someone tell their story, recently, about being married to a man that was a terribly sick alcoholic. She talked about his disease and how his behaviors had become slightly unmanageable. But the culminating story was how he went into a field full of cows with a large knife and came back to the house a while later, covered in blood. When she confronted him about the amount of blood on him, he simply answered, “I wanted to show my love for you by killing something for you.” Wowee!! Now there is a story that likely cannot be topped. I feel strongly that Dave loves me unconditionally, but he has never sacrificed an animal in an effort to profess his love for me. I believe pretty strongly that the kind of statement of love for another should not necessarily involve the slaughtering of an animal. But maybe I am judging.
I do, however, love hearing people share their stories (as long as it doesn’t involve diarrhea, for example)….so much so that Dave says that is why I got my counseling degree---so I could hear other people’s tales of relationships and to live vicariously through their interesting lives. I suppose you could psycho-analyze my reasons for going into counseling many years ago, but I truly love hearing people talk about their stories and love helping them figure out for themselves how said experiences might be affecting their current lives. Dave calls it being “nosy”. I call it being helpful. Tomato, Tomahto…
I’m grateful to work with groups of educators around the globe who are willing to share their experiences with trouble spots in their own work in an effort to grow in their practice. One of my workshop participants said, last week, “I have just met you and the rest of the people in this room, but I already feel I can be myself and share a problem of practice I seem to be having in my work.” That produces a feeling of exuberance in me that can’t easily be replicated. Creating an environment that is comfortable enough to share one’s own experience (and to get feedback on possible solutions) is a hallmark of the work I am blessed to do. I know that when I quit learning from my workshop participants, I will likely need to retire, but for now, that feeling is almost euphoric. I love the intimate (not in a creepy way) feel we share once getting to know each other through shared learning.
But please, oh please, don’t feel so comfortable that you need to share that the day-old turkey sausage produces explosive diarrhea. Some things are simply better left UN-shared.