Just want to take the time before I forget again to warmly welcome this week's newcomers. I sincerely hope that you each find the kind of valuable information, honest and humble support, and cherished new friendships that have marked my limited experience of only a few weeks here. Prior to joining, I was feeling very isolated, lonely and sorry for myself sitting at home with my husband away working for months and my motley crew of three spoiled, stir-crazy dogs giving me way too much attitude about my inability to get them out for the long walks and dog park visits they took for granted when my health was better. It's hard to imagine feeling any lower than I was at that point about my life and prospects for living with lupus.
It's hard to admit this now, but I only reluctlantly joined this group with serious doubt and trepidation because I had a previously limited, negative experience with support groups and based on that a shallow understanding of their value and how they actually worked. It came complete with an unhealthy lack of respect for what I always thought was the unseemly neediness that must be chacteristic of the people who joined them. This held me back for so long because my prejudiced reasoning also fed a long-held fear of sharing anything too personal about myself, which my talent for rationalization turned into a virtue when I wasn't looking and allowed me to be smug about it. It also brought me to the erroneous conclusion that the whole support group mentality was hatched and overun with nothing more than a bunch of weak-willed whiners with nothing better to do than obsess on their illness as a way to rationalize their immaturity and stubborn refusal to take responsibiity for their lives and handle their problems without complaint like the rest of of us. I mean no one is immune to being dealt a few bad cards in life, but the key difference was that we normal people, (Now there's a fellowship in which I firmly believed I was in lifelong good standing, despite many obvious red herrings along the way that would argue otherwise), just dealt with them better and moved on with our lives. Nevermind that I was doing a pretty crappy job of moving on to anything except more prejudiced rationalization about not needing any help.
So thanks to vanity and my own sick thinking, I avoided support groups for years after my lupus diagnosis, despite feeling increasingly isolated by it. I was therefore unable to manage anything but resentment and a sarcastic comeback in response to anyone, including my husband, who saw my deterioration and had the good-intentioned gall to suggest that I might get something out of joining one. I still couldn't muster any hope that joining one would give me anything more than proof to confirm my doubts about them.
Pain, however, is my greatest motivator and as my symptoms worsened, even with good healthcare and preventative medicine, I became so desperate that I finally got to the point where I couldn't imagine going on with my life as it was and yet still couldn't imagine anything but a new drug or an out-and-out cure relieving me of it. So I did the next logical thing that even atheists have been known to do when finding themselves in a foxhole in the line of fire: I prayed that if God gave me some kind of out, I would be eternally grateful and do my best to attempt all of the thankless, selfless stuff of which only the truly enlightened seem willing and capable without complaint. The answer to this prayer didn't seem like one at all when I awoke one morning with the ironic conviction, in spite of all my ingrained doubts, that I desperately needed a support group. It also included a tiny seed of willingness to temporarily cast aside my steeped prejudices and false pride long enough to first consider, then research and finally tiptoe into my former worst nightmare.
Since then, my husband is still away and won't be back for another couple of weeks and my dogs still drive me crazy even though I've been trying to make it up to them with trips to the dog park almost everyday now. But at least my attitude has been adjusted for the better and I can only attribute that to some merciful universal power I can't describe but am now pretty convinced is somehow working in my life. More amazing to me is the magnanimously shared personal experience, hard-earned wisdom and always available support from our group members. All of this virtual good dope has also allowed me to not be easier on myself, better accept and manage my condition, and feel a lot less lonely and stuck. This has been the encouragement I needed to get me up on my feet, out of the house, and do more for myself and others.
So to encourage your participation to get the most out of the group, I decided to risk more of your patience and welcome you with the genetic trait that forces we Welsh to mark every occasion --the good, the sad and the ugly-- with song, no matter the significance. However, I now reserve the most obvious friendship song, James Taylor's sweetly iconic, "You've Got A Friend," stictly for funerals and the kind of dire circumstances that either include copious blood loss or are otherwise serious enough to warrant EMTs. I enacted this policy for the selfish motive to suppress another dominate gene that drives the Welsh's fierce intolerance for the schmaltzy gesture, a uniquely American trait in its selfless disregard for the neurotic (and very Welsh) fear of ever appearing too sappy. Therefore, in order to mark the happy milestone of your new membership and also satisfy the selfish demands of my schizoid genetic code, I offer the best friendship song I know that I think qualifies as unsentimental, yet never fails to make me smile as I listen to it and think of my own dear friends, old and new, and the abundantly good fortune I have to be theirs in spite of myself.
pax, pj, Mooch, Pearl & Louie