Wednesday, August 10, 2011

You are what you HEAR you are

Okay, so I admit: when you take a 2 1/2 year old and a 10-month old to Europe, you're bound to have some stories to tell. Thankfully, most of our stories are good ones. The girls are great travelers - pretty easy going, yet easily excitable and entertained - which is great. In fact, I'd categorize our 7 hour night flight to England as spectacular. Bernadette fell asleep taking her bottle during take-off, and we didn't hear from her for 3 hours. She woke up for about 45 minutes after her monster siesta, and then went back to sleep for another two. Really. She did. In fact, she couldn't have been more cooperative. *
Deirdre was awfully compliant, too. She fell asleep less than an hour and a half into the flight, and logged about 2 hours straight. She woke up for a little bit, but then fell back to sleep for almost another two hours. It allowed Johnny and me to get a little shut-eye during the flight, at least enough to get us through customs, checked in and settled in the hotel room before feeling the jet lag. But a couple of naps later and a good dose of fish and chips (well - actually - of scones and crumpets), and we were ready to rock. All in all, a fabulous showing by the Gorman girls - one that we would repeat in a heartbeat.

The return daytime flight to D.C. was good, too. Not quite as spectacular as the outbound flight, but still a good one. (Encouraging, because both Johnny and I have caught a case of the travel bugs. It's hard not to when we have such a good trip!) And the oohs and ahhs over the girls from fellow passengers certainly helped. When kids are being good on a plane, they always look adorable, don't you think? And the people sitting around us were nice of enough to recognize that fact. In fact, one lady pulled me aside while Bernadette and I were waiting for the loo, telling me how sweet and adorable the girls were. Bernie ate it up, of course, throwing her cutest looks right there on the spot. The woman also remarked on what good travelers the girls were - and I replied with a "thank you, but the flight isn't over yet" kind of thing. And she replied, "Well, it helps that you and your husband are so calm." Nice, right?
*
So then, fast forward about an hour, and Bernie finds herself ready for a nap. Unfortunately, she was having a tough time getting comfortable. Her fussiness lasted all of 45 minutes or so, and I had to do a lot of fancy footwork to get her settled and keep her quiet, but it was okay. No real screams or outbursts - just fussiness. But I can tell you - normally, by about minute 25, I would have been a little fussy myself. But because someone had just remarked upon my "calm" demeanor, I actually kept it together. I mean, how could I not live up to the title? I couldn't believe how powerful those words were - that they actually prompted a series of actions and reactions that allowed me to keep my cool. It didn't even feel like I was trying to stay calm - I just was. My fellow passenger's compliment gave me the boost I needed to think and act positively - all while juggling a fussy, sleepy baby. Fascinating, huh?

So we discussed a very similar phenomenon at my lupus seminar in Cambridge. We talked about the fact that so many of us don't look sick, even during the worst of flares. And with that incongruence of what we look like compared to what we feel like, we often hear "You look great", which, on a really bad day, can be a tough one to field. I've been there - I know.

But how about looking at it from another point of view, and letting the fact that someone thinks we look good be a point in our favor, one that we can capitalize on, and one that should give us a little boost, just when we need it the most? The fact of the matter is this - the phrase "you look great" is a compliment. I know there are times when people aren't being sincere, there's baggage attached, or you feel like your physical symptoms are being downplayed. But put those instances aside, and let's consider the generic, no-strings-attached "you look great" comment. No matter how bad you feel, the fact that someone tells you that you look good should make you feel the teensiest bit better. At least, it should if we let it.

Of course, it's not a cure-all, but it is a feel-good opportunity. And the more we allow ourselves to take these kinds of comments at face value - the better off we'll be, don't you think? Why shouldn't we get a little spring in our step when someone pays us a compliment. We have lupus, yes, but that doesn't mean we can't be hot tamales, right?

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