I had a horrible incident the other day. It was terrifying. It led me to discover something I had been fearing my entire life: that I had inherited The Condition from my Mum. Now, I know what you’re thinking and yes, it is as bad as it sounds. It’s not deadly (not usually) but it can have some serious side affects. I’m talking about foot-in-mouth-disease.
Now, to clarify: I’m not talking about hand, foot and mouth disease the physical condition. No, I’m talking about the strikingly horrifying ability to say the exact wrong thing at the exact wrong time.
I recognized the symptoms in my mum from a young age. The first Incident I remember was when she was proudly telling a family friend about her niece who was a physiotherapist and doing some wonderful work with obese clients. All in all, relatively unoffensive. Until you consider the weight of said family friend. Mum didn’t know where to look or what to say. The Condition won that day…
I thought I’d been lucky enough to avoid this same fate until very recently when I was chatting to some friends, and happened to put my foot in it big time. Somehow we got onto a certain topic – for privacy’s sake, let’s say nail polish colours (because that’s totally a thing girls talk about) – and I was casually asking everybody what colour nail polish they would have chosen if they’d have been asked last year. Now, for this analogy to work you have to understand that nail polish colours are a really private thing that everyone has an opinion on. There are religious and psychological arguments for shade choice, people discuss number of layers with legal jargon, some can be ostracized from sections of society just for their decision… in short, it’s a big deal.
So, as I casually, theoretically ask my friends what colour they would have chosen, I never expected someone to have actually had to choose a colour before. But, as I naively swiveled my head around the group and briefly contemplated why another friend was sending me the ‘oh-my-gosh-you’re-an-idiot-stop-talking-and-look-away-before-you-hurt-yourself-with-your-stupidity’ expression one particular friend spoke up.
“I chose pink.”
Such a simple statement, that brought so much chaos to my world.
You know those moments when time seems to freeze and you can hear the panic sirens going off in your brain because you’ve just caused someone to reveal something so personal about themselves when you’ve been throwing around your unfounded opinion willy-nilly and never actually considered that those people you read about choosing nail polish colours actually exist and could be sitting amongst you at that very moment?
Now, I’m considering sainting this particular friend. They said they had to choose their nail polish already, they let the conversation get swept away, and they never even cast me a sour look. Making an Angel a saint might be pointless, but I don’t care.
This friend of mine though… Well, Angel is pretty amazing. She’s had to choose some pretty brave nail polish colours over the years, and yet she wears each and every one of them with pride. I think she’s the strongest person I know. And that’s saying something. Currently, I find myself surrounded by awesome people who have been through some of the hardest trials imaginable, and still manage to keep a smile on their faces from day to day. It’s inspiring…
…but also humbling in an uncomfortable way. I want to be able to achieve so much – to help people and make a difference. But how the heck am I supposed to stand in front of strangers who I know nothing about and offer my advice? I don’t know what they’ve gone through, but it’s almost certainly been harder than my life. Me, Miss young-white-middle-class-reasonably-intelligent-supportive-family-fantastic-education. The only way I could be more textbook is if I was a dude. Phew! Dodged that bullet!
I have been blessed, without a doubt, and I’m trying really hard to remember that. To think before I speak and acknowledge that every fact I can spew about a topic doesn’t hold a candle to what someone who has lived through it can say in a word. I’m trying really hard to make sure that The Condition doesn’t make people think I’m an opinionated airhead or worse: lose me any friends.