two crabs digging through sand

Just Trying to Get Through the Day

When someone asks how you are, what do you say?

Fine, thanks.

Still sucking air.

I’m swingin’!

How do you view that question?

Does that question drive you batty? Do you see it as a welcome opening to a meaningful conversation? Is it simply a signal that you are in a friendly space with them?

For me it is an opportunity to make the questioner feel good. Granted everyone that asks is coming from a different place, but that doesn’t matter to me. Sometimes I initiate the question – always with a smile, and most importantly with a softer, sing-songy tone of voice than I usually use. I’m sending out a feeler to acknowledge them and put them at ease.

Digging ourselves into a hole

Why do I bring it up? I think we can really dig ourselves into a hole of crabbiness. A hole so deep that we crab at the walls and only hear echoes of our crabby voice, casting an illusion that the world is crabbing back at us when really it is a world we dug ourselves into — and need to climb out of if we want to ever have a happy moment again.

Pushing love and light

Long ago I realized that happy moments start with what I give people, not what they give me. Waiting for understanding, compassion, interest and sympathy and grumbling that I didn’t get it was what made me dig my crab hole. But giving others what I needed carved one more step out of the crab hole and into a sunnier, kinder world. I warmed my environment by pushing love and light into my speech and watching people’s faces soften and relax. Suddenly I wanted to make their day, not ruin it.

When we’re in the crab hole we scoff at that sentiment. After all, telling people what they want to hear is all about selling snake oil to suckers. That’s how television evangelists get old ladies to write checks for large sums, how Ponzi schemers part investors from their fat portfolios. Why can’t we just be honest with each other?

How crabbiness can manifest

Brutal honesty makes perfect sense when I’m in the crab hole. But that’s the problem. Not everybody is in one. And the ones that are, well, they’re in their crab hole, not mine. And what happens when two crabs crab? Do they make a deep connection from sharing a common crabbiness? They might. But I doubt it’s deep, and I’d barely call it a connection. It’s the kind of thing that drives gossip, or worse, mob justice. Scape-goating. Torches and pitch forks. Lynchings. Hate. That’s the lowest, most malignant manifestation.

Lighten the burden of daily life

At the other, less dangerous end, the crab-me misses a chance to lighten the burden of everyday life, for myself and for that elderly woman with the walker who wanted to open the door for me at Family Dollar yesterday. She was no crab, though she had every right to be. She was more disabled than I was and it didn’t matter. She wasn’t comparing or keeping score. She just wanted to do somebody a kindness.

Being kind to myself and others

Even in my crab state I never resented people telling me I look good. Vanity, perhaps. I want to look good. I still think of myself as a blushing rose, capable of turning heads, inspiring artists to create masterpieces as their muse. I’m old enough to be a grandmother but I don’t really want to own that. I avoid lingering in front of the mirror for the same reason. The sting of brutal honesty isn’t going to grease my wheels. Being kind to myself and others makes the day trundle along with much less friction.

And isn’t that what we’re all trying to do? Just get through the day, minute by minute, hour by precious hour, hoping nothing goes wrong.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (12)
  • Azjackie
    6 months ago

    Hello. I hate to put a poo poo out there but I am a huge crab. Let’s see I’m 48 hmmm a crab for oh yeah 48 years. That’s right a lifetime crab. Thank you for this article. It’s like a punching bag to get relief from stress.

    Yes I came into this world with psoriasis. Yep a baby with a rash around my neck. Itching and burning I assume because my Mom said I frequently cried and if it was anything like elementary school and junior high I can believe it.

    Then my tomboyish accidents. Typically 1 per year. Stick in the eye and surgery, cut foot, ballerina burn tipping the boiling pot of water from the stove making pickles, on my leg. Needless to say my local hospital loved me. Oh the public shaming in junior high diagnosing me with scoliosis in P.E. Then the dermatologist calling my acne in high school acne vulgaris.

    There have been twinkles of light from my crab hole. I had a lot of friends growing up who never said a disparaging word about any of my skin problems. I was always able to work since 13 years old even as a life guard swim school instructor with my skin conditions. I was engaged 6 times. It is obviously me but that’s a different issue.

    But back to my crab hole right. This MS is really kicking my rump. I stagger and fall all the time. I’ve incredible undiagnosed mid back just out of MS MRI limits making me hunch forward keeping me from walking. I crawl a lot and find minimal relief lying down or with Tramadol.

    I’ve lost my job due to organization mergers (6 months after the first and 5 years with the second), lost insurance, do not financially qualify for my state’s medicaid, my boyfriend of 6 years would rather be on the road long distance than with me, my family has worse conditions than me. Yes it’s hard to see the positive in the face of so much negative.

    So I lay in my crab hole alone watching silently. I am the person when asked how I’m doing answering “I’m o.k.” then immediately turning focus to them because I really don’t want to be reminded of my dark dank crab hole.

  • Julie
    6 months ago

    People rarely want to know how you are really feeling. There are a few but you soon learn who they are.

    I know my daughter wants to know the truth but she worries and frets too much. She has her own family so I just gloss over the high(low??)lights and leave it at that.

    My mom wants to know but she is upset enough that her daughter has MS so I just give her a few things she can pray about. That’s what she really wants, just something her and her friends can pray over, and that I really do appreciate.

    Everyone else I give the pat answer of “doin better than yesterday, not any worse than last week”. I think people are genuinely curious about the problems that MS might bring, I’m just tired of talking about them.

  • KDaniels72
    6 months ago

    This was amazing. Thank you for it! I myself do not have ms however my spouse has been diagnosed/undiagnosed goingnon 3 years and without insurance we can’t get him to the Dr that he needs to see in order to get the tests that he needs to get a solid diagnosis.

  • clsuhre
    6 months ago

    I really don’t lie well, but I do try to tell the truth with gentleness. So when somebody asks how I’m doing, and the true answer is, “Sucko,” what I really say is, “Well, some days are better than others.” This elicits the “right” amount of sympathy, without the conversation devolving into a pity party. People who know me understand some my problems and cut me a little slack; people who don’t, have been gently warned that I’m not feeling my best.

  • ggsmslife
    6 months ago

    Just what i needed to read today… thank you! Ive been quite the crab lately and youre right. I need to look at the glass half full, it could be worse. I struggle but at least i can fight it still. No need to bring people down. Especially people that dont know you.
    One thing though kinda on jimmymac’s line of thinking… how much is too much information? I have 3 children, youngest 21. I think i sheltered them too much, trying to keep them from worrying. Problem is with MS sometimes you don’t show it like the flu. People dont know you or even people that do, if you dont look sick you arent. Its a hard road.

  • ggsmslife
    6 months ago

    Kim, and jimmymac-
    This article hit home for sure for me. Im deep down in the crab hole. Ive got that “feeling sorry for myself” feeling lately that i cannot shake. I frown more than i smile. I don’t see the bright side of things. I think its worse right now due to a recent flare. Hospital for 3 days and trying to dig out of this funk.
    I have 3 children, youngest 21. And yes i’m a grandma but they say i don’t look it… which is nice cuz you start feeling unattractive with weight gain and such. The crab does put things into perspective for me, as i have not been looking at the glass half full lately. So kim, thank you for that.
    Jimmymac that is a good point too. You know when people have the flu or chicken pocks you SEE their illness. My kids, even my husband ‘forget’ that i have MS. People can’t see your symptoms unless your condition has you in a wheelchair or using a walker. The rest is hidden which is so hard. When you can’t make an appt or a day of fun due to not feeling well, people (that don’t know, or that do but don’t know enough about MS to understand) think you’re just faking it. I can’t tell you the times my children just didnt understand why i couldn’t do everything they wanted. I wonder how many people shelter their love ones so they don’t worry. How much information is too much? I feel it’s a catch 22 no matter what you do.

  • RuthGeller
    6 months ago

    Hi Kim – You write beautifully and I loved your article. It resonated with me on every level. I’ve been an MS patient for too many years and yes, I am old enough to be a great grandmother. I’ve always liked being told I look good even when I’ve felt lousy. while I no longer linger in front of the mirror, I’m still vain enough to want to be viewed as looking good (in spite of); and like you, striving to be, the best I can be, in this moment. Let’s continue to share with others, our happy moments. Ruth

  • Jdenkinger
    6 months ago

    To me, even if I’m having a bad day, if someone asks how I am, unless it’s a friend or relative- the answer is always “good, you?” I don’t hear that question from a stranger and think they actually want to know, just that it is another way of saying hello!

  • JimmyMac
    6 months ago

    Again, very good article. The only exception I have I wish to pose as a question. Has anyone with MS ever been able to express what having MS is like? Well in a short time frame. If not, why not just answer ‘”Great” or something like that because if you have no hope at expressing the sheer terror MS brings then why would you try?

  • Coby
    6 months ago

    Your description, “sheer terror” bought tears to my eyes. That is what I feel sometimes. No, all the time if I let myself think.

  • Kim Dolce moderator author
    6 months ago

    Totally agree, JimmyMac. I’ve written an article not published yet along the same lines. I suggest turning the tables on the MS patient and ask: Can you look at a stranger and see their suffering? Can you see mental illness? Diabetic neuropathy? I sure can’t. None of us can. Thanks for commenting. –Kim

  • Tess
    6 months ago

    It’s funny because when I see a handicapped person, I try and figure out what could be wrong. I believe I can spot someone with MS right away. As easily as it would be to park in handicap spot, I usually don’t, cuz I know someone needs it more. When I ask someone how they are feeling today…I really want to know because I would love to be able to answer someone else truthfully, without them running in the other direction. If I don’t want to know how you are, I do not ask.

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