Okay, the first thing I need you to do is go read this:
It’s important enough that it lives in my sidebar forever and for all time. I wish this was mandatory training in school when we are children. It would have saved me from accidentally being an asshole and inadvertently causing grief for those I love when they’re having a hard time. The center circle is the Sun, the outer rings are the planets; the closer they are to you, the tighter they’re pulled in to your drama orbit. You radiate pain and complaint, and they absorb it in the name of love and comfort. The Silk Circle theory takes the phrase “it’s not about you” and expands it to include a very simple two-rule set of mandatory behavior. Comfort in, dump out. The end.
I have taken “CENTER CIRCLE, BITCHES” to be kind of a mantra. It’s as much a reminder to the people around me that I need support, not drama, as it is a reminder to myself that it’s okay to be selfish about some things. I do not *have* to consider the feelings of other people when writing up my advance directive. I do not HAVE to be shy about what I honestly want on my bucket list. I do not have to apologize for being the bearer of bad news when people ask me if I’ve figured out what the limping is about yet.
I do not have to participate in my caregivers conversations involving delegating responsibilities. My social worker actually said that it’s best if I’m NOT involved. Just…work that shit out behind the scenes, and I will rely on you as a whole that it is getting done. Because I appointed you as caregiver. Because I trust you.
As center circle, though, I need to be cautious that I don’t burn out the bigger rings. The diagnosis is new. I have some leeway. But I am absolutely NOT allowed to make them miserable by complaining non-stop and insisting that life is All Vashti, All the Time. There are other channels besides ALS SUCKS ASS. The channels that made people tune in to me in the first place.
In addition to the Silk Circle, there are Sympathy Points. I’ve had this belief for more years than I know, it’s something that’s always been true and eventually I figured it out in words. Sympathy Points are a crucial part of any crisis, too. They work like this:
You get ten.
Each instance is one event. One illness, one accident, one breakup, one lost job, one stupid mistake, one whatever it is that puts you in center circle. One instance of you totally losing your shit and you need me to help put you back together. And for each of these ten instances, you have everything that I am capable of giving to you for help. Ten instances where I will give you my absolute sympathy. I will do my UTMOST to help you and fix your problem. Ten instances of me taking the bus to the hospital to sleep in a really uncomfortable plastic chair in your room with a watch timer set to go off so that I wake up to press your morphine button for you so that you can sleep without pain. Ten instances of 2AM phone calls in tears because you can’t believe he left you and I will listen to you even though I have to be up at 5 for a very important presentation at work the next day. Ten emergency showings-up to your house this weekend because you suddenly got evicted and you need to move your shit, like, NOW. Ten instances of me loaning you the content of my savings account because you can’t make your rent because you were sick too often this paycheck.
Sympathy points regenerate, over time. Slowly. You might spend more than ten over our relationship. But if you use them all too fast? Then they’re gone forever. Once they run out, you never get another one. That means I don’t loan you money. I don’t show up at your house with cupcakes and cartoons because she just left you. I don’t take the bus two hours out to your place after work to watch your kid because your babysitter bailed on you. I won’t go out of my way for you at all. Instead, I will pat your back sympathetically and tell you I’m sorry that this is happening to you.
Because running out of sympathy points means you’re a fucking trauma queen.
Ten is a LOT. And to have ten crises in a short time is very, very hard to do; it’s more likely that you’re not having ten legitimate crises; you’re probably overreacting, or creating the drama for the sake of the drama. Or you just have a really, really shitty outlook on life and take everything as the worst case scenario. Either way, that means you’re toxic. And that means I do not need you in my life.
As center circle, it is my duty to not burn through my sympathy points. This is, as a matter of fact, all about me, but I must be careful to not burn out my support structure. I have an advantage of being automatically inclined to optimism, and I have a buoyant personality by nature. I can’t NOT pay attention to how my actions are affecting other people. On your fifth or sixth time around being Center Circle, you ought to look around and make sure your circles aren’t drawn around yourself for no reason. Make sure you’re not the boy who cried Wolf, make sure you actually need some help instead of just wanting attention, or eventually you’ll discover you’re out of sympathy points and find that there’s no one who gives a shit. Alone in your center circle.
I need to be careful to not kick my planets out of orbit. I need those guys. They’ll forgive the first couple of solar flares, but after awhile, I’ll find only cosmic dust.