In a wonderful little opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times earlier this month, Susan Silk and Barry Goldman outline a really simple way to know when and to whom you can whine about a medical problem. (“How Not to Say the Wrong Thing,” LATimes.com, April 7, 2013.)
The key is to think of concentric circles – with the actual sick person (or the “aggrieved or afflicted” person) in the center, and everyone else falling into outer layers, starting with the closest person (spouse, for example) in the ring closest to the center, and moving out until the very outer rim, which is occupied by “lookie lous.”
Then, wherever you are in the rings, you can only offer “comfort in” to people closer to the center than you, and “dump out” to people in circles further out than you.
In other words, the closer you are to the center, the more right you have to complain, but only to people farther out than you. The farther out you go, the less right you have to complain, and the more people there are closer to the problem than you who could use your comfort, not your comparisons, complaints, or advice.
Nifty! Their article has a graphic and does a better job of explaining it than I do. It’s a great reminder to keep things in perspective, first and foremost. And it helps us remember that unless we’re in the bulls-eye at the center of the circle, it’s simply not all about us.
And if we ARE in the bulls-eye, it’s okay to fall apart, at least for a little while. We’ve got lots of people in the circles surrounding us who can support us, comfort us, and help us through it.