by Stacey Philpot
Recently, I attended a large event with lots of germy new people that I didn’t know in an effort to support my friend who was speaking. Let me be clear: I really like people; it’s the germs I despise. And sure enough, the dreaded “share germs with people around you”—I mean—“shake hands and get to know those around you” time came and I was armed and ready with my wallet hand sanitizer.
As soon as hands were back in pockets, I was de-germing. I met a lovely lady and her adorable little one sitting behind me. As we chatted on for a bit, I kneeled down and talked in an annoying baby voice to her approximately 14-month old —that’s when it happened. The sweet little one sneezed. Green mucus sat menacingly upon my hand. As the lovely lady and I continued to talk, I walked the three or four feet away to the hard-core hand sanitizer station attached to the wall. The lady stopped mid-sentence and stared at me accusingly. Her faced screamed, “You are a jerk and I am massively offended.” Or maybe it just said, “I am massively confused.” Since her mouth didn’t actually make any words, it was really hard to tell.
Most of the people in my world know that I have CVID, but I’m still perfecting my stranger speech. And that day I just stared at her blankly until someone came and shook her hand. I never explained. She never asked. She probably told her friend about the super rude lady she met who couldn’t wait to rid herself of her baby’s germs. In my book, she’ll go down as the lady I offended and also the moment I knew that I had to come up with better, more user-friendly stranger explanations.
If you are anything like me, the Holidays mean that germs are about to descend upon you and your home like soldiers on the shores of Normandy. Babies will sneeze on your hand (or your face). Grandma may very well kiss your cheeks in spite of her raging bronchitis and that culture for a possible infectious disease that there still has been no word on. Your sister will introduce you to yet another love interest and is it just you or is that piercing infected?
You want to love these people in good health. You want to enjoy your time with them. But you also want to do so without picking up viruses and infections that mean you’ll be sick for weeks or even months afterwards, jeopardizing your health in ways they may not even understand.
So what do we do?
Create a simple one-sentence explanation for newcomers (or the forgetful.) For me this sounds something like, “My body doesn’t create enough antibodies so I have to borrow them from healthy people like you.” I may not want to share extremely detailed information about my health with people I don’t know. I try to keep it simple, and non-offensive.
Host at your home This way you can set the ground rules. You can kindly request that anyone who is currently contagious stay home, you can wear a mask, Lysol the entire area every 15 minutes, set up mandatory hand sanitizing stations, and communicate what you need in order stay healthy in advance.
Get plenty of rest and avoid the drama The holidays combine high expectations, crazy relatives, strained relationships and extended time together. It’s the perfect recipe for drama. If things start to feel a little too much like a daytime television show at your holiday get togethers, feel free to say, “My immune system can’t handle you right now.” And get some rest!
In the end, it all comes down to communicating what it is we want and need in hopes of not leaving a trail of confused gaping-mouthed moms behind us (while we sanitize our hands) but instead an informed supportive community who rallies around us.
Stacey is an author, goofball and avid reader. You can find her blog at chronicallywhole.com where she endeavors to encourage other warriors like herself along in their journey of battling for health and discovering wholeness. She is mom to Hayden and Avery, stepmom to Julie and wife to Ryan (a smarty pants who works at NASA and logs their whole life on spreadsheets and pie charts, true story!) She has a strange affinity for eating whole meals in bed (don’t tell anyone) and is convinced smelling old books will make her smarter.