Last night in my “Bring Your Book To Life” book writing & coaching class it was my turn to read a piece from my book. I stressed about what to read all week leading up to the class, finding holes in every section I thought about reading. I was so concerned that the day before class I drafted up an email to my book coach Lisa Tener asking her to remove me from the reading option, I just didn’t think any of it was good enough to share. Then I realized, that is the whole point of being in this class – to learn. I’m at the point where I’m still only writing, not editing. So I know there are a lot of edits in my future. As I read in someone else’s blog not too long ago (I apologize because I don’t recall who it was) she had a great little piece of art that said “writing is when we make the words. editing is when we make the words not shitty” – That pretty much says it all!
Here is an edited version of what I read in class and I am looking for constructive feedback. As Lisa said in class once, “Spare the Reader, not the Writer.” This is just a snippet from my book section leading up to talking to someone for the first time about your Crohns/Colitis/Bowel issues. Thanks for your help, I really appreciate it!
When you have bowel disease, you forget what it is like to sit down at the table for an entire meal without ever leaving your chair. I don’t mean getting up to the stove to refill your plate, I’m talking making a mad dash to the bathroom as soon as your saliva starts to work and your digestive system realizes you are about to eat.
Here’s the scenario: You are going out to dinner with a new friend who doesn’t know yet about your inner truth. Feeling pretty good you head out the door, your guts have been quiet for a few hours, likely just laying around noiselessly for once, allowing you to enjoy your day. You are enjoying drinks and conversation with your friend at the bar, then you are told your table is ready. As you sit down you are immediately greeted with a warm loaf of bread and soft butter. It is now, at this moment, those guts that have been quiet all day sound the internal alarm “DING DING DING, she’s about to eat!!” The guts look at each other and start to talk about what might be coming. A discussion ensues if the meal (no matter what it is) will be easy to send through or if they are going to have to struggle with it every inch of the way? As this internal belly conversation goes on, the rest of the world only hears a grumbling tummy and assumes you are hungry. The reality…there is a conspiracy happening inside of you, a decision is being made of how long your food will be allowed to stay inside. Now the stories inside your head start, you can tell just from the rumbling that you will be getting up from the table at least once during the meal. That means it is time to prepare our story or stories for what is about to happen. As you cross your arms across your abdomen in a vain attempt to reduce the sounds of your guts, you choke back tears of yet another stressful outing. Mealtime, generally a social occasion, is one of the most stressful times of the day when you live with the “Invisible Illness from Poop Hell.”
This part of life with Crohns or Colitis gets particularly tricky when you are out with people who don’t know your story yet. is Just how do you explain why you keep getting up and running out of the room during a meal. There are, of course, several options you could choose from. These few suggestions are of a time old tradition that should work just fine….
A) You saw a spider spiraling down from the ceiling and you are deathly afraid of them, so it was just sheer panic that caused you to get up and run;
B) You could have sworn you heard someone calling for you from somewhere; or,
C) You can also use the good ole’ line “Oh my god, I left the iron on, I have to go!” and then make a run for it.
Those probably work better when you return to the room immediately, which of course you don’t because you are already squatting on the toilet bowl, utilizing the “courtesy flush” in order to not stink the place out as well as not offend anyone else who might be in there.
We get awfully worried about what other people think, don’t we? I’ve created entire scenarios while taking care of business. I analyze possible thoughts of other people, automatically assuming they are sitting outside the bathroom door with a timer giving each other disapproving glances, and sighing as the minutes pass by. I just know they now realize I haven’t dashed in for a quick pee. They know now that I’m “doing #2.” I imagine what the looks on their faces will be when I finally emerge knowing full well I will be avoiding eye contact with everyone.
In the meantime while you are on your 8th flush, your brain now is considering what story can you tell if they look at you with questioning eyes. Did the toilet not want to flush? Nope, can’t use that since they likely heard the toilet flush 14 times by the time you were done. How about “Gosh, what a line in there to wait on!” could work just long enough to get you away before they realize no one else has walked in there. Of course we just want to slip out quick without anyone seeing us. For me with the long red hair, I’m not so easy to hide in a crowd so I’m pretty sure everyone in the restaurant has tracked my progress and will all walk past me whispering “there she is, that’s the one that was in the bathroom 45 times tonight!”
All of these scenarios take place while still on the throne, so when you finally walk out those people you expected the disparaging glances and whispers from are gone. That stress is gone, but you still have to return to the person or people you left at the table. Now, if it’s your family you left, they know why you did so your worries are over. You can run and poop just as much as your little guts desire. However, if it’s a first date (romantic or otherwise) who has no idea yet about your disease, time to figure out what you are going to say. If the date is already a dud, then having an “upset stomach” is the perfect get-out-of-jail-free card! Problem solved! However, if you think the date is going well and you like this person or people, you have to decide how much you want to share. It’s time for you to decide your own comfort level and how much you want to say and, how prepared you are a question and answer session. If it goes the Q&A route, I recommend taking that conversation outside the restaurant!