Saturday, July 30, 2011

excuses vs. context

I confess...I just wrote out a post to be used be a fellow blogger and endo warrior while she's recovering from an endo-related surgery.  In it, I ramble about relationships and chronic pain.  I'm not going to write the same ramble here (I will link to it when it is posted or soon thereafter if our blog-free days overlap), but I do want to take an element from it.

Years ago, I hit on a magic phrase (or magic sentiment...uncharacteristically, I'm not tied to exact words).  It may have been when I was writing a note to some of the legal support staff at my firm when I knew the upcoming week would be a hard one for me.  At the time, I did take one week off the BCP every four months (I no longer do) and I knew that week would be very painful.  I also knew I'd likely become a bit snippy and that grumpiness trickles down.  So I warned some folks ahead of time and apologizes in advance.  The concept I hit upon that I've loved since: It's not an excuse, it's an explanation.

I love this concept.  I don't get a free pass when I feel crappy.  I'm still responsible for my words and actions.  But there is some context and I do think that has relevance.  On the personal side, I might blow a little thing out of proportion when the pain has worn me down.  I won't necessarily disavow the sentiment (still don't like that the glass I was using disappeared), but I will admit I took it too far.  The pain doesn't excuse this.  But it does explain why it happened.

I was once on a Miss Manners style chat to ask a question about public transit.  Another guest was asking about what to say when her son, who had underlying issues, acted inappropriately.  She wanted to be able to acknowledge it was wrong (and would let the son know too), but also let the other people know the background.  Miss Manners didn't have a great response and asked if anyone else had thoughts.  I shared my context and said I thought the same concept of explanations instead of excuses.  The mother really liked it, as did Miss Manners who said she might have to steal it for her own arsenal. 

It really is a versatile concept.  It fits my pain days when I'm not at my best.  It fits conditions that can lead to awkward social moments.  It can also fit coming home after a bad day at work and snapping at a partner or child.  It doesn't ask for a free pass.  It also, where appropriate, doesn't suggest there's nothing relevant underlying the outburst.  It can be tough to remember in the moment sometimes (almost by definition you aren't thinking fully when you need it), but it's a great addition to the arsenal. 

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