In my previous post, I made the argument that cliques and exclusivity are Bad Things. I stand by that but, as in all things, there are exceptions. For instance, I’d rather the medical community exclude, say, serial killers, pranksters, and clumsy people. Nor do I wish professional sports to be wide open to middle-aged, out of shape guys. Like me.
The exception I have in mind today, though, is a clique of which I am a member. (Hypocrisy alert!) It’s exclusive but most people don’t mind. In fact, I can’t imagine a single person wanting to disrupt that exclusivity. I’m talking (writing, I guess) about my MS support group.
Lots of people probably have a bias against support groups. Granted, they can be populated by whiny victims complaining about how bad their lives are. They don’t have to be that way. Mine isn’t.
A group of us neurologically-challenged folks formally gather on a monthly basis at a local hospital. These meetings are facilitated by medical professionals who try to be upbeat while still maintaining a modicum of control.
You don’t want their jobs.
Over the years we’ve met, our sense of community has expanded to the point where we meet whenever and wherever we want. Usually (OK, always) those meetings include food. We enjoy food and drink as much as each others’ company. (Probably more, but no one would admit it.) It’s to the point that we no longer consider ourselves an MS support group. We refer to ourselves rather as (to steal a now-common joke) an eating group with a shared medical condition. It’s harder to whine with pizza or ice cream in your mouth.
The downsides of support groups, as I see them, fall into two diametrically opposed areas: They’re either too negative or too positive. In the former case, no one wants to spend time with people who sit around feeling sorry for themselves, or each other, for that matter.
On the other hand, where’s the value in pretending everything is great and will turn out alright when it’s pretty obvious that isn’t the case? Lying to oneself is every bit as bad as feeling sorry for oneself.
Somewhere in the middle lies the real value of support groups like mine. Equipping and encouraging one another through the very real and very challenging aspects of life with chronic illness (or grief or substance abuse or … choose your poison). Being friends and loving one another is the first and most important rule.
To reflect further on that previous post, the Church should be a wide open support group. After all, we all have a terminal condition. It’s called life.
So, yes, I’m part of an exclusive, clique-y group. You can join us if you want, but the dues are very high.