"Some women are lost in the fire. Some women are built from it."
—Michelle K.
The Fire Within Blog
Pain: No Excuse for Flakiness

The joke in my city is that you can’t spell flake without LA. Agreed. Flakiness, one of my least favorite of human behaviors, is so prevalent here and everywhere, it’s pretty well accepted as the norm.

I’m an odd-ball. My word is my word and I hold everyone to theirs. If I say I’ll show up, I will. Despite my pain, my fatigue or my schedule. And I used to think that was the way everyone conducted their lives.

Wrong. I’m noticing a disturbing sub-trend in the disturbing trend of flakiness. It’s not just the general public who have lost many of their social graces. Women in pain are too often feeling entitled to use their compromised state as a valid excuse for blowing people off.

I’ve heard for years that women in pain feel misunderstood because they’re not reliable. I get it. I know as well as anyone that on any given day we don’t know where our pain and function level will be. But there’s a flip side to that. Being compromised by pain doesn’t give us carte blanche to forego common courtesies.

I’ve been deeply hurt by this uptick in flakiness – and I’m troubled by this “I-knew-you’d-understand” cover.

A couple of years ago John and I threw a dinner party for six women in pain. It was Christmastime and our halls were decked, seven foot tree and all. John whipped up a turkey dinner with all the trimmings – and the table looked like something out of Martha Stewart’s favorite holiday fantasy.

The night before the party our friend Eve called to cancel due to pain and depression. Eve thought she’d ruin the party for her other sisters. Saddened that she wouldn’t be joining us, I talked through the evening plans with her. I reminded Eve that she’d be with people who get it and wouldn’t judge her. If she needed to spend her time with us on the couch, we’d be delighted.

Eve changed her mind. Problem was no one else showed – or even called. Later when I asked, everyone assumed I’d understood. They had pain and fatigue after all.

Another woman in pain who I dearly love recently resurfaced after disappearing for four years. Before pulling her Houdini act, Shelley and I shared regular intimate conversations and often saw each other for cheerleading gal pal time. Bottom line, we were there for each other.

Then, poof, Shelley was gone. No explanation. No picking up the phone or returning messages, even the ones I sobbed through. I knew my friend had been struggling with depression due to family abuse and abandonment – and I was deeply concerned.

Over the years I had rare sightings of Shelley on Facebook. But when she messaged back, she was curt and distant. When Shelley finally called, the only explanation she gave was that she’d been in a dark place and knew I’d understand. I didn’t then and I don’t now.

This flakiness isn’t reserved for my personal women in pain relationships. It’s also a disturbing part of my advocacy work.

At For Grace we used to host an on-line National Awareness Campaign. One aspect of the project was me generating media stories for women in pain around the country. I’d make countless calls to producers and editors to land these invaluable TV, radio and print pieces to raise awareness of our plight.

Dozens of times I’d get a last-minute frantic phone call, not from the woman in pain, but from the media source telling me the woman didn’t show. The breath was knocked out of me every time I tracked the woman down only to hear she didn’t feel well enough to go. I lost all of those stories.

Sadly, I could go on and on with the mountain of flakiness I’ve encountered in our pain community. Yes, we all suffer the unspeakable. But that doesn’t entitle us to act disrespectfully to each other and the world at large. That behavior hurts us personally and undermines our movement.

If we suspect we can’t make a phone call, an engagement or a visit, we need to do the right thing. Let’s make the choice to be honest and up-front. Let’s be straight about the realistic chances of our participation and follow up with a courteous communication about our status. That way no one flakes… and no one gets hurt.

I know you understand 🙂

XO Cynthia