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Why I’m Going to Stop Apologizing to Strangers for Having Lupus

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I’ve been paying close attention to my behavior and taking notes about the everyday quirks my wonderful chronic illness has brought me. I live in a place where it’s all hustle and bustle — all the time. Everyone is running off to catch a bus or a train, heading across town to a meeting or just trying to get to Starbucks before it gets crowded.

This crowd of people includes myself. There are times when I’m walking among a crowd of people and my knee gives out, or I trip and have to start walking slower because I’m pretty sure I just twisted my ankle and it’s swelling up to the size of a grapefruit. Yay, lupus.

I’ve found myself being extremely apologetic to the people around me, thinking it was a courteous thing to do. But then I thought: How many times a day do I apologize for something I can’t control? So I counted. 24. Keep in mind this was a day that I was commuting to work and running errands around the holidays. But that’s still 24 times I apologized to 24 random strangers for walking too slow, asking to sit down on the bus/train or falling like I’m in a romantic comedy set in the early 2000s. Unacceptable.

Let’s be clear, I’m quite aware of my body. I spent about 10 years of my life performing and dancing. Of course, this was pre-diagnosis, but I know how my body moves through everyday activities, and my special awareness is pretty good. In fact, my past dancing has really helped in listening to the aches and pains in my body and knowing my limitations with lupus, but that’s a post for a different time. I’m a tall, stocky dude who takes up a lot of space, and I just so happen to have a chronic illness that affects my giant limbs.

I realized every time I said sorry to someone that I didn’t actually mean it. It was a reaction because I felt guilty for getting in the way. So one of my many New Year’s resolutions is to stop doing this. Yes, if I trip or fall and take down some poor commuter half my size, I will apologize because I will actually mean it. But I’m not going to apologize to that young woman strutting down the runway that I call a sidewalk. And stop giving me side-eye because I’m walking too slow. Just go around me.

How many times a day are you throwing those meaningless apologies out there? I’ve found that most of my friends are doing this in some form, whether they have a debilitating illness or are just as healthy as they can be. Either way, it’s easy to get caught up and not realize how your daily interactions can affect someone else’s mood entirely. So be nice and hold a door open. If you’re in a rush, go around or offer them a seat. Like I always say, it’s the little things that can make a difference.

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Lead photo by Thinkstock Images

Originally published: January 3, 2017
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