A Guest Post by Bill Adams

This is a repost from Bill Adams, a 2007 Head Neck cancer survivor.  He writes the blog “Finding Your New Normal”.  I’ve enjoyed reading his blog, and felt that this post is especially appropriate as we enter the upcoming holiday season.

You can visit his blog here: https://findingyournewnormaltoday.wordpress.com/about/

cel·e·bra·tion 

seləˈbrāSH(ə)n/

noun
noun: celebration; plural noun: celebrations

  1. the action of marking one’s pleasure at an important event or occasion by engaging in enjoyable, typically social, activity.

By that definition it seems pretty simple right? Get the car clean, dress nice, head to your destination and celebrate. Or maybe you are hosting the event. You’ve spent hours preparing for the party and making sure everything is perfect for your guests. But here are the questions of the day:

How do you have a “Celebration” without food or drink?
Is it even a party or celebration if there is no food?
What does that even look like?

It didn’t hit me right away. The docs told me I wouldn’t be eating any time soon, but the first prognosis was that the tube would be in short-term, fix the throat problem then back in business with eating. My regular physician came into my hospital room with quite a different story explaining to me that it is quite likely that I would never eat again.
The emotions of that experience were overwhelming – we’ll leave that for a future blog.
It was probably a week or so later that things started to sink in about future events such as holidays, birthdays and these types of gatherings. This lead to the reality that any type of social event was going to be a challenge!

As the months to follow came and went I found these questions coming up, especially in respect to the holidays – Thanksgiving in particular. But I dismissed the thought with a “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it” mind-set. The next thing you know it’s the week of Thanksgiving and my next step is onto that bridge!
Now most of the time when I think of a bridge the image of the Mackinac bridge or the Golden Gate bridge comes to mind. Not this bridge! It’s an old rickety two-track built-in 1802 with rotten wood kind of bridge that creeks and groans with every small step! Not a whole lot of confidence in it to say the least. Either I would gingerly make it across or I the bridge would collapse and I would fall to my demise…

At the time of this writing the holidays have come and gone, I made it through them with some lessons learned – again another blog for that one!
I have a big white board up on the wall at home. I use it to jot down ideas, tasks and goals. The grand kids love to doodle on it and my kids leave me notes when they leave to go home. I had written these questions up on the board and my 17-year-old answered them by writing this:

“Yes music fixes a party every time”

My first response was “that’s awesome that he wrote that up on the board”. He jumped into the conversation which was really cool to me! My second response was “He missed the point of the question”. From his point of view he sees how music impacts everything. Remember when you were 17? Music was everything for most of us, and even if it wasn’t everything it was the thing that made up the social culture in which we engaged. The girls with POP music, guys with heavy metal, funk and rock, other folks with country etc. Now there is such easy access to all types of music and the technology to get to it kids have even more an opportunity to connect musically.

I’m a performing musician and from his perspective he sees me play music at parties and restaurants all of the time. He knows what music does from the audience’s point of view. He knows what it does for him when he turns on his iPod or mp3 player. He knows what it does for movies, after all a movie without the right music score is a sure flop!
Music is all around us and in our hearts, it’s part of who we are. He was right to say that music fixes a party every time. But from the “OFFer’s” (orally food free) perspective you have to go back to the question again.

Just about every celebration in our society has food as a part of it. You name it, most likely there is food involved with it. So one could ask the question “Is food what MAKES the celebration?”. Take a graduation party for example. You are invited but the invitation states that there will be no food. How would that change your perspective on going? Would you want to go? Would you want to go more if you knew there would be food there?
Or how about this one, you go to the grad party expecting food and there is none! How long would you stay? A grad party is a good example. People go, they say hello to the honored one, they drop their gift and get a plate of food. They sit with people they are familiar with and chat while eating. When done eating they chat a little longer, engage the graduate again and the parents of course with a cordial “we have to get going” and exit. What would it look like if there were no food? You show up congratulate, drop your gift, maybe stand and chat with some friends for a few and then boom you’re gone!

By the definition of “Celebration” this should be adequate. You’ve fulfilled all of the requirements of the word and your duty as an invitee. So why doesn’t the picture look so good? Does the words definition hold up to our social definition? I say it does not. Food is so much of our society that the term “celebration” is not defined clearly enough without food as part of the definition.

So for those of us that can not eat or drink orally how do we fit in to these celebrations?

I don’t think there is an easy answer to this question but I can offer a few suggestions that have helped others and myself on this topic.

  1. First of all, everyone is unique. We have a common thread but we each react differently to various types of stimuli. For one person food is everything, for another its the social side, for yet others it’s both.
  2. I had to ask myself some tough questions that brought me back to the heart of why I enjoy celebrations and parties. Some of the answers I got I did not like and it left me to question my intention of doing anything socially. Though it was a stumbling experience, I’m grateful it was a humbling experience. I think that is the one thing we all have in common with social activity – it’s a lesson in humility. So if you get humbled consider yourself growing! Find the real reason you go to celebrate, that will lead you on.
  3. Learn to ignore culture. I grew up on a farm with a Grandma that was a baker. There was never a hungry mouth. Food has been a huge part of my life – and yours too I’m quite sure. Our culture regards food as everything but the truth is that food is NOT everything. Food does not define us, nor should it rule us. American culture is all about food. You can’t drive a block without seeing a reference, turn on the radio and not hear a commercial or read a publication without seeing an ad of lavishly decorated mouth watering dishes. Give yourself permission to ignore them. Let it sink into your brain that you are not a target for their marketing.
  4. Find how you can find enjoyment in the celebration. You’re going to have to search here10622904_10205124642053613_5024745972968757977_n – it will take some digging. If all you’ve ever done is show up and eat, drink and be merry there’s going to be a learning curve so give yourself some time and patience.
    I play guitar professionally, my brainstorm was to play music at events I went to. It just so happened that it was around the holidays for the first time without food. I showed up and played background music and Christmas carols for everyone. I found enjoyment in that and so did everyone else – a win, win!
  5. People will treat you different, let them. Try your best to push down the urge to let it bother you, hurt your feelings or make you feel rejected. You have to be you. If you are a person that is sensitive to this as I am it will be difficult and a long process. Maybe you’re the type that could care less about what others think – if so us sensitive ones need to take a lesson! In the mean time remember that others around you are dealing with the change in you as well and probably don’t know what to say or how to act. I remember when I had cancer I found myself consoling others more than they consoled me! I would look at them and see the “lose for words” in their eyes and step up to help them to feel better. You may need to do the same. In turn you will feel better.
  6. People will offer food to you. Save your story, just say thank you, no thank you or something appropriate for the setting. I will walk in a room and someone will say “there’s food over there” and I’ll say “OK, thanks” and continue on my way. It’s not worth the explanation time and you set them up to be embarrassed for talking about food to you. Just let it go…
  7. Have you caught on yet? Have you noticed the action words in the tips above? Find, Learn, Dig, Research, Give, Ask, Ignore, Let it go. This is an active en devour my friends, we must DO to achieve. You can’t sit back and just expect things to be better. Yes time will help but it does not heal. It will not push you through things you are uncomfortable with. It will not encourage you to press through an obstacle and overcome your fear. The truth is you’ll not get through anything unless you face it. I’m not saying you should bulldoze through every issue all at the same time. This is a process and it takes time, a lot of time. For me I expect it to be an active process for the rest of my life.

I hope and pray this article gives you some insight and encouragement to press on and push trough to get to the next level.
Make it the best!!!

Bil

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