I was seventeen when I was first invited to a dinner party. My first, real, grown-up party! I got all dressed up. Hair. Make-up. The excitement was palpable. Good friends, food and fun times – this was living!
I made it to the soiree, elated and expectant…but fell asleep at table. Weakened by just getting to the party, once I actually arrived, I simply collapsed and passed out with exhaustion.
It was the first of many disheartening occasions where my chronic illness dampened the festivities.
I love birthdays, milestones and celebrations. Parties are amazing opportunities to bask in joy and happiness – but they frequently bring up huge challenges, especially for those in pain or with illness. Travel. Unsuitable food. Emotional or physical overwhelm. Over-stimulation. Navigating expectations. Awkward questions. And, for those of us with mobility aids, new or inaccessible environments. With pain or without, parties present unique issues. But with forethought and savvy planning, they can still be managed and – even more importantly – enjoyed.
Planning may seem to undermine the fun and spontaneity inherent in happy occasions. It may even seem boring and unfair when it appears not everyone must go to the same lengths to achieve the same outcome. But in truth, everyone plans how they’ll navigate a party in some way, shape or form: people work out what to wear, what gift to buy, what food to bring, how to avoid traffic (and that obnoxious aunt or ex!)
Most people don’t consciously acknowledge that it’s actually “planning.” When planning how to manage a party so we can enjoy it with illness, pain or grief, we’re prepping just as everyone does, just more deliberately.