I Just Never Want to be That Guy

I have a couple of confessions.

First, if we’ve had any recent interaction, or enjoyed some brief convo lately, I’ve likely lied to you. Sorry. But, it’s been one of those “good lies” so it’s alright, right?

I’ll put it in perspective with a little analogy… (ease up on the “oh no, here we go with the analogy again” stuff, k?) 🙂

You are walking down the street – well, actually, you should be on the sidewalk, so get out of the damn street. 🙂 You’re walking down the sidewalk, and ahead of you, across the next intersection, walking towards you on the same side of the street is “That Guy”.

We all know That Guy. The guy who when you ask – in a general, courteous, reflexive manner – “hey, how’s it going?” is more than likely to give you, in excruciating detail, all of the ways the universe is out to get him. Two minutes into the encounter, you’re concerned the paramedics are going to need to bring the ‘Jaws of Life’ to extract you from the conversation. By the time it’s all said and done, you’re ten minutes deep into his depressing monologue, and you need to feign having a cardiac event just to be able to break away and move on with your day.

When you originally asked that simple question, you may have been genuinely curious or maybe you were just being nice – either way, only paid professionals with a therapy couch expect to be subjected to the sordid details of his life and how this, that, or the next issue is kicking his ass. You expected a simple reply of “great” or “fine” or even an “awesome” every so often. And then, after the obligatory reciprocation of the question and maybe an opportunity to mutually share some fun, happy, positive snippets of life’s grand adventures, you’d both be quickly, painlessly on your way.

But it never quite works out that way with That Guy.

A couple of weeks later, the inevitable happens. You are walking down the sidewalk (good job, having learned to stay out of the street), and – craptastic – ahead of you, across the next intersection, walking toward you on the same side of the street, you see That Guy – it’s like a deja vu all over again, and you know how it ends.

Sheer panic ensues. The previous encounter is now playing on an endless loop in your mind. Surprisingly, all kinds of survivalist instincts you never knew you even possessed are creating multiple courses of action. It seems as though you are prepared, you’ve run through all the potential outcomes in your head. When you get to the intersection, you wait not-so-patiently for the crosswalk signal, mentally preparing for this critical juncture in your day. Finally, just in the nick of time, you get the crosswalk light, it’s GO time…. and you immediately cross to the *opposite* side of the street. Encounter dodged, crisis averted. Whew.

You probably justified the move with your need to make a quick pit stop into the coffee shop that was oh so conveniently located across the street. Regardless of the rationale, you felt it had to be done.

But it didn’t have to be this way.

What’s my point? I do actually have a point. 🙂 I have sworn I will NOT be That Guy. Never. It should not matter how bad things may be going in my battle with this disease. If you see me ahead of you, across the next intersection, walking (or rolling) towards you on the same side of the street, I want you to know our interaction will be a time to share some positive snippets of each other’s life adventures.

Which brings me to confession number two.

I’m not gonna lie… sometimes it’s incredibly difficult to remain positive through the adversity and challenges that this disease inflicts on my family. ALS is a ruthless, savage beast. A devastating disease that is hell-bent on trying to destroy any semblance of the person you were before it descended upon you. That creates quite the conundrum. How do I always maintain the positivity in our interactions (whether online or IRL) so as to not be That Guy, especially during those times when I am bereft of positivity? Well, the answer is I tend to disappear.

I believe that ‘disappearing Mitch’ is a better option for everyone than ‘lacking-positivity Mitch’. So when I tend to disappear for a bit, just know I’m likely losing a short-term mental, emotional, or physical battle with this disease. It happens… but I’m not going to let it stay that way. So it’s also likely that I am concurrently working on an attitude adjustment, determined to be better, so when we do connect again I’m the Mitch we expect and deserve. (wow, that’s a lot of third-person Mitch in there… maybe Mitch should check in with that professional with the couch). 🙂

That all being said, I just want folks to understand that they’re not likely to get the ugly details of the real story, because I am self-aware enough to know that level of candor and information is not what drives our interaction… and I’m totally good with that.

Most importantly, I want you to actually enjoy our encounter as much as I certainly will.

The only way we are going to have the opportunity to share that brief conversation, to make that connection, and be able to enjoy each other’s company during one of the all too fleeting moments that we are both blessed to be alive on this Earth, is if you don’t feel compelled to cross over to the opposite side of the street.

And that is why I have made a commitment, to myself and to you, that I will never be That Guy.

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