What is an awkward moment?
As I think about my own awkward times, they usually occur because I have an expectation that something I have planned will unfold according to the plan I made. As in many aspects of living with Parkinson’s, the awkward moments come in a similar way as living without this disease when plans are interrupted when unexpected issues come up.
The difference is the control we have to cover up the issue is compromised in people living with Parkinson’s.
The symptoms of a disease can interrupt the expected behavior of an adult who chooses to travel. Loss of control is the true risk that can lead to awkward moments.
I love to travel and I don’t have Parkinson’s. When I go somewhere by myself I revel in the anonymity of sitting at the airport and on the plane with my small backpack filled with snacks, my book, journal and music. I love the unspoken agreement that we all remain quiet strangers as we board the plane and prepare to fly. Once in a while, the silence is broken and new friends are made- but not usually for me.
Traveling with Andy, since he’s had Parkinson’s is different.
Before 2013, when he was shaking all the time, we endured being stared at.
That feels awkward.
Later, when he had trouble with balance and walking steadily, I helped him get around. My insistence on accompanying him everywhere- in restaurants, gas station bathrooms, the changing room at the swimming pool, and to the gym sometimes caused awkward moments.
Recently, Parkinson’s makes Andy cough and choke a lot. It happens when he eats or drinks because he silently aspirates and then there is a delayed reaction of extreme coughing. He has started to aspirate his own saliva and can go into a coughing fit just about anytime and anywhere.
In these days of contagious respiratory illnesses, these fits of coughing make for very awkward moments.
I suggest that in every one of these cases, there is an opportunity for empowerment instead of embarrassment.
We are no longer anonymous when we travel together- we have become ambassadors representing every person who lives with an illness that can cause awkward moments.
Information, asking for help, and being willing to laugh all empower Andy and me and also everyone else in the awkward situation with us.