Repondez S’il Vous Plait

Repondez S’il Vous Plait, French for ‘please reply’, is one of the most frequently violated rules of etiquette of our time. According to *Emily Post, the appropriate response to a formal invitation is to respond according to the manner indicated on the invitation itself. If no method is indicated, then a handwritten note or a phone call to the host within a day or two of receiving the invitation. Thank you notes or a phone call go out to the host 1-2 days after the event.

The point is RSVP because it is the right thing to do; it is a kindness that allows the host to plan especially for you. 

*For the RSVP ‘Rules, I refer you to the Emily Post link above to guide you. It entertains most of the scenarios you may face.

Up until my heart transplant, I had lived in ink meaning that I would commit the events on my calendar to ink as opposed to pencil. Nothing will take you from ink to pencil quite like being immune compromised on a daily basis and/or the unpredictable nature of most chronic illnesses: visible or invisible, life-threatening or life-altering.

In the early years after the transplant, I found myself accepting invitations only to have to cancel at the last minute because I just didn’t have the bandwidth. Yes, I could have pushed through, but there is a price to be paid later that isn’t always worth it. Not being able to attend frustrated me A LOT as I became the thwarted extrovert and] grew increasingly isolated.

My RSVP notes may have been written in ink; however, in my mind, I may as well have been writing in pencil because I knew when push came to shove, I would bail primarily from a heart of fear and anxiety over the potential of being exposed to an infection.

Can you say negative self-talk, self-fulfilling prophecy, and no confidence in the state of my health?

The Grrrreat! news is, that as the years have grown into the beginning of a second decade now, my health has been tested and has stood the test of time thus far. As time has passed, I have come to view myself as healthy, capable of surviving the occasional cold, and capable of recovering from a social gathering within a day or two. For sure, I am protective of my health; however, I try not to allow fear to gain a foothold in my thinking.

We are moving into THE season of celebratory gatherings as family and friends from near and far come together for perhaps a once a year get together. No one wants to miss any part of the holidays: NO ONE. Well, maybe some do, myself included, at times. However, no one wants to grin and bear it or run the risk of being frowned upon by those we love and hold dear.

The reality of chronic illness is that you have to prioritize which necessarily means knowing when to say yes and how to say no.

So, here are some tips, tricks, and props for your consideration:

  1. Plan in advance based on past experience with similar events: arrival times, departure times, likely activities, amount of energy required, and become comfortable with being present, but don’t feel compelled to participate unless it’s right for you
  2. Rest is ESSENTIAL before, during, and after an event; block the time
  3. Communicate your physical limitations ahead of time if you know you will be leaving earlier than most or need a place to rest during the event; this can preempt misunderstandings and hurt feelings
  4. Be wise in selecting you +1 for the event; Ensure that he/she knows you well, can read you, knows when you need to call it a night, feels comfortable speaking on your behalf, [and] can make a gracious exit
  5. Do not take unnecessary risks with your health,  your life; it’s just not worth it in the long run; attend when it is right for you and decline when it’s too much for you
  6. If there are individuals going that you were really hoping to see, then reach out and make alternative plans like coffee during the better part of your day or facetime if you are having a flare that is keeping you home

Bottom Line: give your family and friends the opportunity to understand; I believe you will be surprised by their understanding and their desire to support you in any way they possibly can which was certainly my experience when I canceled Thanksgiving last week!

How do you handle invitations? How do you handle the disappointment that comes with not being able to attend? If you are able to attend, are you fully present or preoccupied with intrusive thoughts related to your illness? Do holiday parties encourage or discourage you? Do you prefer to take them or leave them? Why? What has worked for you in the past? Are you doing anything differently this year based on your experience last year?


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