Immersive Experience

I’m at the beach, looking out at the ocean. As my mom pointed out, the horizon line is choppy and each wave is being attacked ferociously by the wind, causing a thick fan of mist to spray from it.

This morning, inspired by the rhythm and beauty of the sea, we talked about moments in life that become preserved (perfectly?) in our memories. Of course as mother and daughter we had some shared moments to talk about – and also some individual ones. I told mom about a moment I shared with a friend of mine on a backpacking trip, when we rushed to the tip-top of a peak called ‘Shining Rock,’ with just too little time before the sunset to search for and find out cameras in our wet packs. When we hit the crest of the mountain and emerged onto the quartz outcrop, the sun was breaking through the clouds in an array of colors and beams that took our breath away. It reminded me of the ocean in a way – like seeing underneath the water. The clouds set a soft horizon line over the expanse of blue ridges.

There was a moment in this moment when we both were exasperated by our lack of picture-taking devices – but then came the freedom. When ‘preservation’ with a camera is possible it’s hard to resist the fantasy that holding on to these moments in our lives is possible (oops, I guess this is a continuation of my explication on change). When preservation is impossible, say we don’t have cameras and we left our phones locked up in the car, immersion becomes possible. What are the ingredients of immersion? Dedication, curiosity, gratitude? I don’t know. I would say though, that those moments in life that we can never forget, are most likely ones in which we were not concerned with holding on.

Everything in life I ever needed to know…

“I decided many years ago that a high blood sugar does not define me any more than a great blood sugar defines me. For 42 years I have been chasing the perfect blood sugar. It has never happened for more than a minute just the same as the really high ones do not last any longer.”

– Rick Phillips

I want to give a shout out to change. Year after year, change has stood by me. More than that, change even visits me day to day and moment to moment. So here’s to change: a truly dedicated friend.

Obviously, I also want to give a shout out to Rick Phillips, whose response to last week’s question is today’s featured quote. A big thanks to everyone who responded and added to our conversation around high-blood sugar blues and how to pick yourself up from them. Rick’s quote jumped out at me because of its utility for maintaining perspective as we manage (versus ‘control’) blood sugar and also as we manage (versus ‘control’) life. Last week I was talking to a fellow graduate student, job seeker and swimmer in the sea of uncertainty at a social for public healthers in my program. She mentioned that it’s taken her a year and a half to feel like she’s truly gotten her footing here and now it may be time to shift everything once again, perhaps even in a totally new place. I thought of Rick’s quote – how many ladders of learning and accomplishments and life experiences do we climb up, only to reach the end and realize we’ve moved not to a new plateau of constancy, but simply on to the next challenge? That sounds a little pessimistic I think, but it’s not intended to. Blood sugar management from the accept and let go perspective can sound a little pessimistic to – like, no matter how hard I try, even if I check my blood sugar and get that magic 90 mg/dl, it’s already changing, I can’t hold on to it. But! BUT! In truth, this is a comfort too. This wisdom of letting go is so helpful in diabetes and in life, because it directs us back to the process, not the product.

I think I’d like to make one of those posters like you see on the wall of dentist’s offices: ‘Everything in life I need to know I learned in kindergarten,’ except it would say: ‘Everything in life I need to know I learned from diabetes.’ That’s a little over-simplified though. In truth, not knowing has led me towards these conversations with friends and others that help me to break free from dichotomous thinking and see that there are ways of seeing and thinking about challenges that I have not even considered yet, which is itself a comforting thought.

So change, you may be a wildcard, the guest who comes to the party in sequins, carrying a jello-cake and two days early – but, you might as well come in.

Calling all people with diabetes!

Community Discussion: High Blood Sugar (hyperglycemia)

How do you pick yourself back up emotionally when you have a high blood sugar reading that frustrates you? Please weigh in in the comment section below! I think we could generate some good wisdom amongst ourselves!

Oh, and if you don’t have diabetes, please share this link/blog with someone who does…I know you know someone who does. I’m really hoping to build this community and you are an important part of that effort!

Interdependence

This is the English version, slightly adapted to the current moment, of my last post from Sunday.

There’s a lot I could write about, but I’d like to start with a discussion about the word ‘neighbor.’ This word has entered my mind and my world a lot lately, and I’m thinking about what it means to be a good neighbor. Another word that has appeared again and again is ‘community.’ I went to a community this past weekend where it is evident that there is this idea of living, in the words of one resident, “in an interdependent way.” It is, she says, an alternative to living so independently, without recognizing that we do depend on each other. Why is it so hard in our culture (in all cultures?? in some more than others??) to accept help? I think that it’s a function of our perceptions about the relationship between ourselves and others, or saying it another way, between our inner world and our outer world.

It’s here that I’ll bring diabetes into the conversation (did you know that everything relates to diabetes?). A week ago I fell down the stairs (or more like I fell on the stairs while going down them). When I fell, it scared the woman who was climbing up from the other direction and she gasped and grabbed her heart. For a moment she looked worse than me. It was captivating to me that my movements and an action occurring to my body could move her too – that we were connected in this way. Later, in dance class with my leg hurting badly, I realized that my blood sugar was very low and that maybe that was why I had fallen. The level of sugar (glucose, officially) inside my body influences my movements in the world. This is a perfect metaphor for the influence that we have on our surroundings. Our thoughts, beliefs, prejudices, and personal histories have an impact on our environment whether we like it or not. We are connected. We can only operate in the world without recognizing that we depend on each other while we maintain power, or rather, until we lose control. For me, when I fell I lost control. It was a humbling experience that temporarily transformed my body. We’re always talking about shoes, but this journey taught me that a novel way to experience empathy is to imagine what life would be like in another body. Empathy is the key (for me) to being a good neighbor. Obviously, there is another moral here too for my friends who have Type 1 diabetes (or Type 2 for that matter), that is, please check your blood sugars regularly and be careful when you’re having a low.

Today my leg is feeling much better (I danced – joyously, today), and once again I’m thinking about how we can use the word gratitude as a verb. If our heart is struggling to let empathy in, maybe gratitude can help us tear down the wall.  

¿Por qué bailar solo?

Hay mucho sobre que pudiera escribir, pero quiero empezar con una discusión sobre la palabra ‘prójimo.’ Esta palabra ha entrado mi mente y mi mundo mucho recientemente, y estoy pensando en lo que significa ser una buena prójima. Otra palabra que ha entrado es comunidad. Fui a una comunidad ayer adonde es evidente que hay esta idea de vivir, en las palabras de una residente, “de una manera interdependiente.” Es, dice ella, una alternativa de vivir tan independiente, sin reconocer que somos dependientes el uno del otro. Por qué es tan dificil en nuestra cultura (en todas las culturas?? Algunas más que otras??) a aceptar que no podemos hacer todo por nuestra cuenta. Por qué se da tan mucho miedo ser vulnerable y aceptar ayuda? Pienso que es una funciona de nuestras percepciones sobre la relaciona entre nosotros y los demás, o sea, entre nuestro mundo interior y mundo exterior. Es aquí adonde traeré diabetes entra la conversación. Está semana me caí por las escaleras. Le di un asusto a la mujer que estaba subiendo desde la otra dirección. Fue interesante que mis movimientos y la acción a mi cuerpo podría moverla también – que estábamos conectadas en esta manera. Luego, en mi clase de bailar con mi pierna doliendo mal, me di cuenta que mi azúcar fue muy bajo y que posiblemente era por eso que caí. El nivel de azúcar dentro de mi cuerpo influye mis movimientos en el mundo. Esta es una metáfora perfecta para la influencia que tenemos en nuestros aldrededores. Nuestros pensamientos, creencias, prejuicios, y historias personales tienen un impacto en el exterior sin nos guste o no. Somos conectados. Solo podemos operar en el mundo sin reconocer que dependemos de otros mientras tenemos poder, o sea, hasta que perdemos el control. Para mi, cuando me caí, perdí control. Fue una experiencia humillando, que me transformó en otro cuerpo temporalmente. Este viaje, pienso que es valioso, porque permite empatía. Esto, empatía, pienso que es el ingrediente clave (para mi) de ser una buena prójima. Obviamente, hay otra moral aquí también para mis amigos que tienen diabetes tipo 1 (o 2 realmente), que es, por favor, mide tus niveles de azúcar frequentemente y cuídate cuando tienen bajos. Ahora mi pierna se siente mucho mejor y estoy otra vez pensando en como podemos usar la palabra gratitud como un verbo. Tal vez, si estamos luchando por encontrar empatía, podemos pensar en todas las cosas en nuestras vidas por lo que deberíamos tener gratitud.

CHOCOLATE RULES!

It’s Valentine’s Day.

But who needs an excuse to eat chocolate?

If you know me, you know that I carry dark chocolate with me almost everywhere I go. It’s not that I’m always eating chocolate, it’s just that when I need chocolate, I have it on hand. I also almost always have an apple on hand, but that’s an aside. I say this to establish myself as an authority on chocolate, before offering up the following,

Chocolate Rules:

***BIG GIANT DISCLAIMER: I am not a nutritionist, dietitian, or otherwise ‘health expert,’and I do not aim to offer advice, only to share my experiences.

  1. Because I’m always thinking about blood sugar, I choose dark chocolate. Typically it has less sugar and carbohydrates per serving than milk choc., may even contain some fiber, and hip health gurus say (and this is true) that dark chocolate is ‘packed’ with antioxidants (although did you know that the largest single source of antioxidants in the American diet as a whole is coffee???).
  2. So what’s a portion? I think it’s important to look at the nutrition label and decide for oneself. You’ll notice that the portion size listed on a label might contain upwards of 20 grams of carbs. For me, that’s often more than I want to get from chocolate alone. The amount of chocolate I eat at one time depends on so many factors, from what my blood sugar is, to how much insulin I’ve taken, to if I’m going for a walk or to bed. A good rule of thumb that I use is the ‘rule of thumb’. If you notice, your thumb is about the size of 2 blocks of dark chocolate – perfect!
  3. Managing portion size is a great way to afford the dark chocolate habit – Dark chocolate can be expensive! Trader Joe’s typically has some cheaper varieties, but I also browse for sales. At any given time there’s usually a delicious bar on a pretty good sale, which feeds well into…
  4. Variety is key!
  5. Sharing is essential – Dark chocolate is meant for sharing. It’s a great thing to pass around, it’s perforated as if sharing was built into the bar, it makes people smile, and it can really make a meeting feel more like a party.
  6. And shouldn’t life be more like a continual party?

Having diabetes doesn’t mean that a person can’t eat sweets and still be healthy, but it does mean that they need to be really thoughtful about the sweets they choose, how often they eat them, and in what portions.

For me, two squares of dark chocolate is the perfect fix – the period on the end of a meal.

Right now I’m starry-eyed over Chocolove’s Salted Almond Butter Variety, but one of my long time and more artsy favorites is Endangered Species’ Blackberry Sage Variety. The featured image shows my full collection, which rotates regularly.

Thanks for sharing your recommendations with me below – I’m always eager to try something new!

H2O

10 things you can do with water (that are great for diabetes):

Brush your teeth – People with diabetes are at an increased risk of periodontal disease and oral health issues

Drink until you’re hydrated – Dehydration can lead quickly to an emergency situation during ketoacidosis

Make hummus (soak chick peas, cook them, achieve desired consistency) – The fiber, protein, and other nutrients in hummus make it one of my favorite diabetes power foods

Wash your hands – When you have diabetes, infections can cause inflammation in the body that elevates blood sugar levels, which in turn makes it even harder to get well

Mop the floor – Clean floors are a vital part of happiness

Flush the toilet – Sanitation, obviously important

Wash your clothes – Although, I read on a tag of one of my ‘Toad&Co’ shirts that ‘clean is the new dirty’ and we should wash our clothes less often

Wash your dishes – Along with the next one, cooked meals are typically healthier than meals out. Keeping your kitchen free of foodborne bacteria is important to avoiding gastrointestinal illness

Clean your (non-starchy) veggies – My favorite diabetes superfood group!

Take your Vitamin D – there’s some promising research out about the importance of maintaining healthy Vitamin D levels for people with diabetes (and all people)  

Interestingly enough, this is also a list of 10 things you can’t do without water. In my town this past weekend we were under a state of emergency for over 24 hours because of over-fluoridation and a water main break (two separate incidences). I had a friend visiting for the weekend, so she and I went to stay at another friend’s house in a neighboring county. We all had a great slumber party and then the ban was lifted.

It worked out so well for me that it was particularly sobering to realize how blessed/privileged I am – in terms of this country and internationally. I was able to afford bottles, access them, and also have a nice place to stay because of my social network. Then too, thinking about the world, how bizarre that we declare a crisis and state of emergency after an hour of reduced water when in some countries people live every day with no expectation of running water in their homes. Why don’t we think about how lucky we are to have clean water that we can access almost anywhere by turning on a tap? If clean drinking water is something you don’t think about every day, chances are you’re privileged in comparison to many people in the world. Worldwide, more than 1 billion people still lack access to improved drinking water. And in many places, global warming and industry is causing water sources that entire communities depended on to dry up completely: Climate Change Claims a Lake, and an Identity (this is a great NY Times article about Lago Poopó in Bolivia).

So I know you may be wondering, what’s the call to action here? Well I’ve got two for you. The first one is to sign up for your town’s Public Health Reserve Corps (PHRC) or another similar organization that will alert you to volunteer opportunities during crises like the water shortage we experienced. The second is to challenge yourself to discover one thing that you take for granted in your day-to-day and learn about what life is like in regards to this element, whether it be water, clean air, reliable transportation, or something else, for people living in another part of our world. Please feel free to add your thoughts, experiences and/or calls to action in the comments below!