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.

With a Minute to Spare

Chapter 2

So at 8:05 pm I’m sitting on the plane to Miami muttering, “Come on, come on,” under my breath, and hoping they start the engines soon. By 9:00 I felt like I had aged several years and my cortisol was jumping up and down like a jack russell terrier. I had one of those little in-flight tracker screens right in front of me, and although I enjoy many traditional flight hobbies like writing in my journal, doing crossword puzzles, and reading SkyMag, this time all I could bring myself to do, literally, for two hours, was watch that little plane icon move slowly through my home state (Georgia), and onwards towards the tip of Florida.

At 9:05 the estimated arrival time had jumped back from the original 10:15 (which remember would leave me with a total of 5 minutes to make my connecting flight) to 9:44 pm. I would have, calculating time for deboarding, at least 20 minutes of straight running time before the gate to my second flight closed. At this time, I did decide to update my journal. In it I wrote:

24 minutes to destino. Quick update, I’m on the plane. BG (blood glucose) is 320 mg/dl. Was so low in Raleigh that I couldn’t think. Didn’t take insulin for a long time. We are set to arrive @ 9:44 and then depart at 10:20. As long as no gate change I’ll be at F25 (only 20 gates away from where we arriving). I’m going to write an update at 10:40 pm saying I made it, and my BG will be perfect. Then I will fall into a nice sleep until 4 am, then write for an hour. Someday I’ll learn Portuguese.

This was my last journal entry for four days.

Back on the plane, as we declined in elevation towards our destination, I looked at the screen, then back at the overhead compartment, then at my purse, then at all the people around me, in a nervous loop. There were so many people in front of me, and I knew I had to get off of that plane. A flight attendant walked by. I asked her if she could help me. I said, “Hello there…I know this might be a weird request, but my connecting flight leaves at 10:20, and that lady up there, hers leaves pretty soon too, and if there’s any way we can get off this plane, like, first, or sooner, that’d be great.”

She agreed to make an announcement over the loudspeaker. She was very kind.

5 minutes later, as people rustled around and the captain updated us of our status repeatedly, a quiet announcement urging passengers to allow those with close connecting flights to depart first, was made. The attendant warned me that most likely, people would take little heed, especially those in first class.

And yet a door opened. Behind me, a couple on their way to an island off the coast of Florida, anticipating their vacation, had heard my anxious request. “You’ve got a close connector too?” One of the women asked. I sighed. “Yeah, it’s pretty close…” “Yeah ours got crunched with the delay. What’s yours?” she asked. I told her. “OH, that is close. That makes me feel pretty good about ours.” Despite this, she was very sympathetic. ”Here’s what you need to do,” she said. Follow us off of here and we’ll get you pointed towards the Sky Train. You’ve got to get on the Sky Train because where we are, you’re never gonna make it on foot all the way to your next gate. This airport is a giant.”

Now remember, our flight was arriving considerably early. It was 9:40, and we were descending towards a gentle landing. At 9:44 we touched down.

At 9:55 we were still waiting behind several other planes on a slow, slow pathway towards deboarding. Our huge machine idled in the queue. I began to feel flushed and frantic (noticing a theme?).

My friends from a few seats back knew that everything wasn’t going to go as smoothly as they’d originally presented. They amended the plan. “Ok, here’s what you’ve gotta do. As soon as we get up there, and they turn off the seatbelt sign, we’re gonna stand up and make an opening for you so you can get your backpack and get off of here. And then, don’t look back. Don’t wait for us, we’ll just slow you down. You gotta get off this plane and run like hell. You gotta get to gate 11 (9 gates away) and get on the Sky Train. I think you’ll have to go up some stairs…”

At that moment we docked.

The seatbelt sign went off.

My friends stood up, and I began to act.

I heaved my Osprey backpack from the overhead compartment and hiccupped down the aisle, meeting the line as it slowly moved off of the plane. I stepped onto the connecting bridge and could see the light of the airport at the other end, but I was still blocked by a throng of passengers. I tried to wait patiently because I don’t like pushing through crowds or running around other people who I could potentially crash into. So I slowly trudged along, until suddenly, in the Miami airport, at what was now 10:08 pm, I saw an opening, and I made a break for it.

My backpack was flapping on my back because I hadn’t buckled the waist strap and my purse was bouncing repeatedly into my stomach. If I had ever pushed myself this hard in high school track, I might have placed in a race. I had never run like this before. I also had never run before wearing a 35 lb. backpack. There was no one in the airport, no one out in front of me. Which is sort of a figure of speech because there were a few others, walking on the moving sidewalks which had been disabled because of how late it was. After about two minutes of running, my hair flying into my face, cheeks red, eyes wide, heaving breaths from the exertion, I see a business man and I think, he must know how this airport works. As I pass him on my right, I turn my head like a frenzied bull and with panic in my eyes I scream, “Where’s the Sky Train?!” “What?” he queries back. “THE SKY TRAIN?!!!”

I still don’t know where the Sky Train was. He failed my question a second time and I waved my hand at him in dismissal before continuing to sprint through the deserted airport.

Up ahead, one of those little cars was sitting horizontal in my path. As I approached it, I yelled to the conductor, “Please, sir, I’ve got to get to gate F25,” and instead of dodging it, I jumped on (not recommended behavior).

I learned my friend’s name, and where he was from, and that he had no faith that I would make my flight because moments before he had taken the last passenger who they were calling for over the loudspeaker to the very same gate.

I disagreed with him, but I was grateful for his kind presence and effort, nevertheless. We sped (at 5 mph) through the airport. My hair flew behind me, finally out of my mouth and eyes. I began to try to breathe again, although my lungs burned and my chest was tight. I was invigorated, I was going to make it. I had 1 minute before they would close the gate at 10:10 pm as we neared F25.

…To be continued.

Can’t stop thinking about…

Costa Rica right now. It’s cold here in North Carolina! Here are some pics now and then, side by side. It’s crazy how much our climate shapes us. Right now I’m going to the gym or bundling up for walks, down there I was rambling outside and running by the surf.

Diabetes was wild in Costa Rica. It was the first time I’d ever introduced myself to new people as a person with diabetes. Before that it was all about telling people who knew me that I’d been diagnosed. In some ways, it was sort of a relief to not have to explain how I got sick, stayed sick, and was finally diagnosed. To not have to fight people’s expectations of how I would be based on how they knew me before.

It’s nice to have better words to explain diabetes now. It’s taken me ten years – there have been a lot of hard emotions to sort through when it comes to how much to share, how much to ask for help. Being vulnerable with friends though, and there is a lot of interesting research right now about vulnerability that seems to confirm this, in my experience has blessed me with deeper relationships and more trust.

Travel Pic of the Week

I want to start a little project called ‘Travel Pic of The Week.’ I plan to pick a picture at semi-random and then narrate the context around it. I have so many amazing pictures from travels in the U.S., Costa Rica, and Europe that I think this will be a nice way to bring life back to those memories. Thanks and Enjoy!

a deceptively tranquil path leading to the Cote Sauvage:

DSCN0228

In 2011 I traveled to France to explore, meet my father’s family, and speak as much French as I could. My father flew over and spent the first two weeks of my three month trip with me. We started in Paris visiting his aunt, my great-aunt and then worked our way to the Loire Valley to visit cousins. We rented a car and drove from Paris up along the Cote Sauvage, which means ‘Wild Coast,’ staying at a couple of inns along the way, one that was right on the seashore. This was a path leading to a peaceful stretch of beach that one spilled out onto after stepping out of the sliding back door of our room. At the peculiar little inn where we stayed we dined on toast and preserves in the morning and played game after game of pool at night in the parlor. During the couple of days we spent there I roamed the coast, which is indeed fantastically wild and craggy, with waves beating against the rocks and shooting up foam and fisherman in long rubber overalls hauling writhing sea bass in on their lines. DSCN0235

On the Road with Diabetes

Lately I’ve been on the road a lot. Which is a way I love to be! I love the adventure of navigating a new place. I like to go at it without a GPS (which is good since I don’t own one) and ask for directions as many times as possible from as many different people as I can. This seems strange, I know, but it is a fabulous way to discover the hidden nooks of a place and to get a sense of the general friendliness and openness of a community.

When you ask a local for directions, you can often tell right away how they feel about that place. People will light up when describing a route to you through a town or countryside that they love. They will shake their heads and look down and make scoffing, grunting sounds, or else, like when I landed in the worst neighborhood in San Francisco dragging my big red suitcase, with no cash, they will make purse-lipped, “Mhmm,” sounds with a furrowed brow and tell you not to make eye contact and to just keep moving. That’s not my style, so I asked a cop for directions further down the road hoping he might offer to transport me in his squad car. He didn’t, he just made more, “Mhmm,” sounds of worry and confusion for me.

When I’m traveling half of my mind is engrossed in the outer landscape and the other half is engrossed in my inner physiological landscape. I simultaneously hate and appreciate this. As much as I try to tell myself beforehand, “I’m going to just not care what my blood sugar is on this trip,” I always still do! When I have high blood sugar and have an hour or two of a drive yet, I feel like frustration is swelling inside of my heart. Having high blood sugar already makes me feel like a caged animal, and having it while being in a car is like that feeling times two. I can’t even (quite literally) shake it off, by going for a walk, or jog, etc. And I’m always puzzled between the fine dance of ‘conservative’ bolusing, so that I don’t go low if I’m driving, and extra bolusing or increased basal for the more sedentary time of travel.

Diabetes management thrives on routine or else requires the operator (me) to become a lot more involved. Which is the opposite of what I want to do on vacation. I want to say to my friends, “I don’t care where we go to dinner, take me to your favorite place!” Or, “Yeah, cheesecake sounds great!” Sometimes, I have an impulse to do that thing called…relaxing, where your mind sort of goes blank and you stop strategizing for the best possible way to achieve balance and you just sort of…veg.

But instead I pack a rigorous cooler full of literal veggies and nut butters, snack foods of all kinds, instant coffee (can’t really attribute that to diabetes, but it helps), and try to picnic as much as possible. The picnic is key because usually a good spot for picnicking is also a good spot for walking, which is a really useful tool on car trips. Often I park far from my ultimate destination and play the ‘ask for directions’ game on the way to wherever I’m going, which usually helps me get a good walk in. But I think the best outcome for me on the road comes from that good cache of snacks that I can use to fill-up a little before and meal at a restaurant that might not have as much to offer in the way of non-spiking foods or to munch on in the morning before my companions wake up. I would recommend the noble avocado, as the perfect snack for morning, afternoon, or night, compatible with sweet and savory, filling, and rich in happy making omega-3’s. I have more to say on this topic, but for now I’ve got to move.