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Friday, April 08, 2011

Confessions of an Aging Diabetic

Every day I remember when I was first diagnosed with diabetes. I can still feel the shock of the cold pronouncement that my doctor gave me. The news he gave me was no real surprise. I had seen the symptoms but hoped against hope. I had been living with my head in the sand refusing to acknowledge what my body had been shouting to me loud and clear. There it is again, that lost feeling I had while being told the news which would forever alter my life. "You have diabetes. Here is a meter and this is how you load it. Would you like to see our mental health care councilor to talk through your feelings? Good I will see you in a couple of weeks." He turned and rushed off leaving me speechless and feeling like I had been hooked up on a blind date just so he could ditch me and move on to another case on his log. I moved through the rest of that day like an automaton with someone else working the strings. I followed the instructions as meager as they were while trying to figure out what to ask, what to do, what did this all mean to me. Eventually the numbness faded and it was replaced with another emotion I can still feel the anger I felt when I realized I had not been given any of the tools I needed to deal with this new challenge.

I was tried to cope with that sense of loss. A feeling like I had attended a funeral of a close friend who I would mourn came over me. I grieved for the me who died that day and thought on how that death would change me. I made a laundry list of all the things I had to leave behind. Those favorite foods, the spontaneous carefree days all gone. Everything I thought I knew was dust in the wind and events blew them away. At first it chafed me and I had a profound hunger that continuously gnawed inside my belly. I never thought I would feel full again. This was not just hunger for mere food but for my old life back. Though the rumbling in my belly could not be denied.Without the input of a dietitian I had been over zealous in my attempt to reduce my intake and had been too focused on losing weight at a rate that was not safe.

Time rolls on and I am now a new man. Gone are the cravings. I have discovered ways to nibble what I choose. Eating small manageable portions that make me feel pampered and content. Moderation in all things always rings in my head. Everything is permissible unless it is damaging to your body or spirit. I dance lightly on the razor's edge juggling with wild abandon. Set free from ignorance I am no longer afraid of cutting my legs off because of an unexpected fall from grace. Fear is an ugly form of slavery and I long to be free.

I am glad that I came to my condition late in life. I am not sure how a younger and less wise me would have reacted to the news. I was one of those willful brash and arrogant young men who saw the suffering of others as proof of their weakness. My pride was legion and my compassion sorely wanting. I walked in twilight when I should have sought out the brightness all around me unseen.

I was living with a chronic case of youthful deception. Blindly thinking that I was invulnerable and brimming with insufferable ignorant certitude. Eventually I was inoculated against this cancer of the soul by a life changing injury. It was my turn to cry out against what I saw as a hostile uncaring world intent on my degradation and eventual destruction. My world crumbled around me. I was faced with the unvarnished fact that my body had failed me. The knowledge shook me to my core. Pain gripped me and I was reborn. My cries were my second birth pangs. It was my wake up call and the first step into becoming truly human. It has been quite a trip, but I would not change a thing. Humility is a hard lesson to learn, but without being humbled I would not be the man I am today.

My world keeps changing, and with it my life has become richer. I gained a sense of concern for the well-being of those around me. It has more weight in my mind than concerns for my personal survival. When my mother was dying I offered myself to take her place because her life meant more to me than my own. When my prayers went unanswered. There was a question that hung in the air insoluble in logic. I had to think hard about what was the reason I was still here on Earth. Maybe some day I will know the answer, or perhaps I will never know. I will keep on finding more questions to ask and someday either I or those who follow me will pick them up and solve the mystery.

In my later years I know I am who I am. I am just a man living life on my own terms. I am much more than a set of statistics and medical conditions. Diabetes is just another place I travel through on this long and strange journey. I am not the road I walk on, but a traveler navigating along it to reach my goal. I may take a detour, I may have to pull out a map to see where I took a wrong turn. I may travel a path rarely taken by others. If I find an oasis of joy I will linger there for a while and feed my spirit and drink deeply. But I know I will get to where I need to be at the time I need to be there. Life is a wonderous journey best taken at a slow pace so we can savor each step. No longer am I in a great hurry to cross the finish line. Understanding has taught me this race is won by those who finish last.

So I sing a song of joy for you loud and without shame. I say a prayer for all of us to see us through our days. May our journey be long and full of wonder and a sense of awe for all the profound secrets revealed to us along the way. Meaning found in a smile, a word, in the warmth of a kiss. Lessons found in s water smoothed rock on a beach, the shimmer of the northern lights, or the sounds of the night chorus from the wetlands on a summer night. A kaleidoscope of imagery and sensations that speaks to our heart if we are calm and our inner voices do not drown them out.

We were meant to make this journey it is a gift given to us and a duty to take it. Though at times we think our life is hard and the path is rocky. We have an infinite inner strength to endure it all if we have faith and the serenity to face it unafraid. The human spirit can work miracles. In the darkest moments it can shine out so bright. I will follow the light that others glow with and l will meet you all somewhere down the line. When we all gather together in the light of grace we will laugh and share ideas on what this life was all about.

I know I may have said some of this all before and if I have said it once I have said it a million times I hate when I repeat myself. But grant me the indulgence an old geezer is due for my ramblings.

Till we meet again, live your life with passion, live it with joy, and wonder. Try to be good to yourself, and do something good for others. Always remember you are never alone as long as friends are near.

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