Time to Get A Move On It?

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I’ve been trying to deny it, but I’ve been feeling exceptionally cruddy these last few days. My boss informed me that one day of my classes will most likely be shut down, and that more days might follow, eventually maybe even this entire branch of the school itself. After eight years of very dedicated work here it feels like quite a letdown, especially because the boss has been getting on all the teacher’s cases about “doing their best” for the school and the students. That’s exactly what I did… but when push came to shove, I’m given one week’s notice.

I simply can’t make ends meet like this. With all the other worries I have I also can’t afford yet more sticks piled onto the camel’s back. I’m feeling shaky enough as it is.

Big intake of breath, big, big exhale. Everything’s going to be all right. Everything’s going to be all right.

Yeah, that’s what I said when I found out I had diabetes. I’ve since learned that everything is not always going to be all right.

And maybe that’s part of the crux of the problem. I’ve lost the innocence and confidence in my own ability to keep myself safe in the world. When my heart skips a beat at night I wake up terrified that my body has abandoned me. When there’s an earthquake now I shake in my bones, fearful that this is the one. The thunder storms I used to love so much when I was younger now flash moments of terror in the back of my watching mind. At times, when my blood sugar is high, I start up some train station steps only to feel my mind loosened and reeling, and I wonder if I will be able to make it up the stairs. And whenever I sit waiting in the hospital lounge in my monthly visits to the diabetes center and watch one of the blind or amputees or patients headed for the dialysis machine my eyes are wide with sympathy and horror; that could very well be me there.

When did my faith in my own existence erode so badly? And how does one gain back the confidence and surety of waking up in the morning? I pick up a book on diabetes and the statistics unnerve me:

1) People with diabetes are 2 times more likely to suffer heart attack than those without.
2) People with diabetes are 2 times more likely to suffer a stroke as those without.
3) People with diabetes are 20 times more likely to go blind than those without.
4) People with diabetes are 40 times more likely to suffer kidney failure than those without.”
*
5) People with diabetes are highly likely to suffer debilitating nerve damage, that can cause all of the problems above.

*Quoted from “The Mind-Body Diabetes Revolution” by Richard S. Surwit

Fun reading! It’s like a benign old librarian smiling and quoting simple figures for your trivia enjoyment… all the while a monster standing in disguise beneath her petticoats.

There’s nothing really special about this news; after all we are all scheduled for time in the Cold Room, but there is such a difference in knowing that the cogs and pipes and governors have loosened and jumped track, right here in your own backyard.

When I first saw the movie “Philadelphia” when it first came out over ten years ago, before diabetes sought me out, it moved me and stuck with me, but last night when I again watched Tom Hanks emerge from Denzel Washington’s office after being rejected and the look on Hanks’ face of knowing that his body had given him a legacy of hopelessness, I knew to my bones what he was feeling.

Two months ago my aunt died from diabetes complications. I wasn’t able to get time off to make it to the States to hold her hand before she died and give her whatever courage one diabetic could give to another. Afterwards an ocean of confusion overtook me, partly laden with waves of sorrow at the death of someone I loved dearly, partly awash with immense paranoia that I, too, wasn’t going to make it for much longer. The following week, when my doctor, who has an infuriating habit of talking on her cell phone during our consultations, again answered some call, I blew up and accused her of being unprofessional and not knowing what she was doing and of letting me slowly drift out to sea. Seven years of silence erupted. I am so scared and feel so helpless. And yet I can’t talk about it with anyone I know; the burden would be incomprehensible to them. Too often they brush off the mutters of low-blood sugar fears and days of bad coordination due to neuropathy or the unprovoked, high-blood sugar episodes when even the way a slip of paper might oscillate in a breeze sets me off ranting and shouting for no apparent reason. My father took me to task for “the chip on my shoulder”.

But they’re not to blame. They just don’t know. They don’t have this awful face staring at them day in and day out. Diabetes seems so benign and innocent… after all most diabetes are walking around as if nothing is wrong. They look fine and seem to do just about the same things as anyone else. It is just not apparent that the vision is blurred or that the ringing is constant and loud in the ear or that the feet hurt badly or a morning cramp so clenched the calf muscle that walking is difficult or that the drowsiness just won’t go away, no matter how much coffee you drink or exercise you do. It is silent, like a scalpel.

But my words are defeatist. It’s no joke that everyone is going to die. We all carry that. So I guess the only thing for it is to make best use of what I have and try to live as best I can.

Maybe losing the job is a good thing. After all I’ve long been talking about my need to make a big change in my life. I’ve always believed that you don’t get what you want out of life, but you always do get what you need. In the end what is really important is with just how much grace you can fit inside this tumbling world and how much meaning you can stoke out of the embers into the flickering flame of your life.

8 Responses

  1. Oh dear, I’m so sorry about your losses – your aunt most of all, your work, and your confidence in your health care. I admit my ignorance on how bad diabetes is though I have friends living with it. Yet some of those symptoms like ringing in the ears and muscle cramps are familiar to me! Yes, you say it well, “to make the best use of what we have and try to live as best as we can”. It’s a hard fight between body and spirit, and perhaps a change can be the catalyst towards joy. A creative outlet helps the soul and one forgets the body for a while. Good cheer and good luck, butuki!

  2. inlandchi

    I watched the same movie last night. I felt its power. too. I felt some other things that I won’t talk about now, but I want to say that truth in art always speaks to us and probably stirs up something important. I hear you saying that you are afraid to die, lose your abilities, your senses–so precious for an artist. It’s not wrong to be afraid of death and incapacity; we all are. Because you have a disease, you have just realized all of a sudden, younger, what we all come to eventually. It’s not an easy demon to wrestle, the confrontation with sickness and oblivion. I’m convinced it’s as hard to enter “middle/old age” as it is adulthood. We have to reexamine everything, take out all the things in our closet, look at them, feel them, and toss them out to lighten the load, or kiss them and put them away, ready to carry them for a little longer. I think this necessarily stirs up a lot of emotions. I am saying you are entitled to them, you will have to look at them before you can find an easier way to co-exist. I wish you courage, which I know you have, and the knowledge that you are not alone.

  3. dear Miguel, sending big hugs your way. I’m so sorry to hear the news…love and strength to you.

  4. Miguel,
    Butterflies break out of their cocoons not because they want to, but because they just no longer fit. The cocoon has opened on it’s own and opened up the world to you. Take some time to dry your wings and taste the air, then take flight. Find a setting where you you can flourish, move to the county, find the harmony with nature that you enjoy so. You belong among the grass and mountains Miguel, not the cement and the skyscrapers…
    Butterflies get frightened too, but they know when it is time to fly…

  5. Thanks everyone. I don’t know how this post turned into a lament about diabetes! It was originally supposed to be about the Daurian Redstart (man, I love bird names!) that stopped dropping by outside my studio window a week or more ago. I miss his bright, cheerful herald to the mornings and the silly flick of his tail as he sat on top of the fence. Now he’s probably somewhere up in Siberia, eyeing some other lucky soul sitting by her window. Instad I spill the beans about diabetes. Go figure.

    Marja-Leena… yes, the creative outlet really does make a difference, doesn’t it? And when some piece of work, say a drawing or a photograph or even a piece of writing, works its magic it is as if your body is floating on another plane.

    Pica, thanks. I’m glad you and Numenius are there.

    Inlandchi, I know that you are also going through your own struggle. Thanks for lending me your encouragement and words of… yes, really… wisdom. You might be hard on yourself, but your writing really is inspirational.

    Lisa, yes, the reconnection with you definitely feels great. I still have to get to that e-mail, but what I would really like is to start up hand-written letters again. I’ll get back to you about that.

    Rana, er, thanks. I see that mark all over the place, but I have no idea what it means! What is it? An all-seeing eye? A mouth wide in horror? A person raising both arms to catch attention? A nipple? A warped representation of “lol”? The Earth in the grip of the Destroyer’s clenched fist? What? What?

    Sasane… It’s funny how, as much as I spend as much time pushing my nose into bushes and watching the life get on around me, I learn so little from what I see. Most animals go on living as best they can, full-throttle no matter how hard things are. I guess it’s time for me to put away the violins and just go stomping right out that door. Thanks!

  6. I’m sorry. I just found out my beloved friend has gestational diabetes. Both having worked in healthcare, this is our shared nightmare. My one wish is to die with a healthy pancreas and Islet Cells. It’s a horrible disease, and I would cure it before cancer or AIDS or asthma, had I that magic wand.

    So. You are right to be bewildered and frustrated and frightened. But you are also right to continue to live as best you can, to love those you love and to grow and care.

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