Life isn’t what happens to you but what you do with it

Little girl_2Focus on the good stuff more

If you come here every now and then you may have noticed something has changed. It’s the text above the clown to the left. “Choose thrive over surviveliving with diabetes.”

What I really want to do throughout this year is remind you that while none of us would have asked for diabetes, and it’s a semi-regular (O.K. almost constant) pain in the butt, and I myself go from highs to lows both in my blood sugar and my frustration level, I still try to remain focused on my blessings. The good in my life — and what diabetes gives me. If I were to see diabetes as a limitation, it will limit me. If I were tosee diabetes as a pain in the butt, my butt would hurt more. If I see it, however, as a stimulus to creating a bigger, more generous and purposeful life, then it does this for me.

I am doing work I love, helping others with diabetes through my talks, this web site, my new book, The ABCs Of Loving Yourself With Diabetes (soon for sale on this web site) and articles inDiabeteshealth magazine. I am more fit than ever, look better in my clothes than ever, don’t care anymore what anyone thinks of me or the fact that I’m bucking conventional therapy with diabetes (well maybe that comes from being over 50) and am foolishly, happily hopeful that some people benefit from my doing what I’m doing.

Rather than curse my lot in life every day my sight is set on appreciating how strong, courageous and resilient I am to get up and take on diabetes again. Like it does for all of us, it requires living with complications staring over one shoulder while taking the best care of myself to keep them at bay. All the while leaving room for spontaneity, joy, light-heartedness and the craziness of everyday life.

In all the literature about diabetes, no one talks about thriving with diabetes or using pride to manage it. Why not? Why is everything gloom, doom, poor me and isn’t this horrible? Sorry, but this is not very motivational. Why are all the emotional associations with diabetes frustration, worry, shame, depression, guilt and anger? Again, lest you read this wrong, I would never line up to get diabetes or be a “diabetes wanna-be” but as they say, “Life happens when you’re making other plans” and “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

Medical models seem to only see the bad news in illness. Doctors are trained in acute care — to stop ill health, heal it, cure it. But patients of chronic illness have to find the good news, because our condition is not going away. Since the 1970’s hippies, self-help and business gurus, spiritualists, and song-writers have told us to look for the silver lining, the gift in a problem, the opportunity in a challenge, the learning in failure. This thinking, however, doesn’t seem to have yet crossed over into medicine and disease. But I figure, since every morning I’m going to wake up with diabetes, and there’s nothing I can do to cure it, why not find something positive about it? Why not find something in treating it that makes me feel good about myself?  I am damn proud of all I do, medically and emotionally to keep myself tracking, even with my other life constantly at my doorstep: the shopping, cooking, keeping the house clean, oy, running to airports and meeting work deadlines.

My message this year is this — explore, examine and find at least one good thing that’s come from having diabetes. Maybe you’ve gotten your act together about eating better or received praise for your new svelte figure or are in training to run your first marathon. I know many people who were headed for heart attacks that no longer are. I also know many fellow baby boomers slipping away to far more devastating or terminal illnesses, in part because they didn’t take care of themselves. I’m not saying there aren’t bad days, or bad patches or emotions that make you want to rail against everyone and everything at times, there are. What I am saying is your overall attitude about living with diabetes will impact the experience and your actions, so why not pick the attitude that will benefit you?

In looking for one good thing that diabetes has given you maybe you’ve decided you’re finally going to dedicate some time to that dream you left along the roadside.  Maybe diabetes has helped you realize the value of time and where you’d like more of yours to go. Maybe diabetes has made you more compassionate of other’s misfortunes and more thankful yours doesn’t involve a permanent wheelchair or loss of brain cells. Maybe you realize how capable you are of meeting life’s challenges. Personally, I am happy I no longer want to shoot myself when I catch my reflection unexpectedly in the mirror. While my every day walk controls my calories and blood sugar, it also makes me feel I’ve accomplished something and kept a promise to myself. Every day that walk is a reminder I take care of my health. I’m also quite proud of myself for keeping my blood sugars so consistently in target range by testing and correcting more. And while someone will moan and boo-hoo about having to do that, I’m so grateful I can do it with today’s tools and that I even know the importance of doing it. I didn’t 20 years ago. And, worrying whether someone would marry a diabetic, well, I’m so over that!

If you cultivate a grateful heart this year, I promise you your life will change. I also promise you it may not be easy and your progress may not be steady, but it will pay off. Like most things it requires practice. So I’ll let you in on the real deal at this very moment: I’m writing this with an awful cold and would really prefer to be lounging in bed. I’m annoyed that I can’t go out and take my walk this week or likely next because I have absolutely no energy. I’m waiting every day for my blood sugar to rise because I’m sick and not getting any physical activity and so am reducing my insulin sensitivity – GRUNT! GRUNT! GRUNT! Am I a hypocrite? No, just up against it. As they say, this is a “teachable moment.”  I am being made aware I have to practice something I preach. So I recall what I read in one of Wayne Dyer’s books years ago — when a negative thought comes to mind say “STOP!” and replace it with a positive thought. Mine right now is I can order 3 new movies from netflix and indulge my laziness. Of course, since I’m now spending lots of time on the couch reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, a positive thought may not happen anytime soon.

But here’s my final thought. The prescription I’d give everyone for managing diabetes for the long haul is to get the basics down and then get on with it. Maybe that’s what should show up on more physician’s script pads. Unfortunately then it would be illegible. Ah, well, so chomp on this: the world is still waiting for you to make your mark, with or without diabetes.

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