“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” So said Shakespeare many years ago. I’ve found that sentence to be a great bit of advice for living with diabetes through the years. It describes the way our own reactivity can make living with this disease even harder than it needs to be or, conversely, how we can understand our own thinking and mitigate the internal suffering we face.
Think of yourself as a magnet. Now imagine that magnet charged so that its attraction is very, very strong. When it comes in contact with other magnets, it will be attracted or repelled, getting pulled off track either way. Everywhere the magnet goes, it gets knocked around like a pinball.
Now, imagine you take away the charge. Imagine that no matter what “your magnet” comes in contact with, whether positive or negative, it can remain centered, on track, undisturbed. That, as far as I can tell, is what Shakespeare was talking about. Our thoughts are the magnet, and they can be geared to react to every bit of good news and bad news by being pulled or pushed around, or they can be tamed by taking away the charge.
These “positive” and “negative” magnets refer to “good news” and “bad news.” We respond with repulsion to the bad news (like high numbers, results we don’t like, feelings we don’t enjoy, or obstacles in our path), and we respond with attraction to the good news (good numbers, results we were shooting for, feelings we enjoy). It’s easy to understand how the repulsion we feel causes us suffering, but that attraction to the good news is actually just as guilty.
You see, either way we’re letting our feelings be dictated by forces outside of ourselves. Whether we’re happy or sad, we are giving up our control, letting forces outside ourselves determine how and what we feel. And even when that feeling is one of being happy, it is fleeting, dependent on whatever magnet we happen to be attracted to in that moment. Once it passes, we lose our ability to feel happy.
So what exactly is the answer, then? If we’re not “searching for happiness,” what exactly ARE we searching for? I think we’re searching for peace. Living with diabetes means facing good news and bad news constantly. Every single blood sugar check is a chance for good news or bad news. Every single A1C result is a chance to receive news of improvement or backsliding. If we’re always searching for happiness “out there,” we’ll just drive ourselves crazy. But we can find peace inwardly no matter what’s happening out there.
Finding internal peace means creating a practice that directs our focus in the right direction. It’s so easy to get caught up chasing our thoughts that we often do it without even realizing what we’re doing. That’s why meditation is such a good practice — it takes away all of the distractions and just leaves us with our own thoughts. When we do that, we can see what they’re REALLY doing, and finally get ourselves free from them, at least for a few minutes each day. Ultimately, peace is found through sustained mindfulness.
It’s that mindfulness that’s really the key to living with diabetes, I think. We’ll have good news and bad news, happiness and sadness, joy and pain. But as long as we are mindful of ourselves, we can maintain peace no matter what kind of magnets are floating around us.