Dancing With Diabetes

I’ve been writing up a storm lately, but not one word of it has been about diabetes. I’ve been corresponding with my dear friend in Boston, discussing matters of faith, philosophy, music, and the mysteries of existence. It has been a deeply nourishing period, these last few months, and I’ve noticed on more than one occasion, sitting down to write this blog has felt a bit forced. I’ve managed to delve into content each week, of course, and occasional writer’s block is nothing new or unique.

But today, I thought perhaps I would take my experience of being “stuck” in my diabetes-specific writing and run with it. You see, I realized something this morning. I am in a period of expansion — intellectual, spiritual, musical, philosophical, and more. The world is deepening for me in vastly wonderful and awe-inspiring ways. And part of my experience is a deepening experience of the “fullness” of my own human life — an appreciation for the vast cosmos that makes up each and every one of us. We are, all of us, walking universes of thought, experience, feeling, and energy.

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As I reflected on all of that, diabetes started to feel so incredibly small. It’s a thing I have, a companion that’s been part of my experience for many years, and a great source of ideas, wisdom, pain, and understanding. But it’s only a sliver, a fraction, of who I am, what is important to me, what I feel, and how I relate to the world. “I am not diabetes,” I thought. And so I started to write the title — “You Are Not Your Diabetes.”

And yet… I AM diabetes, to a point. Because who I am is inevitably shaped in part by my experience of living with diabetes. And while spiritual and philosophic ideas carry me into the cosmos of my thoughts, diabetes is also a good old-fashioned, physical reality. The vast universe that makes up “me” is contained in a diabetic body, and that body is no less important to who I am than anything else. As Charlotte Joko Beck (the great Zen teacher) liked to remind us, there is no difference between the mundane and the spiritual — washing the dishes can bring about enlightenment just as easily as meditating on the peak of a mountain. Mind, body, spirit, it’s all equal.

And so, after much thought and wrestling with what it all means, I arrived at the final title of today’s piece, “Dancing With Diabetes.” Diabetes IS one of our dance partners. And it informs how we move through life; it confronts us; and it does change our trajectory, whether we like it or not. But that doesn’t mean we have no power in it — a dance is not a fight. It’s not a matter of power vs. power, but movement combined with movement. It’s both reactive and proactive, with an ultimate goal of melting away the boundary between two independent bodies such that they might move in sync, almost with a single mind borne of the two forces coming together.

Diabetes is a part of our universe, no larger or smaller than any other part, and it is up to each of us to figure out how we’re going to dance with it. In my own experience, I have found that pushing it away never works, nor does it help to become overly attached to it, using it as a tool to “define” myself. Like it or not, diabetes is with us for the long haul, and that means “struggling against” it ultimately leads us nowhere. And clinging too strongly to it only chokes out all of those other elements of ourselves that give life such depth and meaning. So we dance with it, lead when we need to lead, follow when we need to follow, and we do our best to enjoy the journey. It’s all we can do.