If there’s one lesson I’ve had to learn over and over again, it’s the need to set limits. And I don’t think I’m alone in this. I think Diabetians often have a hard time setting limits for ourselves.
Diabetes is many things, but mostly it’s a CONSTANT thing. It’s a never-ending, no-time-off kind of thing. And I think learning how to deal with this aspect of diabetes management can put us in tough binds in the rest of our lives. It certainly has informed some of my own bad habits.
“You don’t have to WANT to do it, you just have to do it”
This was my mother’s favorite response to me when I was a kid whining about a chore or some other such thing that I didn’t particularly feel like doing. It was brilliant, really. What do you say to that? Nothing! There is simply no good comeback to that statement. It helped me understand that we don’t always have to WANT to do things in order to do them. And that obviously comes in pretty handy dealing with diabetes. After all, most of what we do falls into that “just have to do it” category.
But living with diabetes can push us too far in that direction, I think. Diabetes is a nonstop obligation that we simply have to work with. We never, EVER, get to turn it down or decide we don’t like it, “and therefore aren’t going to devote time to it.” I think many of us have to turn that discerning part of our brain OFF a little bit to deal with the disease, because otherwise we might drive ourselves just a little bit nuts.
What happens when we start to treat the rest of our lives like this — when we fail to turn that discerning part of our brain back ON? We get overextended, locked into doing too many disparate things because we’ve trained ourselves NOT to step back and ask ourselves the very simple questions, “Do I WANT to be doing all of this? Do I NEED to be doing all of this?” I’m finding myself in this very situation right now. I’m working with too many projects, and I need to let one go. I might need to let a few of them go. But as always, I’m noticing this after already committing time and energy to them, and already getting very locked into them.
Why did I end up here? Because I don’t notice the extent to which a schedule or pattern isn’t working for me until it’s REALLY not working. I treat it like diabetes — I don’t have to WANT to go rehearse, I just have to rehearse. I don’t have to WANT to learn 20 new songs for the fourth project I’m tackling this week, I just have to learn them. You get the picture. I don’t notice the overcommitment because once I get into worker-bee mode, I get into Diabetian mode. And Diabetian mode just works through the annoyance, frustration, and stress.
Life should be enjoyed
Tomorrow I’m going to have to sit down and have a tough conversation as I back out of a project that I know a good friend of mine is very excited about. It just doesn’t fit for me, and I probably could have noticed that a lot sooner. This “push through it, just get it done” approach of mine has made this conversation much harder, because now it means dropping something that other people have put their energy and time into.
I think we Diabetians need to keep one simple phrase in our minds at all times: “Life should be enjoyed.” We KNOW that life can be a lot of work. We KNOW how to push through tough situations in spite of our lack of enthusiasm. We’re fantastic at pushing through. But we’re not good at stopping to think about whether we HAVE TO BE DOING THAT. I, for one, need to stop treating the rest of my life like I treat diabetes. And I need to keep that phrase in my mind everywhere I go.
So, the next time you find yourself in this situation (and I’d be willing to be that a lot of you reading this know exactly what I’m talking about in this blog entry), take notice. And take a minute to stop and assess whether you’re backing YOURSELF into corners that you really don’t have to back into. Ask yourself if you’re enjoying the things you’re filling your life with. And remember that we have a choice about most of it. We never had a choice about having diabetes, but we’ve got a lot of choices about how we spend our lives. Let’s all remember that.