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September 12, 2013
I’ve always had a tricky relationship with diabetes research. Part of me wants to know the latest research toward a cure — it’s interesting to hear the ideas that are being explored; it’s obviously something I hope for; and I believe in keeping myself well informed. But then there’s the other side of the equation — the fact that I have to live with diabetes on a daily basis, and dreaming about a cure that doesn’t exist leaves me right back where I started, managing a chronic disease 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with no break. I don’t want to put energy toward hoping for something that is merely a fantasy.
This is what is so tricky about following research news for me — managing this tension between what IS and what COULD BE. Ultimately, I believe this fundamental tension between what is and what could be, should be, or should NOT be is the root of all of our suffering. I often think of the quote from Shakespeare (I forget which play it was), “nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” In other words, the source of our unhappiness, the source of our suffering, is within our own thoughts. And that’s an idea that’s hard to accept for most of us.
We tend to think that something bad happens OUTSIDE of ourselves, and then our thoughts are simply reflecting that BAD THING. We assign the source of our suffering to the event, to this external thing beyond our control. But the truth is that our suffering is generated in the thoughts themselves. Events are simply events. Good and bad is something we decide. And even more to the point, when something painful happens, the real suffering is often found more in the struggle to run AWAY from that painful thing than in the painful thing itself. This doesn’t mean the pain isn’t real, but we are masters at taking the feeling of pain and magnifying it by engaging in that inner struggle to run from it.
So, back to this notion of diabetes research. There is a system that I have used for years now. My mother, God bless her, keeps tabs on the latest news. She doesn’t pore over it or anything, but she keeps an ear to the ground. And she knows that if something comes up that is truly promising, she’ll share it with me. The rest of it, she doesn’t. We worked this informal arrangement out years ago as a way of managing that tension that I’m talking about. And I must say, it has worked pretty well. I do sometimes wonder, though, if this is a smart way to keep myself grounded, in the present moment, and at peace with the reality of living everyday with this disease, or whether I’m just sticking my head in the sand.
Going back to the idea of suffering being rooted in the tension between what is and what we WISH WERE TRUE, I can’t help but think that if I were a more enlightened being I wouldn’t need this arrangement. Why is it that I can’t read research news without projecting? I mean, yes, I have a HUGE vested interest in finding a cure, obviously. And yes, such an innovation would utterly transform my life in ways I can’t even quite imagine, having lived at this point more years WITH diabetes than without it. But if my mind is the cause of this tension, why can’t I take more control of it, and manage that suffering even when the subject IS something as deeply personal as living with diabetes? I suppose if I knew the answer to that question, I wouldn’t be writing this piece. I wouldn’t even be ASKING the question in the first place.
So, at the end of the day, I stick to my current arrangement. It works for me. Like I said, if I were more enlightened, I might not need it. I might be able to read all about the latest strides toward a cure, and experience none of the tension, none of the suffering. But I’m not. And in a nice bit of irony, the enlightened way to deal with our lack of enlightenment is to stop worrying about the difference between where we are and where we WOULD BE if we were enlightened. When all is said and done, I know my limits. I know where my capacity for serenity meets its end. And for me, that line is research for a cure. So until my own mind evolves a few more steps, I’ll keep getting the important news from my mom’s house in Colorado, and I’ll focus on managing this disease as best I can, one day at a time.
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