So I was sitting here at my desk, waiting for my next client to arrive, and thought I’d get started on this week’s blog entry. Except… I wasn’t sure what to write about. I felt like many of my ideas had already been put to paper (or put to “Web site”), and I didn’t want to simply start repeating myself. I thought I might hop online for some interesting diabetes news — maybe that would give me an interesting topic. Then I thought I might try to find some inspirational quote about perseverance, overcoming obstacles, or world peace. But none of it really seemed that interesting.
Just as I was about to call it quits for the day and let it rest until tomorrow, an idea crept into my head: Instead of worrying about repeating myself, write about repetition! Yes, that’s IT! I’ll write about repetition! After all, what is diabetes but a never-ending cycle of repetition? That’s what makes it a chronic condition — it’s not a matter of “fixing the problem” and then moving on with our lives; it’s a matter of maintaining and repeating. And that isn’t always so easy to do.
Think for a moment about all of the ongoing things we have to do in order to live our lives — we are constantly checking blood glucose, taking shots (or giving commands to our pumps), calculating food, assessing ourselves for signs of low blood glucose, making sure we have glucose on our person, etc. Diabetes is like Groundhog Day — every night we go to sleep having accomplished all or some of our “diabetes goals,” only to discover that they must all be accomplished AGAIN FROM SCRATCH the next day.
It can be maddening sometimes — we’ve all had those moments when we just wish diabetes would go the (#%#@) away already. When it’s not behaving, when we just get repeating bad numbers over and over and over for days on end, it can feel like Chinese water torture. But there’s a bright side to all of this repetition, too.
I work with a lot of kids who have ADHD as a therapist. In fact, I’d venture to say a solid 90% of my clients have it. The validity of the diagnosis is an interesting debate, but obviously not one to have here. The point is, I deal with a lot of kids, and a lot of adults, who have no attention span whatsoever. They can only hold their focus on something for a few seconds before it becomes “boring,” too frustrating, and uninteresting.
And if you take a look at our country as a whole, it’s not much different. Everything is available instantly. Attention spans are shrinking. Dedication is shrinking. Our ability to tolerate boredom and repetition is getting smaller and smaller. And that’s a huge loss. It’s a huge loss because the root of all true skill development is repetition. You cannot improve in something without being willing to repeat, and repeat, and repeat until the skill begins to take hold at a fundamental level. Musicians, artists, actors, dancers, and anyone in the arts knows this; practice is repetition.
And so our Groundhog Day routine presents us with a unique opportunity to develop our capacity for true practice; it presents us with the opportunity to develop ALL of our skills and passions to an incredibly high level. It gives us a blueprint for how to master not only our ability to live with diabetes, but our ability to play music, to paint, to understand advanced mathematics, to act, to teach, to counsel, to be master carpenter, plumber, mechanic, or craftsman. By becoming so intimately involved with repetition, we have been given the tools to develop remarkable skills.
So think for a moment about your own set of skills. Where has this capacity for repetition appeared in your life? What skills have you been able to cultivate to a high level, perhaps even to the level of mastery, thanks to this capacity? Share your thoughts with us, share your skills and talents. And remember to think broadly — you don’t have to be a concert violinist. Your skill may be gardening, it may be parenting, it may be simply an ability to understand complex ideas. It may be your vocation, it may have nothing at all to do with your vocation.
Finally, if you really can’t think of a skill, if you’ve searched and searched and just can’t find it, remember this: Even if you have never applied this capacity for repetition to anything outside of diabetes, you still have it. So think about what you would LIKE to develop. Think about what it is you’d like to learn, what it is you’ve “always wanted” to do, and get started. After all, you’ve put up with diabetes every day for years — you might as well enjoy the benefit of all that work.