You probably know that diabetes requires balancing food intake, exercise, and medications. I think any chronic illness like diabetes involves other balancing acts as well. How do you manage some of these balances?
• Ourselves and others: How do you balance your own needs with everyone else’s needs and desires? Like when a family member or loved one wants to do something and you want to rest, for example, or when you have to choose between donating money to a person in need or using it to do something nice for yourself, it can be hard to draw the line. Things like that can be a challenge.
• Living for the moment versus preparing for the future: The moment is all we have, but we have no way of knowing how long that moment will last. So how much energy should we put into planning ahead, and how much into enjoying life now? Beats me.
In my book The Art of Getting Well, I told the story of a man named Rob who, facing a very short life because of AIDS, decided to jump in his camper and see the country, which he had never done. He was out of touch with his doctors for months, but he survived and is still doing well. I don’t think I would have had the courage to do that.
• Dependence versus independence: Most people like to call their own shots, but let’s be real — nobody can be independent all the time. But when others try to help or tell you what to do, how do you respond? How important is your independence?
• Hard emotions and denial: Chronic illness brings with it fear, anger, grief, and frustration. You can’t avoid those feelings, so what do you do? Do you push them down and ignore them, or face them and try to work through or transcend them?
For me, a certain amount of denial is necessary for getting through a day. But too much denial leads to doing stupid things I regret later. And not facing feelings means you can’t work through them and find yourself happier on the other side of the crisis. But facing them hurts, doesn’t it?
• Activity and rest: We don’t want to shut our lives down more than we have to, but we also don’t want to overdo and pay for it later.
This last one is a good question for me right now, because I’m off to Denver on Thursday to give a couple of talks to diabetes educators — one on diabetes and families, and one on diabetes and sex. They invited me to do the sex talk, but I told them I didn’t want to come all the way from San Francisco just to talk about sex.
I convinced them to put on the family talk and give it prominent billing. They’re paying me more, which I can really use, and I’ve never been to Denver before, so it’s a great opportunity. But working on the talks is wearing me out, and I’ve developed a cold and some insomnia.
I could have just coasted up there, done the sex talk (which I’ve given several times before), and come back. Maybe that would have been the balanced thing to do. But I usually feel compelled to share knowledge with people and try to do good, and also to get some strokes and perks for my troubles. Compulsion and balance don’t go together well, though. I’m still working on it.
What parts of balance are hardest for you? Is it balancing food, exercise, and insulin, or are the other challenges harder? Let us know how you are doing with all that. I’m sure your experience will help others cope, too.
On a lighter note, our granddaughter Anaya Grace turned one year old today. She spent the day with us, and she is so much fun. She loves to dance. She’ll stand in front of the boom box and bounce up and down to let us know, “Turn on the music.”
The balance she is working on involves standing up and moving around without falling. She falls about three times a minute but always bounces up. Maybe I could learn something about balance from her.
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