Everything Is Simple

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Two weeks ago, I left one of my part-time jobs. For years, I have worked as a clinical social worker, musician, and music teacher. Today, I am a musician and music teacher. The change has been a long time coming, as I’ve found myself drifting further and further away from the field of social work, and finding more and more enjoyment in the role of teaching. And of course I’ve always enjoyed playing music.

Making this change is a major step, as I leave behind a field I have been a part of for a number of years. I’m STILL paying off my social work graduate school student loans, and will be for some time. It’s a big change and a lot to let go of. It’s a reorganization of my priorities, my schedule, and my self-identity. And yet, it feels so incredibly simple.

The best analogy I can think of is turbulence on a plane. You know that feeling when you’re flying through choppy air for a long stretch? The plane is bouncing up and down, side to side, everything feels like it’s being forced in competing directions. There’s a tension that builds up, a kind of discomfort. And then…smooth air. That moment is really something — that moment when the bouncing and stretching and pulling settles into a quiet, smooth, serene forward momentum and feels effortless.

Far too often, we fight against the flow of our lives. I think that’s what I was doing for a long time with social work. The writing was clearly on the wall. I needed to move on. That’s not to say I regret ever having gone into the field — I learned a great many things from it, not the least of which is a much better understanding of how to work with my students. But the flight had become turbulent, and it was time to find some smooth air.

Not just pop psychology
I’m a very flaky student of Zen Buddhism. My meditation practice isn’t nearly as consistent as I wish it were, my knowledge base is a typical Westerner’s “bit and pieces of the buffet” kind of knowledge. Nevertheless, I have spent enough time with some of the basic concepts that an understanding has matured to a degree. And one of the concepts really driven home during this change is simplicity.

I don’t mean simplicity as an analogy for “easy,” “quick,” or superficial, though. I mean simplicity direct understanding and letting go. That’s what was behind my recent change. After holding onto an old pattern that was causing turbulence, I finally understood my situation, and let go of what no longer made sense.

The ability to recognize a situation, or a pattern, to adjust and to let go — all of these are tools of the trade for someone with diabetes. Diabetes is a complicated thing — there are carbs to count, meals to plan, insulin to calculate, vital medical stats to track, and a whole lot else. To someone unaccustomed to this lifestyle, the list sounds exhausting. But for us, it becomes simple. Again, it doesn’t become “easy,” or “happy,” or problem free. But it becomes simple. At a certain point, we stop trying to keep every single calculation in our conscious mind at all times, and we gain an ability to step back and see the whole picture. Instead of noticing each variable as something separate, we learn how to sense whether our control is “in the groove” or hitting a rough patch. And when we do hit a rough patch, we learn to notice the aberrations, as if we are watching a static TV screen and scanning for a distinct shape rather than counting each and every pixel for information.

We learn to let go — not because it’s easy, but because holding onto every bad number eventually becomes so exhausting that we either need to let go or we drown. And for many of us, that’s the moment when our flight smoothes out. Looking back, we might think that it smoothed out when our numbers started “behaving” better. And often, letting go and improving our control coincide with each other. But I think we miss the point if we think our peace comes from a change in our blood glucose. It comes from our own deepening wisdom. We might still be idiots in other areas of our lives. I still go bonkers every time I’m stuck in traffic, even though getting upset does NOTHING to help the situation around me. But when it comes to diabetes, I’ve got some wisdom. You do, too.

Diabetes shows us that life is simple. Wisdom is simple. Not easily developed, not superficial, certainly not easy, and not always comfortable, but simple. What a gift!

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