On the Road Again (Part 2)

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If you’ll recall, last week I embarked on a two-week music tour and decided I would keep a running journal to share with readers. There are always challenges when it comes to maintaining balance while living the life of a touring musician — or indeed living the life of anyone who has to travel, deal with unpredictable or atypical schedules, and keep his blood glucose on target in the middle of it all.

We played two nights in Chicago, and now we’re driving straight from there to Denver, Colorado. Without factoring in stops for gas and such, it’s about a 14-hour trip. In reality, it’s closer to 16. And almost all of that time is spent sitting in one place, watching the corn and wheat fields roll by outside.

I’m not good about exercise when I’m home, so I can’t say that this is diminishing a great regimen that I would otherwise be doggedly pursuing. But it does highlight a challenge of life on the road, and reminds me that I really SHOULD have a more active physical routine in my life. I have Type 1, so my blood glucose control is a little less lifestyle-dependent than someone with Type 2. However, regular exercise still lowers numbers, increases insulin efficiency, and leads to an all-around healthier life. So there’s really no good excuse.

The trick is to take the chances to exercise whenever you can get them. In Chicago, I actually broke from my tradition of relative laziness in this arena and spent some time during both free afternoons in the city walking. Sure, it wasn’t a 5-mile run, but even a good long walk can do wonders. We’ll be arriving in Colorado late tonight (or early tomorrow morning, however you want to think about it), and staying for three shows. I hope to continue the trend started in the Windy City!

It’s day three in Colorado, my beloved home state. I lived here until I was 20, and I still love the place. There is a sense of calm here, a lack of constant hurrying, that I find so refreshing after being on the East Coast for so long. With the natural Colorado serenity as my inspiration, I took the time to meditate the other day. It’s a practice I try to maintain at home, and one that is often hard to keep up on the road.

I’ve been staying at my mom’s home while the band is here. Since we’re spending four days in Colorado, I thought I’d take advantage of it and spend some time visiting friends and family. My mother has a meditation space set up, so I used it to put in 25 minutes “on the cushion.” I practice Zen meditation, which is focused almost solely on focusing one’s attention and consciousness on the present moment. It is not aimed at changing anything about the present moment, but rather fully encountering and accepting it, whether it is pleasurable, painful, happy, or sad.

When I practice at home, meditation tends to give me energy. On the road, it tends to leave me with less. And I think I know why. The road is a challenging place, with a lot of built-in stress and very little sleep. As a result, I often find myself running off adrenaline to compensate. That adrenaline helps me “not notice” how tired I truly am. After all, it’s the same stuff that in our caveman days helped us block out pain in order to outrun danger. But when I hit the meditation cushion, that adrenaline stops. All that’s left is my direct experience, and that includes “tired.”

Living with diabetes often presents the same kind of challenge. There are many times when we can be tempted to ignore our condition, maybe skipping checking our blood glucose because we “know it’s gonna be high” and we just don’t want to deal with more stress. Because the reality is that diabetes is tiring! It is a tiring, constant nuisance we have to deal with, and sometimes we’d rather just ignore the bugger! But unfortunately, that’s just not an option with diabetes.

Reflecting on the tiredness my meditation revealed, I saw two options. I could simply “stop meditating,” live on adrenaline, and pay the price down the road when that exhaustion inevitably catches up with me. The other choice was to step back and calmly address the real problem here: I’m doing too much and sleeping too little. There are probably chances for short naps, chances to improve my sleeping arrangements (buying a fold up cot, which is always more comfortable than the couches I usually crash on, for instance), and other small steps to move toward resolving the issue in a real way. Even if I can’t change anything about my schedule, directly experiencing how I’m feeling so that I DON’T push harder than I really should is helpful.

I face a similar set of choices in dealing with diabetes. Directly experiencing the reality of diabetes in a calm way is hugely important. My number isn’t going to change because I freak out over it. A high number is stressful enough without adding drama to it. I’m guilty of letting anger get the best of me when I have a high number, but I try to rein it in as best I can. And when our numbers aren’t behaving as they should, we face the choice between giving up, ignoring our health, and probably paying the price down the road, or acknowledging the challenge and calmly finding the simple, practical steps to address the issue.

There’s no getting around the fact that diabetes is with us, and that’s the real lesson in all of this: You can ignore the truth of the present moment, but in the end, nothing is gained except false security. The moment needs to be met directly, whether it is good, bad, happy, or sad.

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