Patterned Behaviors

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Dealing with diabetes is all about living a fully present, fully conscious life. It’s not the kind of thing that we can figure out once and then forget about — it’s something we need to continually monitor and “recheck.” And yet even with something as serious as diabetes, it’s easy to fall into automatic patterns, losing sight of the need to be thoroughly informed and patterning our actions based on the evidence gathered in each moment. I know that on occasion I will get into the habit of assuming, “well, I always tend to dip low at X time, so I can snack a little and be fine.” Well, that might be true 60% of the time, but the other 40% that little extra snack might just send my blood sugar skyrocketing.

I’ve been intrigued with this idea of patterned behaviors lately. It didn’t start with diabetes. It started with a few updates on the careers of musicians I know from my younger days. I found out one of them is a regular on “A Prairie Home Companion,” another was recently on Lettermen, and another is in a band that was one of the breakout starts of the South by Southwest Music Festival. It got me thinking comparatively about things — comparing “their” success to “my” success, keeping score the way we all hate to admit we do.

Naturally, when comparing myself to someone who’s on national radio every week, or someone who just played on national television, I find myself trailing behind. But the problem is that I fixate on what is outside of my control while ignoring what IS within my control.

In looking at my comparative place in the world of music, I have one very negative pattern I always slip into. I look at things as if I have no real agency. I look at where I am, what kind of opportunities are coming my way, and I either get happy or lament what looks to be good or bad on the horizon. But in my years since college, where I practiced like a fiend, I have slowly shifted into a “post-college” kind of mindset that includes far too little focused practice. And so I relate like a spectator rather than someone who can take control.

And that’s where I come back to diabetes. I find I will sometimes see a pattern a few times, and then put it on “automatic,” assuming a continuation of a pattern without consistently checking the data. And anyone reading this KNOWS what a bad idea that is. We should never assume that today will be the same as yesterday. And perhaps even more importantly, we need to avoid being “victims.” That’s really what I’m allowing myself to be in the music scenario — I’m allowing myself to occupy that “poor victim” role, instead of looking at my goals, my plans, and my situation with a clear head and taking control by improving my own SKILLS in the areas that need improvement.

I think the same approach is needed fairly often with diabetes. It’s so easy to let odd numbers or difficulties with our control push us toward throwing in the towel and resigning ourselves to being forever victims. And once we’ve made ourselves victims, we become lazy. We stop being conscientious. We stop examining ALL of the data and taking action to control our condition. But as much as it’s easier and less frustrating to slip into automatic patterns, it’s a bad choice. In the long run, it’s a choice that will bring us nothing but more of the same pain we’re trying so hard to avoid facing NOW.

Diabetes is all about living in this moment, taking in the information we’re given whether we LIKE it or not, and responding to it with our full attention and focus, without letting ourselves take the easy road. We look for patterns all the time, but we should always avoid letting ourselves fall into the lazy ones.

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