The Outside Like the Inside

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My wife and I have been updating our house this summer. We repainted about half our rooms with a new color, tore up some carpeting along our stairs to reveal the hardwood underneath (which, perhaps next summer, we might sand, restain, and get in better shape), put in new curtains, updated the window blinds to something more substantial and modern, put in some new furniture, and put in a new bookshelf that I built and stained myself (I’m somewhat proud of that one…).

What started as just an idea to update the color of one room has turned into a pretty hefty makeover. Our house is currently looking better than it ever has, and we’ve culled through stacks and stacks of old stuff that was lying around in piles. We’ve organized, created actual places for the everyday things, gotten some old filing cabinets, and really made an effort to get all of our stuff into some kind of order.

In the midst of all of this, I’ve noticed my rate of monitoring has gone up and I’ve been much more diligent and organized about my blood sugar. I’ve also noticed a few new patterns in my blood sugar that I wasn’t really tracking before. As we’ve organized our house and the multitude of little items within its walls, it’s rubbed off on me and my own management of this very important condition of diabetes.

We are systems
We are each a combination of multiple systems. We have our work lives, our home lives, our Diabetian lives, our financial lives, our sex lives, our creative lives, and so many more. Who we are is really the intersection of a vast number of interconnecting systems. I think a great analogy is a solar system. Our solar system is a dynamic, moving system, full of large and small objects, each with its own trajectory, its own gravity, its own set of relationships to the star in the middle of it all (our sun), and to the rest of the planets following their own paths. Each planet is affected by each of the other bodies in the system, and by the sum total of the system as a whole.

And so it should be no surprise to me that a few days after the house came into order, I came into order. It’s a valuable lesson to remember for all of us dealing with diabetes care. As unrelated as it may seem, having a place to put our keys, a place to put our mail, a place to put our shoes, a system for storing important documents, maintaining a certain level of order around us, all impact our ability to manage our disease. Not because these things directly impact our blood sugar, but because they impact our worldview, our orbit, our way of being, and that has a direct impact on our management.

Patterns amidst chaos
Let’s think about the solar system again. If the entire system is off balance, and the planets are just bouncing around, hitting each other, hurling off in different directions and following no real pattern, we’re going to just assume the system is chaotic and leave it at that. But if the system as a whole is stable — if the majority of the planets are following semi-regular orbits and exhibiting some level of predictability — then one or two errant planets stand out right away, right? If the rest of the system is stable, and one planet is edging off-course, or behaving erratically, it will stand out against that backdrop.

Think of our blood sugar as that errant planet, and the rest of the planets as the rest of our systems — our houses, our jobs, our relationships, all of those other things that surround us and inform who we are. When that planet is bouncing around amidst all of that stability, we notice it right away. And against that backdrop of stability, we can really see its movements. If the rest of the planets are equally chaotic, tracking the movements of that errant planet become more difficult because we have no frame of reference.

I think this is precisely why I have not only gotten more organized about monitoring, but I’ve noticed new patterns in my blood sugar since we organized our house. Against the backdrop of a chaotic house and chronically disorganized living, it was much harder to see the movements of my blood sugar. But now, against that stable backdrop that’s providing a stable reference, it has become much clearer.

So let my discovery be a lesson for all of us. The next time you feel like your blood sugar isn’t in control, or you feel like you can’t get a handle on WHY it’s doing whatever it’s doing, try cleaning. Try organizing. Sometimes the best way to see one thing more clearly is to clean up the systems around it.

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