Diabetes has been a great teacher as well as a challenge and offers much more to write about. Here's a start.
Still Savoring the Peach (and Even the Peach Pie)
I thought constant exhaustion and hunger was just the price of being an adult. After worrying throughout high school about my weight, it was a relief to eat twice as much as my 6-foot-2, 200-pound boyfriend and get even thinner. I didn’t pay much attention to my persistent thirst and need to pee.
But after four bouts of the flu in four months, I went to the doctor. My blood sugar was 492 milligrams/deciliter, about five times normal. I had type 1, or “juvenile,” diabetes. My body had mysteriously destroyed its ability to make insulin, which I would have to inject for the rest of my life.
I wept. I talked with family and friends. Suddenly, I had to deal with monitoring blood sugar, self-injection, eating the right proportions. But I figured you could have worse diseases. Research showed that normal blood-sugar levels help avoid diabetes’ terrifying complications (blindness, kidney failure, cardiovascular problems, infections), and normal blood sugar is within reach – with a great medical team, good nutritionist, effective technology, and endless adjustments.
I felt a strange thrill at the ritual pricking of my fingers. It was a gift to glimpse my mortality daily and yet have tools to stave it off. As I wrote in a poem, I was “grateful to have seen this particular death/and to walk away. I forgive us/this defect, the first defection/to the dissolving silence/trailing me like a cloak.” I became a healthy diabetic.
Diabetes quickly taught me that I was both a self (or spirit) and a body, and the spirit part had to take charge of this delicious, important body. This proved true especially during low-blood-sugar episodes, which caused shakiness, crying, and one frightening blackout.
My new awareness about being spirit/body led me to two gifts. The first was enrolling in a well-respected northern California psychic institute, where I learned to do clairvoyant readings and healings.
The psychic work emboldened me to reach for the second gift: singing. I had already begun writing poetry, but singing was a secret desire that seemed scary and hard. Yet those basic psychic axioms gave me the bravery to start my first vocal class, and another healing, exciting journey.
To keep doing anything well, you need good technique. This means admitting that the body is variable and you are imperfect. Every day is different. Every moment throws you new challenges. But what a relief – you adjust! You stock toolboxes – whether a diabetic toolbox (glucose for lows, insulin for highs, diet, exercise), singing toolbox (relax the throat, do that “meow” exercise, really say the lyrics), or psychic toolbox (imagine a tree trunk grounding you to the planet).
On my new CD, “The Poetry of Groove,” I sing about the joys of the body, and the joy of finding your very own truth through this body, in the moment, day after day. One song is about longing for, and tasting, a peach (and so much more). Another sings, “you can move through what’s broken to what’s you” to “find the flow, the poetry of groove.” Listen, sing along, dance.
After 20-plus years, I’m sick of injecting insulin. And I’m frustrated when the day’s first notes sound scratchy. But so what? I know I can change my sound – and keep unfolding my life.
copyright © 2009 Lisa Bernstein