”The virtues, like the Muses, are always seen in groups. A good principle was never found solitary in any breast.”
As we head into the diabetes conference season, I’ve been reading and thinking a lot about groups, and how groups, particularly groups of people meeting in person, affect our lives and how we feel about them. And how we feel about others.
It’s not fair to say I’ve always been a joiner; it’s not fair to say I’ve never been a joiner. I’ve been a little of both through the years. Some of the things I’ve joined have been underwhelming (Board of Directors of my community association), and some have been fantastic (hello Diabetes Online Community!). Some of the decisions I’ve made to not join have been okay too. Since I’ve been old enough to vote, I’ve resisted joining the Republican or Democratic party, and I’m still a proponent of a third national party in the USA, though I would not join that either, if asked. I highly value my independence.
”I was never really attached to a clique, and I wanted to be in all the different groups; I was never a one-group kind of person. I think that’s still part of my personality today.”
What is it that a group can do that an individual cannot? In diabetes, the answer is simple: A group can provide validation. A group can provide trust. A group can provide empathy and understanding. And that’s just for starters.
Can I survive without ever coming into face-to-face contact with another person who lives with diabetes? Sure… I did it for nearly twenty years. Those were also, arguably, among the worst years of my life. It’s the time when I encountered the worst of my diabetes. It’s the time when I struggled with careers multiple times and was knocked down repeatedly. Sometimes because I wasn’t up to the task, sometimes because someone else in the group found that the best way to get ahead was to make others look worse in contrast. That’s a side of human behavior I’ve really only seen from my generation, and I’m happy about that. I also hope I’m right about that.
At any rate, groups do not always generate the best of outcomes. And outcomes like that never lead to sustainable results. But what about this diabetes group think? How does it differ?
I’m not an expert in this field, but you have to think part of it comes from our shared experiences. We’ve all been down the same road a few times, right? That’s a good starting point. Also, we do not come into contact with others living with diabetes very often. When we do, we are often overwhelmed by an unspoken desire to ask and share and comiserate in equal measure. We want to understand another person’s diabetes as only we, as People With Diabetes ourselves, can understand it.
Occasionally, we will come together as a wonderful group of individuals as part of a shared experience. We all may have faulty pancreases in common, or faulty pancreases may be very close to us via a spouse, a friend, or a child. But rather than the inept nature of one organ being the focus, we instead gravitate toward making our lives better, using our invaluable perspectives of perseverance and empathy to forge a better future.
”Nothing truly valuable can be achieved except by the unselfish cooperation of many individuals.”
Recognizing all this has allowed me to change my focus from “what can I do?” to “what can I do for people living with diabetes?”. Being part of a group who knows my life because they have also lived the same life helps me trust more. It makes me want to engage in the conversation and strive toward a common purpose.
We’re not all perfect. Not all groups are perfect. But shared perspectives, the trust it brings, and the understanding and bonds that derive from it are universal, my brothers and sisters. It will never go out of style.
This weekend, I will be at the JDRF TypeOneNation Summit in Bethesda, Maryland. To find out more, CLICK HERE. If you plan to be there, let me know so we can say Hi!
Next weekend, I will be facilitating at the Diabetes UnConference in Las Vegas. To find out more, CLICK HERE.