Category Archives: Additional Inspiration

Finding Integrity.

I’m a big fan of the word integrity.

Dictionary.com defines integrity in three ways:
 
 
1. adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.

2. the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished:
to preserve the integrity of the empire.

3. a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition:
the integrity of a ship’s hull.

 
 
Integrity is one of those words that is easy to define, but harder to live.

Most people think about integrity in the context of that first definition. That’s also the most difficult thing to pull off every day, because it’s the one part of the definition that depends entirely on you.

I think of this in terms of diabetes advocacy. Am I doing what I do for the good of my community, or am I doing it so I can sit back and say, “look what I did”? There’s also the honesty factor: am I being truthful, completely truthful, or am I just being truthful enough to serve my own purposes? I think about this a lot.

When I say I think about this a lot, I mean I think about it in a self-examination kind of way, the way that we all should be looking at ourselves from time to time to ensure we’re being people we’d be comfortable calling a friend.

That said, I think almost all diabetes advocates do their best for the betterment of the community. There are always exceptions to the rule… but generally, there’s just not enough money in it otherwise. And recognition is fleeting. At the end of the day, you still have to look yourself in the mirror and like what you see.

The second part of the definition relies partly on the individual, but also relies on the ambiguity of whatever mission is being delegated to the individual. See also John Dean in the Nixon White House, or Paul Newman to his Newman’s Own brand of products. Big differences.

In addition to its literal translation, the third part of the definition can come into play, I think, when we think of ourselves in the context of a structure, or as the definition says, a ship’s hull. Are our thoughts and actions doing enough to keep our character, and the community’s character, intact?

When we say we need more volunteers, are we also volunteering ourselves? When we’re given a gift, of any measure, are we giving a gift as well? Are we being inclusive in the diabetes friends we choose? Are we answering the inquiries we want, and ignoring the rest?

This much I do know: the better we practice integrity every day, the better our friends and associates will be, the better our communities will be, and the better we will be.

First, let’s be as healthy as we can be. Next, let’s take what we’ve learned about integrity and define it on our own terms. Then we can be happy with the reflection in the mirror we see every day.

Advertisements

The Dog Days of January.

How about those dog days of… January?

In the grand American game of baseball, August is the month known as the dog days of summer. It’s when writers and broadcasters wax philosophically about needing to stay focused, stay the course, and stay on a winning trajectory. The season is long, say the pundits. In August, you’re already five months into the regular season, with still another month of the season to play in September. You can’t let down now. Bear down. This is when champions are made.

In real life, we often concentrate on May, as Mental Health Awareness Month, or on December, because we know that a lot of people feel left out or are feeling troubled during the holidays. But what about January?

In North America and Europe, January is the first full month of winter. The sun is low in the sky, and there aren’t many hours of sunlight each day. We’re going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark. The temperature dips. Even when we’re off of work, we tend to stay home, where at least it’s warm.

Where we can easily be forgotten. It’s where we can easily fall prey to inaction and eating poorly and every other factor that makes us care less for our diabetes and our overall well-being. And before we know it, we feel like crap.

It even happens to people like me, who generally have an upbeat outlook on things. I generally don’t let things get me down. I mean, what do I have to feel down about anyway?

Yet, I have to admit, when I looked in the mirror last week, my look reminded me of the dog days, winter edition.

Unlike baseball, when this happens to us the fix is more than just staying the course, bearing down, playing like a champion. It involves a number of things. If you’re not exactly feeling spectacular right now, I hope you might find a few of these helpful:
 
 
Find time for sunshine. Weatherwise, it’s been nothing but gray in my city lately. I’ve been working a lot. When I’m off, I have things to do, appointments to keep. What I needed was a chance to stop and breathe, and feel the sunshine. Change my viewpoint.

So over the weekend, I went to the local conservatory. Not exactly out in the sun, but it’s warm, and every room is a greenhouse. It is not over exaggeration to say that sometimes, just fifteen minutes in a quiet corner there can change my whole outlook on life. It’s just what I needed.

Activity activates. This is where that endorphin thing comes in. Even if you’re only taking a walk, being active can give you a sense of purpose, a sense that you’re fighting back. I don’t know if it helps cure more serious illnesses, but in my case, being more active this time of year really perks me up.

Writing and Reading. If you think of writing as self-expression, you begin to understand why the term “Get something off my chest” carries so much sway. Writing helps me do that, whether it’s here or in a forum that no one else can see.

And we’re not the only ones writing great things. If we can’t find the motivation to inspire ourselves, there’s nothing that says we can’t find inspiration elsewhere. Sometimes, it’s where we least expect to find it. But we won’t find it if we don’t look.

Help someone else. We’re likely not the only ones we know feeling a little down this time of year. Even if you don’t know someone who needs a pick me up, there are plenty of others who need mentoring… need a meal… need something warm to wear out in the cold. Often, doing something for others results in something that helps us too.
 
 
One additional thing I should mention is that it’s important to give yourself the time for all these things. Often, just the act of granting yourself time to think or explore again is just what we need.

I don’t want anyone to think that these are cure-alls for more serious forms of depression or anxiety. There are many cases where care from a professional, or even a prescription might help your day have a little more sunshine too. Like time, granting yourself permission to seek help may be the greatest gift you can give yourself.

Wherever you are, whatever you’re feeling, and however your life unfolds, I hope that you can find the happiness and peace you deserve. No matter what happens, I support you… no conditions.
 
 
We’ll be discussing the January Blues and what each of us does and can do about them on Twitter Wednesday night at 9:00 p.m. ET(US). Follow @DiabetesSocMed, @StephenSType1, and the #DSMA hashtag and join the conversation!

Quotes for Life.

For some reason, I’ve been going over a lot of quotes in my head.

”Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.” – Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game

Quotes often get a reaction out of me. That reaction isn’t always the same. Sometimes, as you can probably imagine, a quote will inspire me. Other times, a quote can help to focus my mind exactly where I need to focus. Many times, especially now, I view quotes through a diabetes lens.

”Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .” – C.S. Lewis

After last weekend’s Diabetes UnConference, I’m reminded of that quote a lot. And it makes me feel warm inside.

I learned a while back that I don’t have awesome command of all the words in the world. I’m not the sole source of pithy phrases. On the other hand, I come up with a good one now and then. Or so I think.

Yesterday is only a benchmark. The future is unwritten.” – Stephen Shaul

I try to remember that one when I see a number or have a diabetes experience that I’d rather forget. The truth is, every day will not be perfect. Most of the time, I don’t have any idea what the next five minutes will bring, let alone the next thirty years. Remembering that the future is unwritten helps me focus on the fact that if things are bad today, they don’t always have to be bad. There’s a lot I can accomplish, even if I don’t know what that is yet. And with that in mind:

“We accept the love we think we deserve.” – Stephen Chbosky

Most people I know don’t think they deserve the love they would love to accept, if you know what I mean. Including me. It’s something I really want to improve on this year.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

I may ignore you rather than confront you, but if you’re going to troll me, I’m not going down in the hole with you.

“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.” – Marilyn Monroe

Sometimes, our friends aren’t perfect. Sometimes, they make you uncomfortable because they order off the menu all the time or they vote for someone that you don’t. Other times, they’re there when you really need them. Sometimes, they give you the biggest boost at the time you’re most vulnerable. If we demand perfection of all our friends, we’re going to be pretty lonely. Actually, I think I just described my next door neighbor.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I try to tell twenty and thirty year olds that, of course, they don’t know everything yet. But they know themselves, and it’s okay to bring a part of themselves to whatever they do. It’s okay to emulate those you look up to, but remember to let your own light shine too. Don’t worry about how… you’ll find a way.

And that leads me to this final quote, which describes a lot of what I think about when I think of my interactions within the diabetes community, online and off:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

Happy Friday… are there any quotes that move you? I’d love to read them!

Community.

I speak to you today in praise of the Diabetes Community.

Multi-faceted, multi-talented, multi-country, multi-cultural, it is the living embodiment of selflessness and inspiration. Its accomplishments are many, and its biggest challenges remain to be conquered. For every advancement, every success, failures of our healthcare systems and of our own endocrine systems means our efforts are not complete.

There is much to be excited about. We are connected as never before, through social media and patient-centric organizations. Blogging is still a thing (at least I hope it is), and this community can boast writers that are among the best around at telling their stories of living with a chronic condition. In the past year, podcasting about diabetes has taken off again, and that gives people a chance to hear the latest without actually having to read the latest.

And there are the athletes. Reaching the heights of their chosen sports, amateur or professional, climbing Mount Everest, winning auto races, playing in the National Hockey League. Riding 100 miles on a bicycle, for no other reason than to help raise money for research toward a cure. There are organizations that encourage and help get people moving so they can simply remain as healthy as possible, for as long as possible.

This community is full of passionate advocates, who see a need and try to fill it, or see a wrong and try to right it. Advocates who speak before Congress, who speak before regulatory bodies, who debunk long-established myth and self-serving stigma to anyone who will listen. God bless them. As we break down more barriers going forward, I hope we can find a way to turn our short-term advocacy efforts into sustained, long-term advocacy movements. In the end, a lot of advocacy is simply outlasting those who oppose us.

There are increasing numbers of healthcare professionals living with diabetes, and many who don’t live with diabetes but support us in ways we couldn’t have dreamed of a generation ago. I like how their profession allows them to have both a unique perspective on our disease, and an even bigger motivation to educate all of us about the importance of never giving up on our own self-care.

Yet, there remain difficulties. For every person running a marathon or leading a local support group or participating in a clinical trial, there is someone who lives with depression or burnout that they never counted on when they were diagnosed. There is someone who goes to a doctor once a month to get injections directly into their eyes to help reduce the ravages of diabetic macular edema. There is someone who works hard every single day to even out the roller coaster of glucose readings they see on a continuous glucose monitor. Their issues are not going away, so we should continue to show them the love and support they so richly deserve.

Being part of the Diabetes Community includes things like giving so that children living with diabetes in developing countries don’t also live with a death sentence. For many, it includes occasional happy gatherings full of laughter and hugs and bolus-worthy delights, living life to its fullest. It’s a unique language and an extra set of superpowers that none of us ever thought we would possess, but do anyway because it can literally mean the difference between life and death during tense moments for ourselves or our loved ones.

Diabetes isn’t something that happens to just us; it’s something that happens to all of us. All of us in this community are affected by the successes and frustrations that each of us experience every single day of life with a disease that is with us every single day. It is right that we commiserate in the sadness of a high A1c result or the passing of a close friend. It is equally right that we rejoice together in goals met, children raised, and new technology that makes us safer. Having to live with diabetes is the worst part about my life. Getting to live with diabetes people in my life makes me a better person.

“When I am with a group of human beings committed to hanging in there through both the agony and the joy of community, I have a dim sense that I am participating in a phenomenon for which there is only one word… glory.” – M. Scott Peck

“I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no hurt, but only more love.” – Mother Teresa

Communities are not buildings or monuments or parks. They’re made up of people. Our shared situation and our singular desire to compassionately relieve and delay and eliminate the burden of diabetes unite us as a community in a way few other things can. As each new day dawns, I take solace in the fact that even though my pancreas is faulty, my heart is full.
 

Why I don’t worry about December anymore.

I know there will be a lot of newspaper articles, TV reports, and yes, blog posts in the coming weeks giving us the latest and greatest ways to get in shape and eat better in 2016. To which I say: Great! Bring it on! I’ll be ready for it.

But I’m not ready right now.

The avalanche of stories about resolutions and how to keep them used to make me feel like I must have lived poorly over the previous months, whether I had or had not. The truth is that feeling guilty doesn’t make me feel motivated. It makes me feel guilty.

Instead, I now look at December like a chance to get a head start on fitness and diet goals. I no longer look at the month with dread about having to deny myself of everything, or that I’ll be sunk if I don’t get to the gym every day. Now I think of each day this month as an opportunity. No, really, I do.

I look at the few days here and there in December that I can work out as add-ons to my January, February, and March workouts. Like I’m starting the process early, even if it’s only in a small way. The same thing applies with food. I’ve definitely had moments when I’ve eaten too much. Who doesn’t? But that’s been tempered somewhat by soup and salad dinners, and days when I don’t eat anything extra at all.

And then… I try to give myself a break. I’m sick of being too hard on myself and feeling like an abject failure come January. Knowing myself, I know that cutting myself some slack, plus doing what I can, when I can, makes December a much happier month.

I’ve been far from perfect in December. But I have had good moments too. And now I’m in a good place, physically and mentally, to pick up the pace in the new year. I hope your December has been great so far, and your 2016 starts on a great note.
 

%d bloggers like this: