Saturday, February 15, 2020

Part of the Plan

As a home health physical therapist I spend a lot of my work week in the car.  I usually keep my radio on NPR to keep up with news or enjoy the interviews on shows such as The 1A or Fresh Air.  But sometimes the topics of the current day feel like a weight so heavy on my heart that I need a reprieve, so I switch over to a music station.

There are three local music stations I like and one of them is usually playing something I enjoy.   Sometimes that's not the case and I turn the radio off and listen to the glorious quiet of a drive along a country road.  Yesterday that's exactly what I did, heading out west of town to a country home and not wishing to ruin the gorgeous view of fields and trees painted white with snow the day before, the snow glistening in the clear sunny sky.  The roads I took were fairly remote after I turned off Yuton Road and there were several turns, some areas not as well cleared of snow as others, and a few steep hills, at least by McLean County standards.  I had to watch my map app to make sure I didn't get lost, watch the road conditions, and couldn't help watching the scenery as well. The radio was off, it was quiet, and quite lovely. 

On my way home I took a different route, recommended by my patient's son, and was able to return via a 2-lane highway that had been well cleared and was a familiar route to me.  So I turned the radio back on and the song that came on just as I was heading back into town was one that was popular in my high school days.  I knew all the words by heart, having sung it many times during the 70s when it was popular.  The song was not one of the greatest hits of all time, or even a song I had thought much about all these years between.  But singing along with it made me nostalgic for my younger self, for that stage when I was just beginning to move toward adulthood and I believed anything was possible if I could just get out of high school and into the world at large.

I sang along at the top of my lungs until I got choked up and couldn't get some of the words out.  And I remembered (then came home and found) a quote in Lynda Barry's book The Good Times are Killing Me:

Do you ever wonder what is music?  Who invented it and what for and all that?  And why hearing a certain song can make a whole entire time of your life suddenly just rise up and stick in your brain?

The song was Part of the Plan by Dan Fogelberg.  The first stanza is "I have these moments all steady and strong, I'm feeling so holy and humble.  The next thing I know I'm all worried and weak, I feel myself starting to crumble."  You can google the lyrics or find the song online if it doesn't already come rising up into your brain and stick there.  But if you don't, the last lines are "There is no Eden or heavenly gates that you're gonna make it to one day.  But all of the answers you seek can be found in dreams that you dream along the way."

This made me recall my dreams from that time in my life.  I wanted to go to college. (I did, twice!)  I wanted to find meaningful work. (I did!)  I wanted friends. (I've been blessed!)  I wanted Jimmy Carter to be president for life. (Struck out there.)  In my late 20s I began to dream of having a family.  It took a long time for that dream to manifest, but it eventually did as well.    All these dreams have made my life meaningful.  I am grateful, I am grateful, I am grateful.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Type One

As a teen and young adult I expected that my adulthood would be short, or that it would be full of illness. Blindness, amputations, kidney failure were all held out to me as options I should anticipate, due to the "unfortunate" diagnosis of type 1 diabetes at age 10.  These are indeed sequelae of this condition, but not for all of us "type ones," and I am fortunate to find myself, 52 years down the road from diagnosis this very week, without any major complications.

People often say that I'm healthy because I have taken good care of myself.  And by that they mean that I take my medication, I eat well, I exercise.   They mean I take care of my physical body.  But I believe the truth is closer to what my financial advisor said after he conducted an in-depth interview in order to figure out what to do with IRAs a few years back.

I explained, during this interview (which was truly out-of-proportion to the meager amount of money I had to invest) how I had lived during my 20s and 30s, working for a few years, quitting my job to travel, moving, getting a new job for a few years, living in South America off my savings for a while, finally turning 40 and looking around and saying "Huh!  What do you know?  I'm healthy as any of my friends!" then finally settling down to working a job for more than 2 years (I'm celebrating 20 years at the same organization this year)  and starting a family.  The things I was hesitant to do when I was younger, lest I be too ill (or not around) to parent well.    I was explaining, well really trying to justify, why I hadn't saved very much money in my younger years.

My financial advisor said "you're probably healthy now because you lived those years fully and didn't worry much about your future."   It was lovely to be seen.

My emotional well being has been tied up in making the most of what time I have.  And for the past 20 years, I've enjoyed working, raising 2 great people toward adulthood.   But as they ease into that stage of life, I'm ready to take some risks again.   I believe I'm physically healthy because I have taken good care of my emotional self as much or more as my physical self, and because I haven't been afraid to take risks.

"Adulthood is made up of a prudent anticipation and a philosophical memory that make you navigate more slowly and steadily.  But fear of making mistakes can itself become a huge mistake, one that prevents you from living, for life is risky and anything less is already loss." (from A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Rebecca Solnit)

My relationship to my diagnosis, which I have tried not to let define me, is complicated.  It's not all roses and sugar-free chocolates.  But it's not "unfortunate" in my experience.  I know others have not been as lucky, and I know that much of my well-being is also due to good luck.  Luck with my parents and their attitude, luck with some probable genetic factor helping keep me complication-free, and luck that I haven't developed another major illness or been hit by a bus on my travels.

I do believe that having this diagnosis has made me appreciate each day in a way I might not have without it.  So happy 52nd anniversary Diabetes!  And may we celebrate many more together!!

Thursday, January 30, 2020

A Sunday Stroll

On Sunday I ventured, along with Mr. Main Squeeze and my dog Pax, to West County Park.  I have not done much walking since my knee surgery in December, and each time I tried to walk any distance I would pay for it later with more pain.  But perhaps I've turned a corner in that regard, since we walked, slowly and mindfully so as not to slip or slide, for a good half hour.  And a good half hour it was, in this small park with not much but trees, a trail, delightfully quiet, surrounded by cornfields of course as this is central Illinois.  This time my pain was not any worse, which is a great joy to me as I love walking especially among trees.

I'm reading another Rebecca Solnit book, A Field Guide to Getting Lost.  No, I have not yet finished Hope in the Dark.  I'm just...well, getting lost among non-fiction books.  I haven't been a big fan of non-fiction until recently.  Now I am hooked on it, and imitating Mr. Squeeze whose reading taste is eclectic and his style is not bogged down in rule-following conventions of finishing one book before picking up another.

I miss the days of wandering in Ecuador, walking places not on the map, not in parks, just little country roads or even chakinyans (Quichua for cow-path, I think).  Not knowing where I would end up or how I would get home.  Sometimes it was by hitchhiking or hailing a bus, sometimes walking back the way I came.  My daughter asked me the other day if I could live 2-3 years over again which would I choose.  I didn't hesitate...'95 to '97 when I lived in Ecuador.  All that glorious wandering, spiritually, physically, all that time to read and think and process.  That wonderful parenthesis of not working during my adult life for a few years.  I am ready to pause again like that.  Will you join me for a stroll?

Sunday, January 26, 2020


I love it when things I'm reading, watching, thinking, and wondering about are in sync!  Yesterday I watched the final episode of The Good Place with Sisi.  Earlier in the day I had read an essay by Rebecca Solnit in Hope in the Dark called "Getting the Hell out of Paradise."  Who knew that a clever TV comedy and a philosophical essay about political activism would essentially say the same thing?

Now that I've reread that, of course, I realize the The Good Place is a clever TV comedy about moral philosophy.  So, duh!

Here is the quote from Ms Solnit that sums up the take home message:

"The industrialized world has tried to approximate paradise in its suburbs, with luxe, calme, volupte, cul-de-sacs, cable television and two-car garages, and it has produced a soft ennui that shades over into despair, a decay of the soul suggesting that paradise is already a gulag."

The final episode of The Good Place essentially demonstrated the same thing - heaven was joyless because it was perfect and went on FOREVER.  (And yes I do see the irony in her "cable television" reference, thank you.)  And the Good News is that they figure out how to fix that minor flaw.

It's the journey not the destination is a lesson I seem to need to learn over again.  It's the fact that life is finite and uncertain that makes it so dear.

So today take a few moments to pause and embrace the exquisite experience of life on Earth.  Or take the whole day to do just that!

Part of the Plan

As a home health physical therapist I spend a lot of my work week in the car.  I usually keep my radio on NPR to keep up with news or enjoy ...