Thursday, February 6, 2020
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!!
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