Thursday, May 15, 2014

D-Blog Week Day 4: Mantras and More (Telling Stories)

Today's D-Blog Week topic is Mantras and More.

Yesterday we opened up about how diabetes can bring us down. Today let’s share what gets us through a hard day.  Or more specifically, a hard diabetes day.  Is there something positive you tell yourself?  Are there mantras that you fall back on to get you through?  Is there something specific you do when your mood needs a boost?  Maybe we've done that and we can help others do it too? (Thanks to Meri of Our Diabetic Life for suggesting this topic.)

Telling Stories

There once was a girl whose pancreas didn’t work. One day, it just up and quit. The girl didn’t know what she had done. Was it something she said? Did her pancreas win the lottery and move out? Was it collecting unemployment?

The girl felt alone and affronted, and slightly unloved. To lose one’s socks may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose one’s pancreas looks like carelessness. Her life changed. Her world changed. Her frustrations mounted. The world was an ever-shifting morass of peril and uncertainty. When she saw a really terrible blood sugar result, or when medication made her nauseous, sometimes she just wanted to quit.

Sometimes, a voice in the back of her head disagreed with her defeatist attitude. It said:

Each drop of blood is a drop in the ocean
Each high and low is a wave in the sea
Each day you live represents forward motion
Each day you make it the best it can be.

The girl didn’t think much about this, as thinking in rhyme was not an unusual occurrence for her. She grew up, and her diabetes took it badly, and she took it on the chin.  She thought this disease was useless. She went off to school, leaving her big Canadian city for a small American Ivy college town, and diabetes came with her; or, rather, it came before her. It got in her way. It got in the way of being normal. Feeling sexy. Losing weight. What was the use of learning so much at one of the best schools in the world if she couldn’t even fix herself? Her care, not great to begin with, slipped further. She was at an institute of higher learning, and she used that idea to divorce herself from her body. She took solace in her mind, but her mind wasn’t content.

So the little voice grew a bit more insistent. It said:

Each disappointment’s a pledge to be kinder
Each piece of knowledge a root in the ground
Each bad result is a solemn reminder
Each thing that’s lost creates something that’s found.

The girl got her cap and gown and moved to New York City. She studied theatre, and communication, and the human experience, but still had no idea how to communicate with her own body. For the first time, she started seeing examples of people who did, but she assumed it was because they were naturally better than she was. Her life was always busy. When you keep busy, you have a constant in an inconsistent and chaotic world. The girl got some of her first indications of what life might be like without a safety net, and in some ways she remembered how lucky she’d been, and she grew up a little more. When she worked on a play, and a character felt loss, she knew what that meant. When she worked on a play, and a character felt longing, she knew how that felt. When she worked on a play, and a character felt a lack of control, she was right there with them.

The girl had spent a lot of time looking inwards – twisting inwards – but that’s grad school for you. She had nowhere left to go but out. Doing this, she saw that she’d gained empathy and understanding, and something that would come from her own voice. But she was scared to do anything about it. There was no way to take control.

The little voice wasn’t scared. It was excited. As the girl packed up to return to her hometown with a second cap and gown, it urged her forward. It helped that other voices had begun to join in, voices the girl had never heard in person, but had read for hours. Together, the voices said:

Each person’s sigh is wind pushing a boulder
Each person’s words are a forge in the deep
Each person’s link is a hand on your shoulder
Each day you wake is a promise you keep.

The girl realized that, as much as it seemed that she had little to no control over her body, in some ways she had more control than anyone she knew. She was the president of her blood sugar, since the previous one had resigned. Unfortunately, her endocrine system was not inclined towards democracy. But, as the Lorax left carved in a circle of stones, “Unless.” “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” She found that, for the first time, she cared. She would not be a circle of stones. For the first time, when she spoke, the voice issued from her own mouth. She told herself:

Each test you face is a chance to do better
Each thing you miss is a sign that you’ve grown
Each chance you take means you’ve written a letter
Each page of text makes your story your own.

Sometimes I tell myself this story late at night, when the world shifts and the failures and small mercies of the day coalesce.  I wonder how much of it is true, and what details I’ve filled in to suit the demands of my own narrative. Anyone who has diabetes, though, knows that truth is relative. Anyone who has diabetes knows that getting through the day is the first step to finding the truth of yourself.

Each drop of blood is a drop in the ocean
Each high and low is a wave in the sea
Each day you live represents forward motion
Each day you make it the best it can be.


  1. I really enjoyed this post and your story, it really resonated with me :)


  2. Wow, this had me engrossed all the way through. Thank you for sharing in such a beautiful way.

  3. What a great spin on this prompt! Great story-telling, and so captivating. Really really enjoyed reading this!

  4. This is so beautiful, so creative, and so inspiring. (And I really like the Lorax spin on it too... and how true it is!)