Can We Motivate the World With Happiness? (The one where I refuse to be sad all the time)


Lauren center, checking her blood sugar between swim meet events. These are the moments worth smiling about ... and finding motivation from.
Lauren center, checking her blood sugar between swim meet events. These are the moments worth smiling about … and finding motivation from.

Some recent memes, videos and Facebook posts have me thinking:

Can we motivate the world to want to help us cure diabetes by making them smile and cheer rather than cry? Or to put it more simply: Can supporting hope be happy?

This thought goes way back for me, actually to nearly the beginning of my involvement in the research/cure community. Lauren was only about seven and she’d been asked to participate in a JDRF Gala video shoot. It was a really fun day – warm and clear and we spent all day on the beautiful grounds of Wellesley College. I got to chitchat with other D-moms (one of my first times!) and Lauren got to frolic with other kids.

But when I saw the video at the gala, I was kind of surprised. Because it was sad. Really, really sad. Now, one might ask: why would the mother of a small child who’d recently been diagnosed with an incurable disease that would demand –at the very least – a lifetime of constant medical intervention be surprised a fundraising video would be sad? Because – and I honestly mean this – I found what my daughter was doing inspiring. I found how my family was rising up to it incredible. For me, my motivation came from positivity. I wanted to change her world because she was being so damn great about dealing with it.

So I raised my hand and volunteered to write, direct and produce the video the coming year. I made it happy. The message was joy. And guess what? People responded. And gave.

So that’s why I wonder why we still need to focus on sad. Do we have to make the world cry to make them care? Or can helping them cheering on children and adults with T1D be motivation enough to care?

I remember when Lauren was really little, and she’d just started pricking her own finger and doing blood sugar checks. We were at our beach club and she’d just done one at the picnic table, surrounded by her friends and with me watching carefully from a few feet away. I matter-of-factly discussed her snack choice and then went back to playing tennis or lounging or whatever I was doing. She ran off to jump in the pool or whatever she was doing. A stop, a medical moment and then, with barely a beat missed, life went on. A little while later another club member pulled me aside, saying she needed to talk.

With tears in her eyes, she said this to me:

“Moira. I just watched the most amazing thing. That little, little girl of yours pulled that meter out and pricked her finger and checked her blood sugar and then just ran off and played like it was nothing. I have never been so moved by something in my life. I cannot explain how proud I feel. What can I do?”

That mom, who has no direct connection to T1D, has been an annual donor to our JDRF efforts since that moment. Motivated by the good she saw and the happiness she felt, she tells me often she still holds that memory close.

I think of the people who inspire me to work harder and do more. Like Kelly, who is so funny and so brave and so “in your face!” about all this. Or Kim, who is expecting her first child and handling it like a boss. Or Sara, who taught me the magic of the low carb Mojito and who leads by example every day. Or Kerri, who not only rocks D life but shares some wicked fun cat videos too. Or Brendan, who as a young adult has hiked off alone in the woods for days (while his amazing mom did her best to not worry and celebrate his confidence in himself and his D management).

I promise you: I get the suffering. I see it all the time. (And the newly diagnosed, those who lost a loved one or child to T1D and anyone currently dealing with a crisis … no one expects you to be positive right now. That’s different). And listen, my daughter has suck-face days too. But what inspires me most– and the people who still donate to our JDRF efforts (her own walk team in DC now; my ride effort again this year), is how she’s rocking life despite diabetes.

If I made a video about a day in her life, I’d show her waking up in her apartment, checking her blood sugar, and taking the Metro to her internship on K Street in DC. After, she’d rush back to her campus to take part in a sorority event where there’d be lots of laughing and fun, as well as some food she’d have to bolus for. She’d do that with an ease that most barely notice. She might check and see a high, but she’d figure out a correction and then power on to the next thing: a night class or a study group or, if it’s Thirsty Thursday, a few beers with friends. The day might end with some late night pizza (because yes, she can do that), and then it would all start up the next day. She might have an exam or a long lecture, and she might have to pull out her insulin pen and inject during it (and in one class, when she does, the woman next to her might see that, pull out a pen, wink and whisper “Hey! Me too!” Because that really happened). Those would be the moments of her average day I’d show.

Would diabetes push its way in? Absolutely. No way around it. But despite diabetes, she’d live a full, wonderful, exciting, “normal” day. That would be my message: She’s brave enough to smile through this. You can celebrate that and change her world at the same time. And if they interviewed me, I’d say as much.

I worry about the parents who dwell in a world of “I cannot bear to see my child live with this.” Because until we change things, live with this they must. And whether we believe it or not, our children pick up on what we feel. Videos of us crying and hating it all; letters and Facebook posts about how terrible our lives are; they seep into the essence of who our loved ones are. Our kid are smart. They know if we think something’s unbearable. And they believe us. Why must we allow this thought when in fact, they can and will live long, exciting, eventful and wonderful lives despite diabetes?

Are there reasons to cry? Yes. Like deaths from undiagnosed diabetes, or from DKA and other things. And like that day here and there when you just cannot take it anymore. We all feel that sometimes. It’s our place to acknowledge it, deal with it and then move on past it once again, if you ask me. So yes, sometimes there is sadness. But for the sake of working toward a better world, I’m all for the message of the powerful hero, the child or adult who is doing way more than the rest of us can ever imagine and doing it with a smile. I’m all about saying “Look at how she rocks this and how we refuse to let it get to us. Look at what we are doing WITH this. Just imagine now, if you help us find a cure, what we can do WITHOUT this.”

Do you think that can motivate the world to care? I want to motivate folks to fund hope, with happiness. We don’t need to be victimized to deserve a cure. In fact, the more we are victorious, the more we are worthy.

But that might be just me.




10 thoughts on “Can We Motivate the World With Happiness? (The one where I refuse to be sad all the time)

  1. You are so right. From that first day in the hospital my husband and I told Justin there is nothing he can’t do and that diabetes would be a part of his life, but by no means would it define him. He is an excellent student, amazing athlete, creative and funny with the greatest sense of humor. Oh, and by the way, he has diabetes. As a mom, in my quiet moments I hurt for him and all those who have this added weight on their shoulders, just as I hurt for anyone dealing with a challenge that at times can be overwhelming. Our involvement in JDRF is a positive part of our lives and is teaching him to be proud of who he is and to know he can make a difference.

  2. I agree with you wholeheartedly, Moira!

    Certainly for me, I’m much more motivated by positive messages to learn more about something and help. I tend to turn off negative messages, such as commercials likening diabetes to living with a monster. I certainly don’t want my child to adopt that attitude–what joy in life is that? And there IS lots of joy in a life that happens to include diabetes management.

    I have avoided getting involved in the whole area of fundraising for the four years since my son’s T1D diagnosis because it’s just full of sad messages that don’t resonate with our experience. I don’t want to try make others feel bad for us. I’d rather inspire and let them know ways they can help out.

  3. Moira, I completely agree with this. We were lucky in that our son’s first endo was a person with Type 1 herself, and she emphasized the “can do” message, without ignoring the seriousness, but also WITHOUT the victimization of our child.

    Of course, we know completely that this is a serious disease. We are not fools.

    On the other hand, from the first time I got a figuratively sobbing and wailing fundraising letter from JDRF, I just winced. In fact, I even write them a letter saying I thought they had overdone the “CHILD WITH A BLEAK, TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO HOPE LIFE”. I still gave money, because it was personal and I want the most advances in care, and someday a prevention, and someday a cure. But there are so many horrible conditions in life, so many causes…and I thought negativity would not make me donate, if I were just a person receiving the letter.

    Also, I thought those first mailers I received were a bit over the top… and didn’t calculate mathematically. I mean, even if a family is testing every 2 hours, every day, that is still not “OVER 10,000 PAINFUL finger pricks” in a year…which is what it would have to be to arrive at the numbers. Not to mention the thousands upon thousands of injections – which also just didn’t add up. I admit, I found myself with the calculator, adding up the years and days since the poster child’s diagnosis, and literally doing the math. I’m fairly sure that was not the intention of the fund-raisers.

    We’ve had people who have been around our son for many years who do not know he has diabetes. He tests, he gives injections in public (often right in front of these same people), he has ups and downs – but we only get one life, and whatever that life deals us, we need to LIVE it. All of us.

    I am constantly being surprised to learn that a friend has Type 1 – often friends of my own age…born before dinosaurs, before blood glucose meters, before long-acting and quick-acting insulins, before pumps. And these people are managing the extra work and stress amazingly well.

    Please don’t think we are dumb as a box of hammers. We aren’t. But we also know how lucky we are to be living here, in the first world, and the modern world, where our son’s life can be a LIFE.

    And, thanks for the shout out! 😉

  4. Hi! I found this post via KC & Co., and I absolutely love the message here. I once had a client who had Type I diabetes (both he and his brother), and when I would conduct family sessions, they would both test in the middle of whatever therapeutic intervention we were conducting at the time. It wasn’t a big deal; just life. To me it was a HUGE deal, but in the other direction…it was very inspiring. 🙂

  5. I <3 you, Moira. Every post I read, it's like you're inside my head and my heart, writing exactly what I'm thinking and feeling.

  6. Exactly! Some days suck but most days Hunter is so damn busy living life that what is there to be sad about? He can and does still do all that he wants to do right now. Multiple texts to/from mom and a temp basal just allowed him to rock an overnight at a friends and allowed me to still get some sleep knowing he was ok.

    I too find your posts so very close to exactly what I am thinking or feeling. It’s nice to know that I am not alone in helping my son to live and make Diabetes fit into his life not the other way around. There are days when Diabetes gets a little more control over the day than we want BUT we muddle through and the next day we are holding the reins!

  7. Thanks for the shout-out!

    Where do you think I got my blog name? Sure, there are plenty of things to get upset and frustrated about. But I don’t want to focus on that – I’d rather look for those moments of wonderful 😀

    P.S. Counting down to our mojitos by the pool in Florida!

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