What we can all learn from Sandy .. and Diabetes (The one where I laugh at smashing both my cars at once)
This morning I was thinking about a few friends who have been terribly impacted by Sandy. They’ve lost almost all they own; they’ve been homeless and adrift for weeks. Every day they look out at the neighborhood they called their own heaven and see a nightmare sight. The pain they’ve endured has been ridiculous, and it continues.
This morning one of them is going to experience the most amazing, all-sensory joy doing something she’d not been able to do since the storm hit nearly a month ago. To the rest of us, it might sound like nothing. But this mom is going to reach into a clothes dryer of her very own, pull out her family’s laundry, hug the warm pile of color close and breath deep.
An act we’ve all done countless times. But to her, this morning, it’s going to be a piece of heaven in time that’s felt like hell.
Which got me thinking about our lives, and of course our lives with diabetes on board. Because while a terrible occurrence in our lives is certainly nothing to savor, wish for or celebrate, it does have something amazing that comes along with it:
The gift of a very real, accessible, razor-sharp ability to see the good in life.
Think about it. I remember way back when the crisis of Lauren’s first weeks of life had finally passed. Sure, that time had been traumatic. Not knowing if your baby is going to live or die is an experience I’d not wish on anyone. But after, all of a sudden, I just got things in life. Like: how fun it is to laugh. And: how it really does not matter that much if a friend stops by when your house is a mess. And: How even though I really cannot stand it when my hair frizzes, it’s just frizzy hair. Or: how a wrecked car might be a problem but it’s really not a crisis (and yes I learned this the morning I, the exhausted new mom of a baby with some medical concerns; a mom who had to go back to her full time job as a news report while said baby was still in the NICU, backed out of the garage [late to a work assignment] and smashed right into our second car, wrecking both at the same time. We actually laughed. Eventually.)
And I remember way back when the second crisis in Lauren’s life came: her diabetes diagnosis. I was a train wreck at first, as my friends will attest.
Here it was: diabetes. This demon, storm, curse, stalker, evil presence that at some point surged into each of our lives, in some cases totally unexpected (much like the storm surge of Sandy, one might think) became part of who we are. It ripped our lives as we knew it apart. What was once normal became new. What was once a cabinet you thought might look great with a glass front and some pretty pottery inside became medical central. What was once a calendar with dots for birthday parties and playgroups became a maze of medical appointments, pump site change schedules, blood glucose values and lab results. What was once a body you hoped to help grow strong and fit became a place you had to wage war daily, often hourly. She who was once a simple mom became a medical expert. Because she had to.
And here is what can come of that, at least for us:
We now possess the gift of truly knowing what a real problem is. I look at friends like Gina and Meri, who have recently suffered pain I cannot imagine, and know they truly deserve to grieve (and yet I know both have and will show us all how to weather a storm that makes Sandy look like a puddle in the yard with more class and joy than anyone would think a human could). I look at my dear friend Michelle, who laughs more than almost anyone I know on earth. Want to check out a reason to crawl under the couch and sob for eternity? See her speak in public (or stay tuned here for news of her book – which I just KNOW is going to be a reality one day soon). You won’t see a woman who crawled under that proverbial couch. Instead, you’ll see a woman who absolutely pulls joy out of just about every single moment of her life. How do they do it? I think they have developed the ability to see the precious past the unthinkable bad.
There is no doubt I would wave diabetes away in an instant, given the ability. I advocate and fundraise my fingers to the bone, as most who read this know. But there are things I am thankful for.
I am thankful that I’ve been able to raise my daughters to be truly compassionate people who understand when someone needs help but can smell bullsh** in an instant. I am thankful I never thought the world was going to end when one of my kids was cut from soccer or left out of a birthday party or missed out on getting the cool new toy everyone was lining up for. I am thankful that even all the times Lauren was whisked off to the hospital, we cracked jokes and found ways to stay upbeat and fun (what a lesson in life that is!)
I am thankful that when my husband and I argue over things (and we do), we get to the point when we realize that when it comes right down to it, all is well.
I am thankful that when one of my kids got the sniffles or broke and arm or had a fever, I didn’t curl up in a ball like we were all going to die.
I am thankful that I know so, so many folks who have battled Type 1 Diabetes with a finesse the rest of the world could take a cue from. Of course my daughter is one of them, but she is just one of many. I look at friends who have lived for years with the shots, finger pricks, scary highs and lows, constant medical intervention, worries of the future and just plain endlessness of a disease that is truly relentless. Ask them how they feel about life? Diabetes will barely be mentioned. And they’re happy.
Because like my friend hugging that load of fresh laundry today: they’ve glimpsed despair first hand. And with that vision, as painful as it may have been (and may still be sometimes) comes the super power of X-ray emotional vision:
They can see the very good in the simplest of things.
This is not to say I am Pollyanna. Far from it. I do not celebrate Sandy. I do not savor diabetes. In no way do I give a nod to the unimaginable losses of friends like Michelle.
But I am thankful that with all that terrible sadness comes intensified joy.
Imagine if we could create a weekend seminar that taught the world just that, without the pain and loss so many of us have to experience to get there? That would really be something.
But let’s try it. Today, or some time this week, pull your laundry out of the dryer and savor that warmth and freshness for a moment. Imagine not having the ability to clean your clothes and that might just feel all the more wonderful. Or the next time you have a stomach bug or the sniffles, embrace the fact that it’s not really a big deal; and that in a day or two or five you’ll be fine. Sure, you might fall behind on work but really, you’ll be fine. And your sore throat might even make you sound like Kathleen Turner so you can do some funny impressions while you are at it.
Or if you happen to back out of the garage and smash both of your cars at the same time, find the humor in it.
Because it really is funny. No one is sick, no one his hurt and no one has died. It’s just a car (or two). And laughing about it might just be the best gift ever.