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Reflections from a Fresno Hotel

August 5, 2011

The swiftness with which we can don new identities is striking.  Here I’ve been up at a diabetes camp all summer, living in a strange and wonderful diabetic bubble where every carb is counted, every blood glucose check is unjudged, every low blood sugar attended to.  It hasn’t all been rosy – I’ve certainly had my ups and downs, as one can expect living and working in one beautiful, intense and enclosed space for two straight months. It has often been lonely, despite the complete absence of alone time.  I try to make up for this absence at camp with other acts of self-care desperation –  playing as much guitar and ukelele as possible, singing nursery rhyme songs with toddlers, squeezing in time to listen to some Tori-Amos-circa-1994, going for runs and solo dips in a nearby creek, and cutting out time to shed tears with the right people over how beautiful life is.  Those are the few ways I can figure out how to stay somewhat sane in this environment where we so quickly lose the “I.”

One part of  that “I” that I invited into my personal narrative fourteen months ago – that I made room for at the table with a willingness and acceptance that still shocks me – was the title of “diabetic.”  As someone who has gone as far out as I could afford with trying on hats and exploring new identities, accepting this non-negotiable identity without question has really changed who I am. It’s ushered a new phase of adulthood and centeredness.

Being in a diabetic community this summer has been impactful in a way I don’t think I’ll process til I’m back in the “real world.”  And I’m getting ready to re-enter that real world.  To see my friends and family again.  To start grad school, and nestle into a new lovely apartment with my kitty-cat.  To nurture old friendships and start new ones.  To embark on what I think will be a pretty amazing vocational path. How I define myself as a diabetic through all of that remains to be seen. One thing’s for sure – I’m still gonna be a diabetic. Thanks to this summer, I know I never have to feel alone in that identity ever again.

I’m on the last day off at camp before I fly home on Wednesday morning.  I’ve had a night of sushi and wine with some ladies at a Marriott down the mountain from camp. Back at sea-level, back where people smell like soap-not-dirt, back where people don’t walk around strutting their insulin pumps on their booties. It’s a small reminder of what life will be like when I return to the real-world – where diabetes will continue to be my silent co-star.  The world won’t always be pre-counted carbs and emergency low supplies on every counter. It will be a world full of all the lovely things we want it to be filled with – dinner parties and choir rehearsals and school and work, running and dancing and traveling and fretting and thinking and biking and love-making – the good times and the bad – with blood sugars dancing their little waltz in the back room, and with diabetes never ceasing to be the non-negotiable identity I’ve donned.


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