I didn’t even realize I was staring at my roommate, Kelsey, until she made eye contact with me and said, “Oh, sorry.” I didn’t realize how low my blood sugar was until that moment, either.
Kelsey was watching a sketch by Tig Notaro in the living room, and I was sitting at the kitchen table, writing. She was apologizing because she thought she was bothering me by laughing too much. “Oh, no, you’re fine,” I said. “Keep laughing. I’m low.”
Technically, I’d already known my blood sugar was low about 20 minutes prior, and I’d played the game wrong. For some reason–blame in on the fact that Low Blood Sugar Brain is like swimming in a mud pit–my problem solving skills decided I should eat a bowl of Vanilla Almond Granola with unsweetened almond milk. What I’d needed was something quick: apple juice, honey, or, when desperate, glucose tablets (which are basically edible sidewalk chalk.)
“I didn’t do it right,” I slurred to Kelsey, but really to myself. “I did it backwards.”
I still didn’t get up and pour that juice. My body was heavy. I was disconnected. I turned my head slowly, and my eyes locked onto a pink, crocheted watermelon that was hanging on a nail above the kitchen sink. I lingered there, admiring it. My best friend Owens had given it to me as a gift one random day a few years ago, because it reminded him of me. Those kind of gifts are the sweetest. I meditated on that for who knows how long. Too long.
Awareness came in waves.
My hands shook.
I finally stood up from the table and pushed my chair back, unsteadily.
I spun dizzily to the refrigerator.
Then I couldn’t find the apple juice. My eyes couldn’t connect with anything. “Where is it?” At this point, I was empty-eyed, just talking to myself. I finally found it, but we have a set of 18 blue drinking glasses that vary in 3 sizes. I stood in front of the cabinet and quietly weighed the pros and cons of each one. How much juice did I really need? (The answer, at this point, was any amount. ASAP.) I settled on the smallest glass, poured, sat down, drank. The glass was too small; I got up and poured more.
After 10 minutes, I felt a little less like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz as brain function trickled back to me. I said to Kelsey, “One day I’ll get it right.” Immediately after I said it, I remembered a quote by Gertrude Stein: “There is no there there.”
I’m always thinking of this beautiful, golden, future There. Myself: happier, and healthier, and more in control. Better. Without meaning to do harm, I mentally push my current self into the mud because she’s just not good enough. She’s just not living up to the There girl. You know, the one who doesn’t actually exist.
Unless I am cured of type one diabetes, I will always have low blood sugars and high blood sugars. I will never be perfect at this. I’ll always be trying to get it right, while also not even sure what getting it right means. What the hell does it even mean to get it right? What would it look like?
My pancreas was the one truly capable of getting it right, I think. But then my body killed it. So, now I guess it’s up to me.
And since it’s up to me, this is what I have to say about it: I think getting it right would look a lot like whatever it is I’m doing right now.
Which is sometimes eating honey from a jar with shaky hands, and actually remembering to bring extra test strips when my bottle is near empty. Refilling my prescriptions before they run out. Sometimes saying no to the chocolate, but often saying yes, and taking insulin for it. Talking about diabetes openly. Finding people who understand. Writing it down, and sharing it with all of you.
This is what it is. Not There, but here.
It looks a lot like trying and trying and trying every day.
P.S.– As of August 21, 2015, I’ve had type 1 diabetes for 10 years.
I want to process (and celebrate) the past decade the way I process everything: by taking a long walk.
I’ve just joined my friend Amy’s team, Super Friends, for the 5k JDRF OneWalk on October 4th in Richmond, VA. If you can, please help us raise money to find a cure. Your support means the world to me, friends. xoxo