This is a tough one. Today’s post for diabetes blog week is to write about something good that diabetes has done for Lia. The problem I’m having is that accomplishing this tiny task is made a bit more difficult by any number of obvious reasons: It’s a disease. It’s incurable. And mostly it acts like a dick. So it’s kind of like asking the guy who got shot by Dick Cheney to be thankful for the face-full of lead because the quail hunt he was engaged in with the VP wasn’t going all that well for him.
But I get it, positive thinking is all the rage today and so in setting the whole chronic, dick-headed disease thing aside, I wonder where to begin in revealing the flip side of the coin, that is the bright-sidedness of diabetes.
Should I start first with the physical and mental courage it takes to confront diabetes everyday? Courage to endure pain. Courage to not be intimidated. Courage to face fear and take measure several times a day, through the tiniest pinprick of blood, of one of life’s greatest and most ultimate uncertainties. But is it fair to say that courage sprouts out of hardship, or is it already inside us, and rises forth like a bad-ass commando out of the depths and fog where it’s been keeping watch all along?
If not courage, then what of humility? It cannot be easy sharing the stage with such a pinhead of a co-host, when diabetes behaves like a persistent April Fools joke, acting contrary every day of the year. How else do you explain the steadfast grace needed to put up with such mischief if not with humility?
Or might the gift from diabetes be best described as empathy? This is one I could point to were it not like saying in order to better understand the blind one must walk the world with their eyes closed. Honestly, empathy needs no point of reference, just as hope needs no foothold on imagination. They just are, if we let them.
So where does that leave me?
Gratitude for the fact that diabetes is not something worse than it already is?
The experience of overcoming one struggle so that it makes her stronger for the next?
The motivation that turns fear into an advantage?
An appreciation for life?
A sense of community?
The peace of self-content with what is versus what should be?
The truth is Lia is who she is in spite of diabetes. Putting a positive spin on this life-threatening condition — while invigorating to write about — feels strangely like falling into the trappings of a culture driven by the ideological desire to find something happy in everything (though the numbers suggest otherwise). But how can I not play along, if only to satisfy myself that I did everything I could for her physical and mental well-being?
Yes, she’s stronger.
Yes, she has more courage, more empathy, more appreciation, more everything.
I would steal for her the naming rights to whatever life-affirming attributions have yet to be identified if it could mean that for just one day she didn’t have to think about diabetes. But it’s just not that easy. I say so not because I’m a pessimist, I’m not. I believe very much in believing in yourself, and I understand also that in taking this position, I might be making a serious leap in linking my daughter’s regard for her diabetes to a half-century of national schooling in what could be described as social optimism pumped-up-on-steroids.
Seriously, though, I know, I’m taking this too far, and probably out of context of what was the intended assignment. Maybe this whole diabetes thing is still just too fresh for me. Maybe I’ve worked myself into a tizzy because I haven’t yet fully bought in to the critical importance of finding something good about this thing that will be with my daughter the rest of her life. No, that’s not true. Will be with her until there’s a cure.
But I know also I’m not alone. When Lia gives herself a shot or pricks her finger for the umpteenth that day, she does not think of the bottomless well of courage such an act requires of her.
When she feels low, she doesn’t appreciate the fact that it could be much worse.
When she explains again and again to her classmates what that thing is on her hip, she doesn’t think: Because of this, I’m a better person.
She thinks, like I do now, or she will at some point one day: This shit totally blows.
And so speaking to her as her father, mindful also that I’m not one who has diabetes, to help her get through those days where she feels downtrodden and out of sorts, I would say: You are many things, sweetheart. Brave. Smart. A true fighter. You were these things before this moment and you will be these things long after it’s passed. Diabetes doesn’t give you strength. It doesn’t give you courage. Everything you need to get upright and get through these times is dwelling inside where it has been, like the mettle of this little guy, making you you all along.