Monday, December 7, 2009

Welcome to my treasure hunt

Where would I be, what would I be doing, if I wasn’t afraid?

Welcome to my treasure hunt. I have been on a treasure hunt for at least ten or fifteen years now, seeking my life’s treasures, whatever they may be or wherever they may fall. A path, or a journey, that will bring me great rewards. I’m not exactly looking for jewels, precious stones, or mountains made of gold.

I’m seeking to live my life’s passions, but sometimes fear stumbles in along my way. It wasn't always like that.

As a diabetic, I’ve always wanted to feel safe. Not eating the right foods, or taking the right amount of insulin, or exercising at the wrong time of day, or a million other things can cause my blood sugars to go very high or very low. Those low sugars can feel really nasty, and consistent high sugars cause a diabetic to develop some very severe complications over time, like blindness.

When I was young and didn't know any better, I tempted the consequences and ate sugary foods while not keeping track of my blood sugars. When I was 19 years old, I was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, and as I told you in the earlier post, In the beginning, I had a 50-50 chance of going blind. I lost some vision, but I'm alright.

I blamed myself though, and I became cautious. Very cautious. Too cautious and afraid of what may or may not be if I didn’t follow the rules and play it safe. I was so miserable. Not miserable for striving to be healthy, but rather miserable for living life out of fear.

But life hands us new experiences every day, and every time I stepped out and tried something new, and followed a passion, I became more and more aware. First, I became aware of my misery. Then, I traveled alone to Paris. I moved to New York City. I tried eating new foods, dancing different dances, or learning new languages. And each time, the experience became more enjoyable, more exhilarating, and even more inspiring. I found myself transforming.

One of the most profound times I really pushed myself outside of my safe, comfort zone was when I went on a sort of adventure-travel tour of Australia. We were provided with lots of options during the tour: White water rafting, hot air balloon riding, and sky diving. I slept on a sailboat for 3 days. Sounds cool, huh? Yeah, I totally freaked out every morning, completely afraid of what adventure options they would throw at us next, and each day, I grappled.

I was scared to death – the heights, the deep waters, the crummy bathrooms, the animals. You name it. I was scared of it. What might happen?

We went to the Great Barrier Reef at the very end of the trip. Hello, diving. The tour operator asked for a show of hands: Who wanted to go deep sea diving? I thought it would be a pretty cool experience, but I was so totally scared at the same time. I didn’t have much time to decide. I sat there grappling, time was ticking. I had to give an answer. Do I go? Don’t I go? What do I do?

Then, the instructor informed us that diabetics weren’t allowed to go deep sea diving. You see, there’s no way to treat low blood sugar underwater.

I actually smiled at first. What a relief! I had an excuse to stay in my comfort zone. No scary adventure travel for me! But then I sat for a few minutes, and it hit: I was angry. Not because I wasn’t going, I was annoyed because even if I wanted to go, I couldn’t.

And that’s when I rebelled. I didn’t care how much it cost, or if I went alone, I was going to do every other adventure option possible at the Great Barrier Reef. And I did: I flew in a helicopter, rode in a submarine, and snorkeled too. I wasn’t going to be deprived of my Great Barrier Reef experience just because I am diabetic. I didn't know it at the time, but I had discovered a passion along my treasure hunt.

I stepped out of my safe, comfort zone and decided to live once again, transforming once again. I forgot about what may or may not happen because I was too busy focusing on having the best time ever. That helicopter ride was phenomenal!

What I didn’t realize at the time, and maybe am only realizing now, is that by telling me that I can’t do something, I actually pushed past my fear of what may or may not be. I can’t control the outcome. I can’t hide myself away in the closet of life, going about the same old thing day after day. Because then I am not truly living.

I have learned to let fear be my guide for what is most appropriate for me. Fear helps us stay balanced - It’s not like I ignored the sound advice of my doctors or the tour operator. I didn’t go deep sea diving despite the tour operator’s instructions. I still check my sugars, eat a healthy diet, and exercise.

But although I didn’t realize it then, I did let fear be my guide for what I truly want – an experience. After all, there was really only one possible outcome that I was truly afraid of – drowning to my death unable to control my breath while sharks hover around me, possibly tearing me apart limb by limb. It wasn’t the actual diving I was afraid of – wearing a wet suit, learning how to breathe wearing an oxygen tank, paying attention to the signs for up and down, and watching amazing sea creatures float by.

And you know what, although I didn’t go diving, it turned out more than alright up there in the sky looking at the most breathtaking view you can imagine.

No, I don’t go to Australia every day and go riding in helicopters. That's totally not the point of this entry. My goal is to share with you the mantra - live life to the fullest, every single moment of every single day. Don't let the uncertainty of possible outcomes hold you back. None of us know what will be. How do you find your journey? One way is to become aware of your fears, jealousies, and anger. They will guide you along the way to what you really want. Ask yourself: What would you be doing if you weren’t afraid of the outcome?

I’m still seeking my treasure every single day, seeking to live my life’s passions at every moment of every single day. The realization is: Living one’s passions isn’t an end goal or an outcome. The treasure isn't found on some mountaintop. It's found along the way, on the journey.

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