Monday, December 28, 2009

The secret to finding true love

There's a secret to finding true love.

I was on a quest to find my soul mate in my 20s and early 30s. And I just wouldn’t settle for less. And I didn’t. I did meet my soul mate, and we have been married for almost five years. His name is Lior.

You may be taken aback that I call Lior 'my soul mate'. Not everyone believes that there is a special someone destined for one other person. I have always believed in some form of soul mates long before I met him. Then when I did finally meet him, I knew it was true, at least for me. It was a simple feeling, a very strong one actually, that I had only felt with him. I now call it intuition.

The path to finding him wasn’t an easy one though. When you’re like me and the millions of us out there who have diabetes, finding that special someone, a soul mate, a person to spend your life with, a partner, can be quite a stressful experience. I know that finding the love of your life is stressful for many people with or without diabetes. It isn’t easy to find the needle in the haystack that fits you just right. In my case, as a diabetic, I went into the search with a lot of baggage; some even see it as a stigma.

I often pondered: When do I tell a guy I’m dating that life with me will come with restrictions? With added expenses, continuous trips to doctors, and finger pricks? When do I tell him about diabetic complications? When do I tell him that life with me will require a lot of him?

So, I hid. I didn’t want to scare off potential suitors before we even had a chance to get to know each other. I still went on dates, but I found other ways to keep my secret. I avoided wearing an insulin pump for years. I would choose the times for meetings carefully. Sometimes hiding the diabetes would get ugly. I remember one guy told me I was rude because I didn't want to join him for dinner at 8 or 9 pm. I didn't feel like explaining before I was ready. He clearly wasn't the right guy for me, but it still didn't feel good.

Then one day, actually January 13, 2002, I met this guy, an Israeli soldier who had seen the world and then some. His worldliness and confidence won me over immediately. He had been through a lot as a soldier and citizen of a war-torn nation, and so in my mind, I assumed that a little diabetes wasn’t so scary in comparison with bombs and missiles. He had seen poverty in his travels, and experienced life and death situations more than once. I believe he had already learned how to value living, being in the moment, before I had gotten there myself.

We were already dating for about three months when we decided to go away together for a weekend to Puerto Rico. We were walking along the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan when I began to feel a bit funny. My sugar was going low. Lior had already known that I had diabetes at that point, but thus far, it hadn’t really been an issue or topic of conversation. The diabetes hadn’t impeded our dates. It had been a simple ‘for your information’. Now, the diabetes came to the forefront. It was going to sidetrack our fun for a little while. How was he going to react?

I had to stop. I couldn’t push past it or keep it hidden from him, and so I let him know, “I think my sugar is going low.”

“So what should we do?” he asked.

“I need to sit and check my sugar.”

Lior searched for a seat, and he led me to a table with a couple of chairs outside on the sidewalk to check my blood sugar. The glucometer showed that my sugar was in fact low; it was around 57, a scary number. I didn’t have sugar with me, or I couldn’t find it in my purse.

He must have noticed that I was freaking out, getting all tense and nervous, because he asked, “Do you need anything?”

“Can you get me some orange juice?”

“There’s a kiosk over there. I’ll be right back.” He went, bought the OJ, and returned within seconds. Then he sat with me until my sugar returned to normal, “Are you okay?”

“I’ll be fine in 15 or 20 minutes.” His only concern was for me.

As I sat there checking and waiting for my sugar to climb back to normal, I observed him as well. And after I finished beating myself up for not bringing sugar with me, I noticed that he didn’t run away! Not that he had much choice at that moment, but he didn’t fly off or jump in the sea.

So wait a minute here, I was totally diabetic. You can’t get more diabetic than a low blood sugar, and he didn’t run away? It probably took me a few days to digest: I was able to be myself, and it turned out more than okay. I didn’t have to hide or pretend to be something or someone that I’m not.

The secret to finding true love is to simply be me.

I’m sure that there are many who bring baggage to many tables, just as I have. My belief: Get rid of whatever is holding you back, de-clutter, and turn self-created fears into love. Self-love.

When you live authentically, accepting and loving yourself for you who you are, all the parts and pieces whether perceived as good or bad, showing the world the real you, true love prevails. And that's a secret worth sharing.

Monday, December 21, 2009

What healthcare reform means to me

I never thought I’d see the day where healthcare reform might actually pass the Senate. Quite frankly, I am holding back from getting too excited, dreaming of a world where we can all receive affordable, accessible, quality healthcare. I am a bit fearful of what may or may not be behind that 2,700 page legislation which the majority of Americans have not read, including me. But mostly, I am holding back because there is still a chance that it may not pass all the way (hello Joe).

But the dream is still there, waiting to be realized. Could it really be happening this week?

As a diabetic, I have been weighed down by the challenges of obtaining headache free coverage since I can remember. My parents, husband, and I have spent many a long, agonizing phone call arguing with health insurance company representatives regarding coverage of treatments and obtaining necessary pharmaceuticals. And even worse, and so embarrassing, writing statements on preexisting conditions for health insurance companies to examine and analyze.

I have so many painful stories on this topic. Here’s just one: I lived abroad in Israel for three years and was denied coverage of my diabetic care when I returned to the United States. Why? Because I couldn’t prove that I had continuous coverage under an American insurance company while I was there. I had been covered by Israeli health insurance. So I was informed that I had to wait a year until my diabetic care would be covered. The only way to obtain coverage would be under an employer’s healthcare plan. I had just come back to the United States. I hadn’t found a job yet. And when I did find a job, I had to wait three months to be eligible.

Diabetes doesn’t care about waiting periods, preexisting conditions, and continuous coverage. It doesn’t just go away because it’s inconvenient for the insurance companies.

What I couldn’t understand was – why? What if a person loses their job - and cobra is too expensive – because well, they lost their job? What if a person does go abroad for a valuable, educational, life-changing experience and needs to find a job when they return? Should we all stay put, not move, not explore, not leave a job or look for a new one, for fear of denial of healthcare coverage? Aren’t we one of the wealthiest countries in the world? Aren’t we all about freedom here in America? I had been covered under American health insurance my entire life, but because I moved abroad, I couldn’t receive coverage of preexisting conditions when I returned.


I just didn’t get it, and quite frankly, I was embarrassed. It made me feel that the country where I was born, raised, educated, worked, lived didn’t care if I lived or died. Because I cost too much to keep alive?

As a diabetic, health insurance is necessary and essential. I’m insulin dependent. The costs involved in maintaining my health are astronomical. Prescriptions. Doctors. Tests. The insurance companies know better than I do how much this disease costs a month, let alone a year.

Without the medications, without the proper care, I could and probably would go blind, risk losing limbs, my sense of touch, kidney function. Synthetic insulin and all its paraphernalia are what keep me alive…and allow me to live.

So, okay, why should the rest of you care? Why should American taxpayers care? Here’s what it boils down to: Is access to affordable, quality healthcare a right or a privilege?

Well, the first and most obvious reason we all should care is basic human compassion. We are all human. And we all have one thing in common. We will all die one day. Some of us may unfortunately undergo illnesses along the way. Some of us may be so lucky to never have a need for a doctor, hospital, or medical procedure. It’s doubtful though. Shouldn’t we all, irrelevant of earnings and workplace, receive the same opportunity to be healthy? Shouldn’t healthcare rank up there with the right to freedom of speech? Of religion? Shouldn’t healthcare be on the same list as the right to a free education? To learn how to read and write? The right to vote?

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services almost 8 percent of the American population has some form of diabetes. And another 57 million have pre-diabetes, meaning they have high blood sugars but not high enough to be called diabetes.

I was in shock when I read these numbers, and instantly thought to myself: These statistics only cover the population with diabetes. How many people in this country are sick? How many have broken a bone? Or received a vaccination? How many inventors, CEOs, teachers, plumbers, firemen, and artists are in need of healthcare? And where would this country be, where would we be as the human race, without them?

And how many potential doctors, lawyers, and teachers haven’t received treatment for an illness because they don’t have access to health insurance?

Second, for those of you who are still thinking about costs and economics and/or are pretty annoyed that I took time on this blog for grassroots political commentary, a healthy society is a happier, more productive society. Think of how much more efficient and productive people are when they are healthy, and think of how inefficient people can be when feeling under the weather, have a cold, a toothache, depression, poor vision, or even worse.

Adequate, accessible, quality healthcare coverage will help make this country….healthy.

So, I’m pretty excited that healthcare reform might pass, despite not knowing all the ins and outs of the actual legislation. I am certain that there are mistakes within those pages. Isn’t that inevitable? I’m sure there will be criticisms from all sides. That’s the power of democracy. But I can't help but go back to the words of the late Ted Kennedy, which were reiterated by his late wife Victoria Reggie Kennedy in Sunday's Washington's Post, “better to get half a loaf than no loaf at all.”

I’m excited because it’s a step in the right direction. It makes me feel like America cares. About me. And the millions of you out there who want to be healthy too.

Let’s care about the people who live amongst us. After all, we’re all human.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Living the big dream

I have always had big dreams.

I heard a story not too long ago (probably on Oprah) of a woman who faced great odds to live her dreams. She grew up in a small, poor village in Africa where AIDS is prevalent. Girls were not able to go to school, but she really wanted to learn. She dreamed of an education.

The boys in her town were able to go to school though, since they were considered the breadwinners. And so the girl begged to do her brother’s homework every day when he came home from school. It didn’t take much prodding, and that’s how the girl began to learn how to read and write.

The girl never imagined that life would take her beyond the village until an American woman came to visit on behalf of a non-profit organization. The woman sat with the village girls and told them: “When you have a dream, it means you can fulfill it. If you can see it, dream it, visualize it, then it can be.”

The girl had never realized that she can dream before that day, and that night, she was so excited that she wrote her dreams down on a piece of paper and buried them in a tin under a rock near her village. Her dream: To live in America, get a Bachelor’s degree, a Master’s degree, and a PhD.

At the age of 13, the girl married an abusive man in an arranged marriage and had five children, but she always remembered her dream. And she pursued it despite the challenges. She did move to America. Her abusive husband died of AIDS. And she went on to get her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, and now she is almost ready to graduate with a PhD. And to this day, every time she has achieved one of the items on her dream list, she goes back to the village and pulls the tin with her dreams in writing out of the ground, and crosses the item off the list.

She dreamed big, and she allowed herself to believe that she can achieve it.

As a person with big dreams, a believer in potential, I believe that this is a wonderful and inspiring story, and I wish her the greatest that life can give. The story strikes me though. On the one hand, it’s inspiring, but it also leaves me with questions.

Is she a happier person because she is realizing her dreams?

Perhaps I ask these questions because I have pursued my dreams, and although I am grateful for all of it and happier than I have ever been, I still want more. Like the African woman, I have had some challenges along the way – not lack of education, abusive husband, or AIDS infested village – but my own set of challenges – the diabetes, celiac, and so on. I’ve actually achieved a number of my big dreams. I’ve traveled, lived abroad, married an amazing husband, and have two Master’s degrees.

I was thrilled each time I achieved one of my dreams, but the next day, I always asked: “Okay, now what?” So I created more dreams and more visualizations of myself reaching amazing heights. I don’t regret doing so. But I wonder: Does the pursuit of dreams make a person happy? And how about once you get there?

I've worked at answering those questions. Here’s a theory that I’m testing out. Tell me what you think.

I have definitely gotten mired by the ins and outs of life, living in a cloud at times, getting sucked in by distractions and to-do lists (hello, TV, bills, errands, doctors, commutes), that sometimes (not always) I have found myself not even realizing when my wishes and dreams were actually coming true. I often have to stop myself and realize that I'm living a huge chunk of my dream life.

So, first, I made a conscious decision to do my best at becoming aware of each moment of every single day. I started journaling, meditating, becoming more creative, and I wrote my dreams down in my notebook which I keep by my bedside.

It's amazing what you discover when you are aware of the world around you. Try it if you haven't already. I found myself becoming more attuned - to myself. I was able to realize which of the dreams that I was holding are actually mine and which belong to someone else. I also became better attuned to the steps along the way to achieving the dreams.

Next step of the theory: I celebrate. I celebrate every single achievement. Sometimes, a celebration may be as simple as an acknowledgment and a smile, and sometimes, depending on the circumstance, the celebrations can get a bit more elaborate. Whatever the case may be.

Then, when I wasn't looking, I realized that the theory developed even further. I took a class in June which gave all of us students the tools necessary to writing a book, which I am now doing. On the last day of class, the teacher advised us to set up a reward system for mini-achievements along the way. He said that it would keep us moving along through a very long process. So he advised – reward yourself each time you reach a certain point, a reward for writing 50 pages, or 25, or even one. Or hey, why not just celebrate every day you write?

The big realization: This applies to everything - even beyond the pursuit of dreams. Because isn't the pursuit of dreams simply - life? If you are studying for a test, cooking dinner, or cleaning the house, celebrate. Or maybe you are fixing a car, riding a bike – break down the mini-steps of life and celebrate each step along the way.

And soon, before you know it, you’ll be celebrating life. All of the mini-achievements along the way. The sunrise and sunset, the change in seasons, family and friends, a beating heart, breath...

There are an infinite number of opportunities to celebrate. Because each day is an achievement worth celebrating in the pursuit of dreams.

Dream big, imagine the unimaginable, and be aware of every step along the journey, accept each day as it is, and be sure to stop and celebrate all the steps along the way. Because that just may be the key to the pursuit of happiness.

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.