Monday, December 27, 2010

Unplugging in Los Cabos - or at home

Lior and I went on a fabulous get-away to Los Cabos, Mexico last week. We needed to unwind, de-stress, and detach from the pressures of the real world. Although we went on a few excursions (shopping being one of them), our main goal was to unplug.

Los Cabos. Wow, what a beautiful place – desert mountains with steep cliffs dotted with palm trees and cacti overlooking an absolutely gorgeous crystal blue view of the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean. We saw whales, sea lions, marlins, and pelicans during a sunset sailing trip we took one afternoon. There was lots of sunshine, friendly people, and Mexican culture - including tequila, Mariachi, and lots of Mexican dishes – with and without flour.

Of course, it’s practically impossible to completely unplug from all aspects of your life – even when you go to a blissful place like Los Cabos. I will always have diabetes and celiac no matter where I go.

So amidst the relaxation, Lior and I were still deciphering and dissecting menu items to find out if they had gluten (found in wheat, rye, and barley). Thankfully, he speaks Spanish and could tell waiters: “sin harina”, which means without flour. I was still conscious of how much fat, protein, and carbohydrates I was eating. I still made time to exercise – at least a little bit. I still had numerous low and high blood sugars to correct, and I was still packing medical supplies, gluten-free snacks, and glucose tablets.

At times I got frustrated. There were foods that I wanted to try but couldn’t. It would be nice to dis-attach from my insulin pump some times. To not freak out about getting tipped over on a sailing trip for fear that my pump will get wet, and that I’ll have to find a Medtronic supplier to replace my pump pronto. It would be nice to not have to eat glucose tablets while sitting in the middle of a plaza in the 18th century town of San Jose del Cabo waiting for my blood sugars to return to normal. Missing out on 15 to 20 minutes of art gallery hopping.

These parts of my life can be a nuisance, an annoyance, a frustration. I feel like I’m missing out. I’m left wanting.

And then there were other times, when I was staring out at the water for hours at a time, and my mind calmed down. And then I began thinking of how lucky I am. How grateful I am. How I live an incredibly abundant life.

And then I was able to truly unplug. And I was truly happy. Inside and out.

Feeling like a victim or like I’m missing out or wanting things that I hadn’t even thought about two seconds prior – are feelings of the ego. They are not the true me. They are the ego me.

We all have that ego side within us. The ego creates thoughts of either superiority or inferiority based on whatever circumstances are present at the time of that thought. In my mind, during those ego moments, I was inferior because I couldn’t eat a certain kind of food. I wanted something that I couldn’t have.

Our authentic selves, the truest expression of who we are, cannot possibly conjure up those kinds of thoughts. It’s impossible.

And the way to get there is through stillness. I find that I connect with my truest self best through meditation, art, writing, photography and yoga.

And in Los Cabos, I connected with my true self when staring at the water - connecting with nature - and that’s a great way to unplug.

I highly recommend it, and you don’t have to travel far to make it happen. Just find a spot of quiet solitude, preferably with nature – even a potted plant or flowers will do, and take some time to listen to your heart and your breath. And you’ll find your own little get-away. Your chance to unplug.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Balancing diabetes at work

The other morning, I was co-running a board meeting for the non-profit organization I work for, and while in the midst of introducing our guest speakers, I began to feel the pangs of a low blood sugar.

I pulled out my glucometer and held it under the table after I was finished speaking, pricked my finger, checked my sugar, and immediately reached for my handy glucose tablets when I saw the 48 reading on my monitor – all this while attempting to stay focused and sound remotely intelligent. Which is quite a tricky thing to do when going low.

As my sugar slowly climbed back up, I realized that I had a blog topic on my hands.

I typically don’t write about balancing work and diabetes here on this blog, mainly because I am afraid that whatever I write here will somehow affect my professional life. I wouldn’t want people to think I’m more or less capable of doing my job because I have diabetes. I focus on what others’ may think or say, rather than my main objective for writing this blog: Learning and sharing on how to thrive with diabetes and life’s challenges.

My strong feeling that I have a topic on my hands won this time – over the hypothetical voices of others. Living with diabetes is my reality, and I hope that whatever strengths, experience, and knowledge I bring to the workplace far outweigh the fact that I check my blood sugars and need to eat certain foods regularly. I believe I’ve been fortunate in that respect throughout my life, and rarely have I encountered people who have forced me to prioritize work over health.

Side note: I know that not every workplace is like that. The American Diabetes Association is a wonderful organization to turn to if you have encountered problems with diabetes and the workplace, such as discrimination, and need assistance.

And then those moments come along, like the one the other morning, where I’m in the middle of working, and I find myself trying to balance feeling the low blood sugar, taking care of it, and all while in the midst of something at work that demanded my full attention.

How do we diabetics do it? How do we diabetics balance work with our health needs?

I’ve come to the conclusion over the years that balancing diabetes at work is about setting healthy priorities and boundaries while demonstrating self-confident assertiveness. Not defensive assertiveness. Or “I’m the victim” assertiveness. Or passive aggressiveness. I’m talking about the type of assertiveness that comes from accepting that you have diabetes and not caring what others may think or say.

Because you care about you.

After years of not accepting my diabetes or thinking I did, but really not, I prioritized health over what others may think or say at that board meeting. I wasn’t embarrassed to pull out my glucometer and check my sugar while sitting with ten or fifteen other people around the table. I didn’t care if anyone noticed. I went ahead and checked. And thank God I did! Or else, my blood sugar may have gone even lower and could have resulted in a trip to the hospital.

And that’s not healthy. Physically or emotionally.

I spoke with one of the meeting participants afterwards and told her about my low. She looked incredibly concerned and told me she hadn’t even noticed. And that’s when I remembered that most people aren’t examining others in the way we may think they do. People tend to be focused on themselves or whatever they’re going through.

So why shouldn’t I be as well?

I’m so happy that I checked my sugar when I did. And I’m proud that I’ve prioritized me.