Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The stuff that never goes on sale

Most people like free stuff.  We live in a culture that encourages and cultivates the belief that more is better.  One of the problems with this is that nothing is actually free.  I’m not talking about monetary cost here.  This currency is much more valuable than money.  

What if we consider the total time and energy that we have here during our short stint as a physical body on this planet and we create a pie chart graph to represent its distribution?  Let’s call it our life-pie.  A large portion of our life-pie will need to be set aside simply for staying alive.  This section includes the routine necessities such as eating and drinking, gathering food and water, sleeping, shelter or home care and maintenance…   A certain level of formal education is also required by law in Canada so that’s going to take up another portion of the pie.  And what’s left is up for grabs.  

 We spend the rest of our lives, consciously or too often unconsciously deciding how we want to spend the rest.  Our options are technically limitless, but the most popular choices are: parenting, marriage, family, friends, career, travel and sports / hobbies in no particular order.  Again, consciously or too often unconsciously, we then put our choices in order depending on their importance and how much time and energy we want to invest in each.  Some choose to put career first, others family, marriage or parenting.  These choices could be called our loves.  And all of the regrets that we may have lying on our death beds can pretty much be summed up by not having had our loves in the right order.  They basically affect every single thing in the way that we live.  

Adding to this, we’ve seen the emergence of a modern civilisation new way of thinking where the type A personality go-getters figure that they can put more than one love on the top of their list and excel at each one.  They feel entitled and truly believe that they can “have it all”.  The problem with this is that there’s only so much of the pie left and one of the prices that we end up paying for this mistake is half-assing each priority or love.  For some reason, not sure if it’s advertising or societal peer-pressure, but somewhere sometime someone taught us the lie that we could do it all.  And those of us who believed this lie dove in head first pursuing everything.  We can temporarily trick our bodies into achieving this by burning the candle at both ends, but eventually the price is loss of our physical (and emotional) health.  Eventually the body says NO.  I now realize that I have succumbed to this, especially since Adele Type 1 diagnosis over 14 years ago.

I personally believe that as soon as we become a parent a huge part of our life-pie no longer belongs to us.  I believe parenting to be by far the most important and difficult job that we will ever do.  But what does it mean to be a “good parent”?  Working extra hard developing your career so that you can give your kids more stuff and better life experiences?  Showing your kids love and praise by posting as many photos and comments on social media stating how much you love them and how proud you are of them?  Maybe it’s much more than that?  

I believe that our job as a parent can be summarized in one simple sentence.  A good parent is someone who can unconditionally love, support and be there (emotionally and physically) for their children.  That’s it.  Much easier when your child fits the mold created by society, much more difficult when they don’t.  I believe that the most important gift that we can give our kids is our presence.  This gift doesn’t cost a single penny, yet its price in terms of our life-pie is very big.

With kids, especially teenagers, there are opportunities for connection that arise at certain times that cannot be forced or created by sheer will.  If we’re not there as parents during these times, we’re missing the boat and our children are the ones who are losing.  These opportunities cannot be replaced or made, they just happen as part of the unfolding of everyday life.  We cannot expect to squeeze all of these moments in during a few weeks’ vacation to make up for all of the time that we are absent in between.  It simply doesn’t work that way.

Add a chronic illness like Type 1 Diabetes and there isn’t much left of our life-pie.  The amount of ongoing stress involved in being a Type 1 parent is extremely high and there’s no way to truly understand this unless you have lived it.  Our Diabetes care team doesn’t fully understand.  Our family doctor doesn’t fully understand.  Our psychologist doesn’t fully understand.  They have learned the Type1 game rules from books and a certain level of limited experience, but they don’t fully understand because they don’t carry it 24-7.  Now, I’m not saying this to put any of these people down because I really appreciate all that they do.  I’m saying this to make all Type 1 gamers aware, because when you’re in the middle of it you can’t always see it.  From the outside, you may project having it all together while everyone tells you to stay positive and soldier on.  But by realizing how much a Type 1 diagnosis changes everything, then my hope is that you can also find and develop a certain level of self-compassion.  

 I used to have a hard time distinguishing between self-pity and self-compassion, but now I am beginning to see the difference.  Self-pity is often one of the first places that you’ll find yourself after a chronic disease diagnosis like Type 1 Diabetes and that’s okay.  But if you stay there, you’ll eventually rot in sickness.  On the other end is what we could call “delusional positivity”.  Here, you’re not acknowledging your wound and if you stay here, you’ll also eventually rot in sickness from within.  Type 1 Diabetes sucks and is so very difficult at times and it is necessary for you to realize and recognize this.  Somewhere in between is self-compassion.  Compassion will allow you to honor your suffering and enable you to keep going.  I believe that self-compassion is as much of an important component of surviving the Type 1 game as administering insulin.  I believe that one of the greatest gifts that we can give our children is to work on ourselves.  To dig deep, heal our wounds becoming a living example of what it really means to strive towards loving ourselves.  This is a lot of work, but such a great investment.  True self-compassion is what comes out of this.  We cannot have self-compassion if we don't first love ourselves

Are you being honest with yourself?  Are your loves in the right order?  Are you living how you want to die?  Living also means suffering.  Are you suffering for the right reasons?  What exactly are you willing to suffer for?

Only you can answer these questions for yourself.

It is that simple.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Where did the finish line go?

I was always a hyper child growing up.  I don’t think that I would have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD if it existed at that time since I could still sit for a certain period when necessary, but it always had to be in balance with physical activity.  I also did eat quite a bit of sugar back then which could explain this, but I mostly think that I am wired to function at a pretty high speed.  I initially thought that this was normal since most of my friends were high-strung also, but now I realize that most function at a slower speed.  

When Adele was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, the adrenaline kicked in and I dove in at an all-out pace.  I didn’t seem to know how to do things any other way.  I understood the Type 1 game to be a marathon and not a sprint but the thing was that I would probably start a marathon the same way.  Full gas until I blow up was how I rolled.  When I raced BMX as a teenager, the start was the most important part of the race.  If you were not in the top 3 out of the gate it was very difficult to be in contention to win.  We used to practice starts for that exact reason.  Looking back, most everything that I did has been accomplished with an element of speed from the get-go.  It seems to be how I approached everything in my life.

For as long as I remember I have always believed that the highest pinnacle of human achievement was pushing the physical body to its extreme limit.  I believed that a super-fit body gained from a lifetime of dedication, sacrifice and physical training was what our time here was all about.  I admired that more than anything else.  I thought that the goal was getting every single ounce of performance out of our physical bodies.  Anything less seemed like such a waste.  I idolized Olympians and World Champions because given my view of what the human experience should be, they had achieved the highest level.  I know that genetically, most of them were the gifted ones, but the maximization of their physical capacities through a lifetime of training was still the most impressive to me.  They were pushing themselves to their limit.  

Growing up, my heroes were the athletes who stood out because of their physical accomplishments, the champions of their game.  I wanted to be like them.  So based on this belief, I pushed myself in that direction.  And like everything else in my life before, there was no pacing myself as I pursued these goals at an unsustainable fast pace.  I believed that the pursuit of exterior growth was what I was meant to strive for in order to live fully.  Society also pushes us in that direction because anything on the outside can be measured and seen.  This makes sense to our logical brain.  And because of this, it is the norm of how society tends to measure success.  But thinking about the following quote by Eckhart Tolle that I recently came across “Nothing that is of real value can be lost, only the false dissolves”, I began to realize that all that is exterior in reality is fleeting.  It is but a temporary illusion that will surely eventually die or dissolve.   This may partly explain why I was pursuing this as fast as possible with an element of urgency.  Maybe, unconsciously I knew that time was running out and that the window of opportunity was slowly closing?  Maybe what I was pursuing wasn't even real?

A term that is often used to describe an athlete is “being physically fit”.  I now know that there is a big difference between being fit and being healthy.  Being able to bike faster than another does not mean that you are healthier.  Being healthy certainly has a physical component, but it also has a very strong emotional element to it as well.  We tend to forget this.  Very often those that we admire because of physical accomplishments are reaching these heights trying to run away from their emotional problems.  The emotional problem becomes the driving force required to keep on pushing your physical limit.  But how often do we hear of Olympic athletes succumbing to a very deep depression right after their medal-winning performance?  Health all comes down to balance between your outside (physical body) and your inside (heart and soul).  This balance will be different for me than it is for you but it is necessary for health.  It cannot be measured completely, it can only be felt.

We are born perfect, unflawed.  Then, as we grow up, the world messes us up and we accumulate baggage.  This process happens to everyone and is simply part of the human experience.  We can spend all of our time ignoring it while keeping busy building our exterior or we can courageously work on digging, purging and healing our wounds thus creating depth.  Its hard work and very messy, but unlike accumulating exterior accolades, accomplishments in this area are permanent.  This work eventually changes our heart and is the only thing that is real.  

Physically, on my good days, I seem to feel like I have turned the corner towards wellness in regards to my post-concussion syndrome symptoms.  Last week my symptoms were much better, but after a very short fat bike ride on the weekend, I’m feeling the symptoms again.  My progress seems like 2 steps forward and one step back.  Bowen therapy continues to have the most positive effect on my healing. 

Emotionally, in so many ways, my concussion has felt like a spilling of all of my life baggage.  It’s like the container holding all of my issues, wounds, worries and experiences got knocked over and all of its contents have been scattered all over when my head hit the ground.  They were all there before, neatly organized to ensure my survival so far and now they feel exposed, very disorganized and raw.  The task of putting them back in the same order seems overwhelming.  But the reason for the spill is likely that they needed to be rearranged or dealt with and discarded.   It’s a messy job, but it’s time.  What an unfixable “problem” like a chronic disease such as Type 1 Diabetes has started has now been intensified by the concussion.  It is one of its hidden gifts.

The pursuit of exterior accolades is the calling of the ego while interior growth is your soul’s curriculum and in the end, the only thing that is your truth.  One of the hardest parts for me personally in this quest is that much of the required effort for gaining depth is through stillness, not very easy for a person hard-wired to race through or away from life’s hardships.  They say that life’s challenges can either make you hard or soft, bitter or better.  Once you realize this, you get to choose.  That said, I think that it is now time for me to re-balance my outside with my inside by facing my truth, slowing down and softening in order to make room for something better...