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.