Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Quiet Times

After the music and dancing and spending time having fun with family and friends at womad, the following weekend, Easter, was very quiet. But it is good to remember that the quiet times are good too.

On Friday we - Mac, Bob and I, went for a walk at beautiful the Ruapuke beach where 'crowded' meant there were two other groups of two people, plus another dog.
There were other signs of life of course.
And one poor chap who I found half buried in a pile of plastic rubbish (which I collected in the dog poo bag - fortunately Bob didn't do anything requiring me to empty out the bag.)  This little guy seemed happier standing on the cliff, looking out to sea.
Afterwards we called in to see friends out that way, and admired their underground home which is almost at moving-in stage. They currently live in a container house.

In between the work we did around the place, we went for other walks, and coming back up our drive we came upon this cute baby:
 And on Monday I walked down the road (Mac drove) to Mac's sister's place for lunch with Pat and Colin, Ray (Mac's brother) and Sue, and Pat's granddaughter, Hayley and fiance, Kenny. It was Pat's birthday, and lunch turned into the afternoon, and we got home just in time for dinner and a surreal sunset.

 

 I am reminding myself that quiet and peaceful doesn't necessarily mean boring.


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Looking For Small Pleasures

Our lives often seem to be defined by the big things. The births, deaths, weddings, new jobs, graduation ceremonies. But really, our lives are mostly not the bread, but the filling; not the capital letter and full stop, but the words in between. So it is with pleasure and fun. There are the big events to look forward to: the parties, womad, concerts, holidays. There are the more common, but still not daily activities: the visits from friends and family, art and craft days, beach walks.

One of the things I am finding hard about coming to terms with diabetes is the necessary change in food intake. I need to lose weight and reduce my blood sugar, which means discarding or considerably reducing sugar, fruit, carbs. Also, most say, salt and fats. Not only does this regime make for pretty fucking tasteless meals, it also takes away one of my daily pleasures. Cuddling the cat brings pleasure, but he doesn't always want to be cuddled. I had not realised how much the small pleasure of a freshly picked handful of grapes or a pear, or a couple of crackers and brie meant to me until now.

My head is full of resentfulness and woe-is-me-ness today and I can't seem to think of new ways to find small pleasures in day to day living. Any suggestions?

Meanwhile Down On The Farm....



The potatoes, cannellini beans, and pumpkins need harvesting.


The chestnuts have started.




And the sunchokes remind my of my beautiful friend Violet, who now lives far away in Portland, Oregon, and who I miss so much.








There Are Still Good Times To Be Had

Coming to terms with this diabetes thing is a bit of a roller-coaster journey: some days I feel full of determination and hope, other times I feel old and tired and stupid, and some says I just want to cry all day as I grieve for lost opportunities and chocolate. Specifically, TradeAid milk chocolate. And that late night TradeAid hot chocolate drink before bed. I guess I could try Golden Milk but I'm not sure all the claims made for it are true - I gave up believing in magic a long time ago.

I have been finding lots of quotes on Facebook that seem wise, but I'm not sure I can live up to them.

I love this one - not just the words, but the artwork - but can't find the original to credit.


Then there was this:
"Some things in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried."  
Megan Devine

It all sounds good, however there are days and times when the following seems to fit my state of mind more:
"One day I'll do amazing things. Today I'll be satisfied if I manage not to spill food on my boobs."

But there are good times. Times when I feel positive and believe I can make life work. Times when people are unexpectedly kind and loving and generous. Times when I even forget about diabetes for an hour or two - and for some of those hours I am actually awake!

Last weekend, womad was a little confusing. I tired way more easily than other years. I missed the easy eating and drinking without thought. I just wasn't as relaxed as usual. But it was still great. I had three out of four sons there, and their partners. Lots of friends, and one in particular, Emma, a young woman who has lived with Type 1 diabetes all her life, who is just so loving and supportive towards me. And there was food I could buy that wasn't too bad for me. And it only rained on the last evening. And I love womad and my womad people. Next year will be very different. Some of my family won't even be in the country, and some others of the womad gang will also be travelling. We may not be able to afford to go, or may not want to go if too many of the group aren't there. I've had 10 years of fun and memories, and am content with that.

Life goes on and there is always beauty and fun and love to be found.







Monday, March 14, 2016

Everything Has Changed: Nothing Has Changed

It's been a crazy couple of weeks: or rather, I've been crazy for a couple of weeks. It's so weird - everything has changed, and yet nothing has changed. Type 2 diabetes is sometimes called the silent killer / epidemic / pandemic because people often do not realise they have it until they develop complications. So it was with me: a long period of tooth infection, followed by vertigo and an acute cold resulted in a sharp deterioration in my vision - and hence to the docor and a diagnosis that rocked my foundations.

Everything has changed, yet nothing has changed. Life around me goes on as usual, my body, other than my vision problems, feels no different. And yet.....

Everything has changed.

I'm struggling. The fear is great. Sometimes I'm so nervous about what the result of my blood sugar test will show, my hands shake uncontrollably and I stuff it up and have to try again. After so many years of wanting to be dead, I no longer feel like that. They last couple of years since I got my depression under control, I have actually enjoyed life and I have so much I want to do before I..... can't.

At the same time, I have had a lovely couple of weeks, at least in the gaps where I could breathe and enjoy things.

Visits from sons and friends that remind me that my life still has purpose, that people do care. Lots of cuddles from Spike, when he's not trying to run away with the visitors.
Visits from noisy Australians - a rosella flew into our window today, nearly came through the open sliding door, and the cockatoos have been visiting en masse, staying the night in nearby trees.
We've been working hard cutting down seeding gums and pines that were starting to threaten our power wires and transformer.

Satisfying to clear them and to end up with a few trailer loads of firewood as well. With my energy levels so depleted, I just do the lighter work, trimming the smaller stuff, and loading it on to the trailer. I do hope that one day I'll be fit enough to reclaim my (bought with an inheritance from my aunt, along with my lawnmower and weed eater) chainsaw and do the fun work again.


While clearing the firewood, I found this tiny nest: so beautiful, yet I felt sad that I no longer have small children to delight in it. But later Simon visited, and so I showed him anyway, even though he is no longer small - it was he who discovered the small spider living in it.
The berries are so pretty at this time of year.
 I managed to grow enough swan plants this year and the one butterfly that visited earlier on laid enough eggs that I now have flocks of these beautiful creatures. Actually, the white cabbage butterflies are beautiful too, if you can just keep your mind off what they are doing to the vegetables.
 As part of my anti-diabetes / get-fit-again-after-so-long-under-the-weather regime I have been going for walks most days. Sometimes just to the mailbox and back with Bob (1.2km) or to my sister-in law's house (3km). Sometimes to the end of the road and back (2km).
Once I marched to the bottom of the Bridal Veil Falls and back up again - training for womad as well - but the steps are really hard on my knees.
My favourite is the beach. I can't quite manage the full length of it again yet, but we have done a few 4 km walks. I do love our beach.
In the past when I've been feeling miserable, and I'm out, I'd buy myself an ice cream or a bar of chocolate, however those are no longer an option. This diabetes shit is expensive - retail therapy now means clothes instead, $36 instead of $3! But I do love my fucking rabbits.
Today I had a bad, bad, really fucking bad day. I screamed and screamed and cursed using the two swear words I never, ever use, and I attacked my face with fingernails, and cried and cried and cried. I guess it was always gonna happen, but I had been pretending to myself that I had it all under control.

And I do mostly. But it would be easier to control if sometimes I could have a fucking whisky. But I can't.

Mostly I'm in control. Mostly will just have to be enough.

Womad. Only a few days away. My happy place. The flag's ready. I'm ready. I need womad so much this time.
Everything has changed, nothing has changed.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Curses and Laughter in a Jar

Yesterday was my first day of stabbing myself to test blood sugar levels. I have to do it first thing in the morning, and again at various times during the day. I woke up instantly stressed, and became more so when faced with the paraphernalia. The result had my anxiety levels rising. By the time I had discovered that Bob The Dog couldn't eat and had a swollen mouth, and that my oldest hen had died, I had fallen into a curious mix of feeling very flat, and at the same time fizzing with that sensation you get after a near miss in a car. It is not pleasant. I went for a brisk walk to the mailbox and back (1.2km) and felt better for about 20 minutes. Getting out and weeding the garden helped a little too, but when a car drove up, I wasn't sure whether to hide or front up.

Then I saw it was Nicky, a friend who has had a dreadful time over the last year. Oh how wonderful that big hug was! We talked lots about our different situations, laughed some, and it was wonderful to share without judgement or advice. Plus, she brought me a swear jar. Not one of those stupid 'every time you swear you have to put money in the jar' jars. No, this is a 'when things are shitty, open the jar and read a fucking curse' jar. Infinitely more useful.


The afternoon, when Mac was home, was much easier. Being alone with only my thoughts for company is hard right now, yet at the same time, the people I feel comfortable having around me are few.

I had planned to go to a meditation session at Solscape but when the time came, I was too tired, and did not feel that I could have driven safely. I will try again - meditation is something I haven't tried since 1969 but I'm hoping that the person guiding this practice won't be creepy like the guy back then was. I'm hoping that meditation will help to ease this anxiety.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

On Mortality, Tenacity and Thriving

There's a 'thing' which enables us to live our lives on the assumption that we are going to live forever. Of course we know that we are going to die one day, but it's not a real knowing - we make unhealthy choices, we do foolish things, take unnecessary risks, waste so much time. Every so often something happens to jolt our complacency.

The first jolt happened to me in my final year of school: a sudden 'blinding light' experience left me without faith in god and eternal life, and thus started decades of depression. The sudden certainty that I was going to die. The End. Two years later, a friend made a choice to get in a car with her drunk boyfriend, and then died after a year of being paralyzed from the neck down. And so though the years. When I wanted a baby, but had miscarriage after miscarriage, I became deeply aware of the incredible fragility of life. When I found a lump in my neck, at a time when I was deeply depressed, the 'knowledge' that I was going to die was a freaky mix of dread and gladness - but it turned out it wasn't my turn.

After each experience, the awareness of death sits heavily on me. My shoulders bend over, my stomach feels like I've swallowed rocks, my skin fizzes with dread.

Then gradually acceptance of a kind starts to calm my shaky hands and heart. After a while, days, weeks, months, life returns to normal, albeit a slightly different normality. The enormous issues, the questions, the anxiety, the dread, the reality check, all retreat to a cave in the back of my head. Unfortunately, the retreat cave has become somewhat over crowded over the decades!

The last five years, since my last life-threatening bout of depression, has been an amazing time of learning and change for me. At that time, my inner stubborn bitch finally decided to fight the black dog that had spent decades snapping at my heels, trying to herd me over the edge of the cliff. I've been learning to find, and use, a whole battery of tools to help me stay up upright. As I write this, I have been reminded to straighten my back and pull my shoulders back, and just that small change instantly made me feel a teeny weeny bit better. I have learned that there is no magic wand available to me, just a scattered pile of magic glitter blowing around my 'house' every time a door or window is opened, and I have to gather as much of it as I can. One of the bigger clumps of glitter was the elimination of wheat from my diet - studies of non-celiac gluten sensitivity have shown that even where the removal of gluten makes no difference to gut problems, it still improved things for depressed subjects, and so it has proved for me.

The last two and a half months has been hard. Two months of intermittent tooth pain with several visits to the dentist before we worked out the culprit tooth, were follow by a bout of vertigo, and then topped off by the nastiest, most acute cold virus I've ever experienced. Being left with eyes that were very tired and not functioning well, and being urged to do so by a retired doctor friend, I went to see my doctor.

Diabetes.

Yup, there it is again. That jolt, that awareness of my very own personal mortality.

And then the tiredness. I was already depleted by two and a half months of pain and nausea, and not eating properly - which has meant mostly a fruit diet, with occasional 'treats' of chocolate, which is soft and melts in the mouth without chewing and which is totally inappropriate for a diabetic. Add in this mortality jolt which, as always, sucks energy from me faster than I can suck the inside out of a square of strawberry cream chocolate. I'm tired. Just so fucking tired.

I can do this. I managed to become a gluten free vegetarian. I can become a gluten-free, vegetarian diabetic. I just have to crawl around the floor, with all the windows and doors open, and collect those tiny pieces of glitter. The me that is somehow more than this imperfect body, can thrive despite its inadequate environment.

“Start now. Start where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling but start. Start and don’t stop. Start where you are, with what you have. Just... start.” 
― Ijeoma Umebinyuo


Outside my bathroom window a weed started growing in a crack between the cobblestones, next to the kennel of Bob The Dog. Because cobblestones aren't a priority for me, it was not pulled out. Under the cobblestones is sand and then hard clay. Not black, crumbly humus - just sand and clay. It only gets a little sun, and not much rain. It is protected from the wind. But still it lives. It did not just struggle, but thrived, and bore sweet, golden Cape Gooseberries. I can do this. I can be tenacious. I can be strong. I can thrive.

(But I might need a little protection from the wind sometimes, perhaps in the form of an occasional hug.)