One year ago I awoke groggily in an unfamiliar room. Not once did I ask where I was or why I was there, even though I didn’t know the answer to either question. All I wanted was water. “Maya, maya.” Hovering by my side the nurse refused me, begrudgingly granting my request only once or twice. Looking back, I don’t know if I’ll ever understand moments like these where language barriers, cultural differences, medical processes and my body intertwined. Continue reading “365 days”
After one hundred and eighty days since my diagnosis, life starts to feel pretty excellent when…
I run, with the exhilarating feeling that I am running to live;
I sleep through the night without having to set an alarm to test my sugar;
I decorate my salads with hemp and pumpkin seeds and fresh mozzarella;
I have a conversation without the burning need to reference my diabetes;
I can wake up early, restored, energetic and with good blood sugar readings;
I have the energy to spend time with friends after work;
I let go of obsessively testing my sugar and see my anxiety subside;
I practice yoga each morning, listening to my body;
I know when to let go of the stressful, high-achieving expectations I set for myself;
I observe that my fingernails are no longer breaking and my hair isn’t falling out;
I correctly estimate the carb-load in a restaurant meal;
I learn to say “no” to certain foods or experiences that will not serve me;
I strike the balance to say “yes” to some higher carb foods, occasionally, to have fun!;
I pack my refrigerator with a week’s worth of meals on a Saturday, all carb-counted;
I sleep through the night without pesky leg cramps, a side effect of insulin;
I figure out how to eat a sneaky, sugary macaron without my sugar spiking;
I abide by a routine that energizes and restores: morning yoga and art habits, daytime work, evening exercise, dinner before 8pm and an early night’s rest;
I take care of myself and have the time and energy left over to care for others.
In the past six months, my Type 1 diagnosis, following the recovery from Diabetic ketoacidosis and pneumonia, my day-to-day has been steeply impacted. I have stumbled upon a solitary life, spending more time in the home and less time out. I have found strength and positive autonomy within the quiet shell of my body amidst the frustrations of an inconsistent pancreas and a still-limited knowledge of carbohydrate and glycemic loads. As my learning curve begins to ease, my questions aren’t any less, they are simply more specific and fine-tuned. And the answers? No two days are alike, ever. The questions continue to tumble out as my body continues to change and this disease takes on an enduring progression.
I have travelled across mountainous Drakensburg on a laden pony, the squeak of the saddle corresponding with my unease. I have been hijacked from my sleep in the wet dawn of camp, the long needle of a knife emerging from a stranger’s sleeve. In Rajasthan, I have sat in a darkened kitchen smelling bread sweetly bake in the oven, while outdoors mud bricks are mixed with damp dung. I have darted down the slick cobblestones of Prague, well oiled with rain. I have felt the rare heat of a hot day in a London park. I have painted my way through the minted green halls of orphanages in Dominican, slathered in the occasional mango, echoing with childish squeals. I have devoured pistachio, rose and cardamom creams in Byblos. I have waited for the caked dirt from my feet to slide into the waters of the milky white tub in my Cairo flat. I have heard the scuttle of a bougainvillea floret scamper, in fading magenta, down the road behind me.
I have travelled, I have seen, smelled, listened, touched, experienced. Nothing feels stranger than this body where I am now residing, a foreigner. Continue reading “I have, I am”
- 8am: Measure, record, a fast-acting injection, breakfast.
- 10am: Measure, record, snack.
- 1pm: Measure, record, a fast-acting injection, lunch.
- 3pm: Measure, record, snack.
- 7pm: Measure, record, a fast-acting injection, dinner.
- 10pm: Measure, then a long-dose of insulin, and finally, one last snack before bed. No deviation.
Snacking: 15 grams of carbohydrates. Half a plain, low-fat yogurt with All Bran. Thirty-five grams of mixed nuts and one whole-grain cracker. Three cups of popcorn. All good. Lemon juice, an Egyptian specialty? Not anymore. Blood sugar spikes. I identify a pattern. Even a lemon has 5g of carbohydrates. Who knew?
A meal: Pin pricks. Swab. Blood. Numbers. Measuring. Quarter cup by volume. Fifty grams on a scale. Figuring this out as I go. Counting carbohydrates. Calculations. Injections. Record. Time to eat. Three times per day. Continue reading “Home: Self-Management”
I have everything to celebrate: a dense yet incredible year of teaching, disentangling myself from a lackluster relationship, a week of yoga in Portugal’s central valleys, a short love affair in Valencia, an art-filled weekend at the Venice Biennale, a two-month running streak of daily yoga and meditation, successfully resolving professional conflict through direct communication, the opening of my first solo show in a decade, and the beginning of my MFA in Baltimore this June. This spring, the earth of Cairo has sprung forth vivid colors through tulip and flamboyant trees and bougainvillea varietals of white, red, magenta and yellow hues — an external visual to accompany my high spirits.
Many times over the past months I have scribbled words to publish, about some delicious or unexpected moment, yet nothing made it to the computer keyboard. The urge to write about Maya Angelou today was unstoppable. I found this stunning 2014 article, Why Maya Angelou Disliked Modesty by Dawn Reiss, which includes a synopsis of an interview where Ms Angelou discussed the concepts of modesty and humility.
“Whenever I’m around some who is modest, I think, ‘run like hell and all of fire,’” she said. “You don’t want modesty, you want humility. Humility comes from inside out. It says someone was here before me and I’m here because I’ve been paid for. I have something to do and I will do that because I’m paying for someone else who has yet to come.”
I mourn this loss and rejoice what she has given to people on the margins, to enlivening black culture, to enriching a world for women, articulating the demons of the deep South, meanwhile authentically producing living works of art for us all to learn and know. I treasure her quote above, especially while my plate is heaped with earned success, something that the world doesn’t teach many of us to own, attribute and pay forward through self-recognition and humble awareness.
Today I honor the life of Maya Angelou, a poet, dancer, speaker, and academic who opened my world to the better understand sexual abuse through an assigned 8th grade reading, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”. One cannot underestimate the power of that unanticipated moment where someone else’s story unlocks your own. Not all of life’s beauty sits on the surface, nor does happiness always emerge from a still place within. Maya Angelou’s lesson to me is to own, to share, and to celebrate this place where I stand today.
Moving into Dance Mophatong (MIDM) at the Dance Factory in Newtown, image from myjoburg.com
Eighty hours spent with six youth in Johannesburg left me both fulfilled and burning for more. Last week I supervised a trip with students, from my school’s service club, to attend a summit with like-minded youth from the continent. Dr. Adam Habib discussed the notable and timely tertiary education issue “Fees Must Fall”; representatives from the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation spoke on behalf of the famed Apartheid activist “Uncle Kathy” (who would have been there in person, except he passed away unexpectedly a few days before our summit); contemporary, professional dancers from MID rolled across the floor and hatched out of bags on stage as they conjured wrenching, emotive images of sex trafficking; Alex Crawford brought in shrapnel and told of the three car bombs that exploded in the course of one hour, while reporting from Mosul just days ago; two young refugees bravely spoke of their suffering and road to forgiveness; and activist-author Grizelda Grootboom evocatively walked us through her story of sexual exploitation, slavery and drug addiction that ended a mere five years ago. Continue reading “A Loop”
“When I find myself racing upstairs, usually two steps at a time, I sometimes have the presence of mind to catch myself in mid-frenetic dash. I become conscious of being slightly out of breath, aware that my heart is racing as well as my mind, that the whole of my being in that moment is being driven by some hurried purpose which often even eludes my by the time I’m there.
“When I am able to capture this wave of energy in awareness while I am still at the bottom of the stairs, or starting on my way up, I will sometimes slow my ascent — not just one step at a time, but really slow, maybe one breath cycle per step, reminding myself that there is really no place I have to go and nothing I have to get that can’t wait another moment for the sake of being fully in this one.”