September 24, 2006

Subject line: Feet

Since I began living alone again, my mom has called almost every day—so often, in fact, that when I don’t hear from her I wonder why.

She likes to keep in touch. And she wants to know how the transition is unfolding, how I’m liking the new neighborhood, whether the money part is going okay.

But mostly she calls so often because she’s haunted. She can’t shake the fear that I’ll have a nighttime hypo I can’t wake up from, no one will know I need help, and I’ll end up dead in bed.

“Just checking to see if you’re on your feet,” she often says to my answering machine, usually after calling me at the office and not getting an answer for some reason or other. Her voice—a lilting Virginian singsong that’s always signaled “home” to me, even though I’ve never lived in Virginia—sounds just a little more cheerful than necessary. “Give me a call.”

It’s been not even two years for Mrs. Violet, just as it has for me. We’re still neophytes in several respects, including how to cope with the mercurial nature of this disease. But I don’t have trouble with hypo unawareness. And I follow the drills we all know: test before bed, eat snack if needed, test during the night now and then. I watch my basals (currently 0.15 overnight, what the hell?) and tweak as needed.

I take care of myself, I’m not afraid, and I’m not about to die in my sleep. (We all have to believe that, right?) That works for me. But for a parent? Harder, much harder, it seems. And Mrs. Violet is a person for whom the wolf is always at the door.

I think I’ll begin a practice of daily morning e-mail. Subject line: feet. Text: Good morning, I’m on them, I love you.

It’s the least I can do for the one person in my life whose voice sounds like home.

September 20, 2006

Change is complex, or, A conversation with my colon

Violet's colon: Rumble. Grumble.

Violet [concerned]: Everything OK down there?

V's C: Rumble. Rumble. Grumble.

V: Hmm. I sense a disturbance.

V's C: We are displeased.

V: We?

V's C: We do not like some of the gifts recently offered to us.

V: Us? What are you, a collective? Like the Borg?

V's C: We accept the offering of bread. The oatmeal we also accept. Meats and cheeses we acknowledge as appropriate gifts.

V: ...

V's C: But what is this thing called "fruit"?

V: Ohh. That. Right. Well, fruit is tasty and full of nutrients and fiber. It's good for us. Err, good for me.

V's C: We do not like this "fruit."

V: You'll get used to it. I promise.

V's C: It disturbs us. It causes distress.

V: Well, that's really my fault. You see, I didn't eat much fruit for a long time, so you got out of the habit of dealing with it, and now I'm trying to make changes--

V's C: Fruit is your fault?

V [alarmed]: Um--

V's C: We do not accept the gift of "fruit."

V: Well, you have to. It's your job.

V's C: Grumble. Rumble. Rumble.

V: Aww, come on. Fruit is Nature's Dessert!


V: ...


And so the negotiations unfold. I guess this may complexify my recent interest in vegetarianism...

September 17, 2006

Things I learned this evening

1. I may be bionic, but I am not in the Universe for the purpose of using power tools.

2. Especially drills.

3. A crooked coat rack is better than none.

September 15, 2006


In a continuation of our assualt on the Other D, Dr. Two-Fifty graduated me to a Big Girl dosage of generic Zoloft 10 days ago. (It’s pale yellow, for anyone who shares my fascination with the antidepressant rainbow.)

A lot has changed:

1. What is this current of vitality flowing through my body? How come I keep thinking about going dancing at Culture Club, the cheesiest club in New York? Oh, right: energy. That thing that makes walking places enjoyable instead of a truncated death march.

2. Aha, I AM creative. Who knew? I, for one, had entirely forgotten.

3. Hello, intellectual curiosity. I remember you.

4. Greetings, sex drive. I remember you too. Vaguely.

5. Nonbloggable thoughts, don’t let the door smack you on the ass on your way out.

6. I can name my emotions and inhabit the painful ones without feeling instantly compelled to numb them via external means (TV, food, glass of wine, computer games).

7. I feel gentle toward myself.

Whoosh. This is a lot of change. Am I, for lack of a better term, hopped up on goofballs? I phone Dr. Two-Fifty to present my concerns.

“I think maybe we need to decrease the dosage,” I say. She asks why; I present the above.

“Are you behaving impulsively?” she inquires. “Spending a lot of money, or making sudden decisions, or placing yourself in dangerous situations?” She’s wondering if I might be having a manic episode, which is not part of my history but could be triggered by an excess of this type of medication.

“No,” I say. “Nothing like that. But I feel kind of buzzy.”

“Here’s what I think.” Dr. Two-Fifty sounds quite perky. “Maybe the dosage is too high. But all the things you describe are suggestive of recovery from depression.”

“Oh,” I say. “Right.”

“The buzziness may go away in a few days. If it doesn’t, we can reduce the dosage—but I don’t want to reduce it unless we have to, because it sounds like it’s helping you. Call me on Monday and we’ll see how you’re doing.”

Sure enough, two days later I am feeling less buzzy.

I’m not giving the medication all the credit for these transformations. I’ve been working hard to help myself in other ways—therapy, writing, making huge and painful life-changing decisions, opening up to people more than before. Maybe it’s all beginning to come together.

I worried about the trampling of my personality, of some essential Violetness, via antidepressant medication. But I don’t feel less like myself. I feel more like myself. I feel connected to myself and to other people. I feel aware.

It’s pretty cool, to put it mildly.

September 13, 2006

No poetic title comes to mind

Mrs. Violet has prediabetes.

Son of a b*tch!

Already I feel this irrational (?) urge to defend my mother from the blamers. No, she’s not obese. Yes, she struggles with her weight and with exercise. No, she doesn’t pig out on a daily basis. Yes, she overeats now and then. Piss off.

I know two other people who have been faced with this situation. One of them, my oldest friend, made major, very challenging changes in her diet and exercise patterns and got her fasting BG down to 80ish. The other, my ex, has ignored the problem for a year and a half, though he has type 2 on both sides of his family and lost his dad to complications.

Two paths, two sets of choices.

I wonder about other paths. Is there a path in which the PWP tries her damnedest, but her efforts cannot stave off deterioration into D-Land? Yeah, I bet there is. How about a path in which supreme effort leads to only temporary improvement? I bet that path exists too.

Then again, at least there’s a chance, however uncertain, for Mom to make a difference through her own efforts. As a type 1, I didn’t have that opportunity. I wish I had.

When I was diagnosed, the words tumbled out of her mouth like a confession: “Diabetes is the disease I’m most frightened of."

A few months later, she apologized. “That probably wasn’t what you needed to hear at the time,” she observed.

“Well,” I answered, “I needed to take it very seriously, and you helped me do that.” And she did. Maybe I can do the same for her now.

September 12, 2006

Food for brain & soul

Pursuant to #5 below, some nonfiction I’m reading:

Five Flights Up and Other New York Apartment Stories by Toni Schlessinger: an anthology of her Shelter columns from the Village Voice. Interviews with denizens of the city in and about their homes. At once fascinating, comical, and comforting as I adjust to my new quarters.

The Hard Questions for an Authentic Life by Susan Piver: bought long ago and allowed to collect dust on bookshelves in two states. Its time has come. Fantastic, thought-provoking questions about many areas: family, friendship, love, spirituality. Very clarifying.

On Becoming a Person by Carl R. Rogers: Published in 1961 by one of the revolutionaries of modern psychology, an argument in favor of what Rogers terms “client-centered therapy,” in which the patient and therapist build a healing relationship. This is hardly news 45 years later, but it was radical stuff when written. What intrigues me most about this book is (1) how courageously yet humbly Rogers puts forth his ideas and (2) how the journey of self-discovery he describes brilliantly articulates what I hope to gain from my own therapeutic process.

And pursuant to #14, after considerable overspending on iTunes, I offer a few songs for inspiration of many kinds:

Colin Hay, Beautiful World: a paradoxically melancholy celebration of simple pleasures. I'm so charmed by this song that I listened to it at least 6 times before I realized/remembered (well, okay, I actually read it online, but then I remembered, truly I did) that Colin Hay was the lead singer of Men at Work. How mortifying to my distinguished lineage as an 80s pop junkie that I didn't make the connection immediately! Bonus: one of the verses is about tea, my favorite nonalcoholic beverage.

Joey Ramone, What a Wonderful World: Whoa, this song rocks. Irresistible. NB: Not for gentle moments.

REM, Find the River: Opposite mood. "You have to go to task in the city, where people drown and people serve...Don't be shy, your just deserve is only just light years to go." This song was mysteriously written about Violet’s journey to New York to open an office for her company years before the fact. Isn’t that remarkable? If I could be reborn as any psychic gay man on the planet, hands down I would pick Michael Stipe.

Smashing Pumpkins, Tonight: “Believe, believe in me, believe...that life can change, that you’re not stuck in vain, we’re not the same, we’re different tonight…We’ll crucify the insincere tonight...Believe in me as I believe in you tonight.” Wow. Sign me up.

The Slip, Even Rats: Click the link to hear this beauty for free. Then go pay Apple a buck to download it. It's only fair! Confession: my exposure to this one came via Guitar Hero. (Yeah, I beat it on Expert. I’m not at all sure what this says about me, but there it is.) I absolutely love this song. Something brilliant going on in the brain of whoever wrote it. A spot-on political message, too.

10,000 Maniacs, These Are Days: “These days you might feel a shaft of light make its way across your face...and when you do, you’ll know how it was meant to be, see the signs and know their’s true, you’ll know how it was meant to be, hear the signs and know they’re speaking to you.” Natalie, she can seriously tap into those agnostic yearnings, yes indeed.

Finally, three delectably fluffy treats from my growing-up years:

Big Country, In a Big Country: Does anybody else remember how frickin' cute the lead singer of this Scottish band was? You know, in the video with the gorgeous green fields and cliffs and suchlike? Tell me I'm not the only one who remembers.

Nenah Cherry, Buffalo Stance: "No moneyman can win my love, it's sweetness that I'm thinkin of." Love this beat. Ten points to anyone who can explain to me what a buffalo stance is. I was never cool enough to know.

Tom Tom Club, Genius of Love: Just. Plain. Fun.

Any suggestions for my next reads/downloads?

Reasons for blooming

I used to blog almost exclusively about diabetes and other health issues. I shared my ideas about other topics in different ways. Or I didn’t share them at all.

I liked the compartmentalization: it felt safe, tidy, to do most of my diabetes-related processing in cyberspace, anonymously. In the 20 months since my first post, only three people who had met me in real life knew that this was my blog. One is a close friend. Another is Scott, whom I met in my pumpers’ support group in Minnesota and whose blog inspired this one. The third, my ex, never read anything I wrote here, seemingly because he felt so much anxiety in relation to all issues medical.

Grow or die, right? OK, fine! I pick growth. The landscape of Pumplandia, as a blog and as my way of living, is changing. I’m starting to meet D-bloggers in person for the first time. Those folks already know the online me, and soon they’ll know the “real” me as well. I’m also sharing my blog with a small number of other people, some new to me and some not at all new, for the sake of openness and authenticity.

With these shifts and the many other changes in my life, I no longer want Pumplandia to be so compartmentalized. I’m remaining anonymous, and diabetes will always be a major focus here. But I’ll no longer limit my posts to issues relating to health. As in my recent posts, a lot more of the Whole Violet will appear. I’m a little freaked out about this--who gives a rip about your weird-ass life, says an evil, simpering little voice in my brain--but I’m mainly looking forward to sharing more of myself with the kind and brilliant OC, in all its richness and variety. Thanks for reading this far. You guys are helping me stay sane.

Violet, Subway Spy

This happened a number of weeks ago, not long after the Mr. Bright Eyes episode, but I didn’t manage to post about it at the time:

On the F train again, morning commute, sleepy but lucky: today I have a seat. One of the things New York has taught me is that my sense of personal space is, or rather can become, considerably more flexible than I once realized. When I first began taking the train during rush hour, it killed me to be squashed up against other passengers. Now it only kills me if the people I’m squashed up against are screaming at or (actually, if you’re a stickler for accuracy: and/or) making out with each other, happily an uncommon occurrence.

My adjustments to the demands of rush hour notwithstanding, any train ride with a seat is a ride that begins well. Today I am squashed only in the sense that I’m between two men who can’t really help that they are larger than the 16-inch ass space allotted by the geniuses who designed the subway cars. Oh, and in that the woman standing in front of me, pole-hanging, is on the verge of depositing her briefcase in my lap. This makes it a little hard to solve my sudoku puzzle.

I give up and start people watching. Foggy, peculiar Violet isn’t terribly good at sudoku anyhow. (NB for readers sharing the battle against the Other D: the regained ability to complete sudoku puzzles in the hard and expert categories could be a sign that your antidepressant is working! Stay tuned for further updates.) Next to me is a youngish fellow, early 20s, with an Eddie Bauer vibe: semi-casual but neat, khakis freshly pressed, highly presentable. I commence a game of What Job Is This Person Going To? and decide he’s a summer intern at some corporate entity where he is permitted not to wear a tie. He looks like the kind of fellow my mother wishes I had dated in my young adult years instead of, well, the fellows I did date.

Along with his smart workday-casual ensemble, Eddie Bauer has on one of those rubber bracelets that hipper-than-Violet people wear in support of their favorite causes. I strain to make out the lettering without seeming to be staring: ETES.

Hmm. As in…? Yes. When my neighbor turns the page of his New York Post, the message reveals itself: CURE DIABETES. How agreeable.

There are many reasons, I suppose, that a young, Eddie Bauerish guy might be wearing a diabetes bracelet. But one reason in particular comes to mind. I check out the opposing wrist. Aha. A chunky gold medical ID. And there, twining out from his pants pocket over his belt and back under his clothing, too subtle to be detected by anyone not looking for it, is a teeny-tiny length of tubing.

Eddie Bauer, it appears, is a pumper who prefers not to cut tubing holes in the linings of his pockets.

Immediately I feel a bizarre but earnest solidarity with my fellow traveler. Here we are, a pair of strangers on the same path, bumping into one another by chance. It’s been so long since I spoke in person with a PWD other than my therapist that I consider the Big Reveal. But I remember, too, how disconcerting and invasive it was for me to have my diabetes called out in public at a moment when I wasn’t ready for it. Eddie Bauer, with his sporty bracelet, might not see it that way, but I’m not about to presume.

Nor can I connect with him more subtly via taking out my own pump, as it’s tucked away under my skirt. I briefly ponder a gratuitous revelatory blood test, but the proximity of Pole Hanger with Briefcase would make that extremely awkward.

Instead, I sit quietly amidst the roars and rattles of the train, enjoying this moment of proof that I am not alone, not at all alone, even in the thick anonymous crowds of the rush hour.

For those who are wondering, by the way, Eddie Bauer was considerably cuter than Mr. Bright Eyes. Score one for Team D!

September 8, 2006

24 Things That (Mostly) Do Not Fit in Boxes, or, Recultivating a Violet

Goals, small and large, short term and long, for my life in my new home. Like the things that do fit in boxes, these appear in no particular order of importance:

1. Diabetes: see Walking, Food below. Visit blogosphere more consistently. Find support group?
2. Cats: pet numerous times daily
3. Dogs: visit dog park near office whenever possible
4. Brain: read some fiction every day. Try to pick something not related to work.
5. Brain II: read some nonfiction every day, also not related to work
6. Sunlight: ½ hour of natural light per day is proven to help combat the Other D
7. Therapy: obviously still called for, ahem
8. Exercise: buy athletic shoes that Do Not Hurt. Attempt to walk in them regularly.
9. Food: fruits, veggies must return
10. Creative work: do The Artist's Way, for real this time
11. Service: start a consistent practice of doing something helpful to my new neighborhood/its residents
12. Political: contribute time, money, ANYTHING to the effort to keep this guy’s cronies from succeeding him in office
13. Spiritual: ponder. Investigate.
14. Music: more & new urgently needed. iPod on subway = happier Violet.
15. Work: catch up (heh).
16. Money: send that stuff in for insurance reimbursement. Use budget software. Think about needs vs. wants in spending. Contribute to a worthy cause.
17. Home: sweep up the cat hair a little more often. Hang the coat rack. Enjoy the quiet.
18. Culture: partake regularly of New York. Find freebies.
19. Family: call Mrs. & Brother Violet more often. E-mail that cousin who lives in NY. (Why? Well, to get Mrs. Violet to quit bugging me about it, if nothing else.)
20. Friendships: take active approach to nurturing
21. Sex: not at the moment, thanks for asking.
22. Gratitude: increase. Not the stuffy, forced kind. The real, joyful, “Morning Has Broken” kind.
23. Awareness: increase exponentially. Remember relationship between journaling & consciousness.
24. Fun: will hopefully follow naturally from all of the above?