As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I spent last Saturday at a meditation workshop, part of which was devoted to the idea of “metta,” which is roughly translated as “lovingkindness.”
Now, I should point out straight from the start that I hate the term “lovingkindness.” It reminds me of Berkeley bumper stickers (“Coexist!”) and makes me want to ask the universe — or at least the translator — why they couldn’t have at least included a space between the words. I should also admit that in the past when I’ve tried to do lovingkindness meditations — in which you’re encouraged to cultivate a sense of love and, yes, kindness toward yourself — I have occasionally instead been known to fill with rage and imagine kicking myself in the face and stomach, and then standing triumphantly above my body, which is lying curled up and crumpled on the floor. Yes, I know. That’s really fucked up. I’m in therapy.
Anyway, my point being that, while I have no problem feeling loving and kind toward others — I can start to cry just thinking loving thoughts toward my husband or parents, for instance — I am not so good at feeling them toward myself. It’s something I really am working on, and which I’ve gotten slightly better at since the incident described above. Nonetheless, this weekend, I was a bit worried when the teacher told us we were going to spend 20 minutes taking a walk as we repeated these phrases to ourselves: “May I be safe. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I live with ease.” I wasn’t feeling particularly self-hateful, thankfully, but I just wasn’t sure how to internalize those sentences. No matter how I said “May I be safe,” I just didn’t feel it.
I did the meditation nonetheless, taking a walk around the neighborhood as I repeated those phrases to myself. And while the first three sentences continued to feel removed and abstract, I was surprised to find that I could feel the fourth one — may I live with ease. It resonated somewhere deep inside me, and I think that has to do with my life with diabetes. Because let’s face it: diabetes robs us of ease. It prevents us from being carefree. It forces us to live with an unflagging awareness that a necessary and pleasurable activity — eating — could also lead to side effects that might kill us or someone we love. It means that we have to think constantly about something that non-diabetics never even consider. As I walked, I started to compile a rough list of the time each day when I think about my blood sugar: when I wake up. Before I eat breakfast. After I eat breakfast. Before I eat lunch. After I eat lunch. Before dinner. After dinner. Before I exercise. While I’m exercising. After I’m exercising. While I’m waiting for the elevator. Whenever I hear my continuous glucometer (thanks, DexCom, for interrupting this post). While I’m standing in line at the coffee shop. While I’m doing physical therapy on my shoulder. I sometimes even sleep with my glucometer next to me on the pillow.
Because of all this, because of this constant un-ease caused by diabetes, the phrase affected me in a way that no other lovingkindness meditation has. Repeating “May I live with ease” to myself made me internalize just how difficult it is to do so when you have diabetes. Instead of imagining kicking myself, I felt the accumulated weight of all the attention I pay to my blood sugar every day, and all that I do to take care of my health. And I felt a bit of gentleness toward myself because of that burden. I felt an openness toward the part of me that tries so very hard, every day, to manage my blood sugar as well as I possibly can. The part of me that works out when I don’t feel like it, and resists eating foods I would otherwise love to eat, and wakes up at 3 in the morning to prick my finger. I felt an awareness of the scabs on my fingers and the bruises on my stomach and the scar tissue on my hips and I felt tenderness for the person enduring them. It’s strange to say it, but recognizing the difficulties of living with diabetes actually helped me feel a bit of love for myself.
I just wanted to share that — and encourage everyone out there who’s either living with Type 1 or helping someone else who’s living with Type 1 to spend five minutes or so repeating these wishes for yourself and for others whose lives are touched by DM. I’ll start by wishing them for you: May you be safe, may you be happy, may you be healthy — and may you live with ease.