by Elizabeth T. Andrews
American Reporter Correspondent
January 17, 2006
APOLOGY TO THE TEMPLE OF ME
CARTERSVILLE, Ga. -- The glass of water in my left hand bounced up and down on my stomach and the tablespoon of peanut butter in my right hand bobbed up and down with my sobbing.
I was having a full-blown, I-hate-diabetes private pity-party for one.
We can ignore the way the wind blows and the way our neighbor parts his hair. We can hide our heads in the sands of illusion and pretend our president has an IQ higher than a truckload of cabbages, and we can even ignore the flu bug, the clogged sinuses and arteries, and a migraine that would make a saint curse ... but we cannot, for very long, ignore diabetes.
I tried for two years to deny the very word, to ignore all the signs, and I strutted around proclaiming "The mind is more powerful than the body." I ate what I pleased, when I pleased, and declared to an invisible, nonexistent "them" that "You all can't tell me what to eat."
Diagnosed two years ago as "diabetes type 2" by a doctor I met for the first time while visiting on the West Coast two summers ago, I decided the good doctor was, no doubt, wrong and I sailed merrily along for about a year and a half. Slowly the great motor that is the heart, the grand river of blood, the cells and, yes, even my sight, slowed and slowed and almost stopped.
I retreated from my garden, let the dirty dishes pile up for days, stopped writing or working on what was already written, turned down invitations to lunch and dinner, slept late, and kept telling myself I wasn't a "young un'" anymore and if I could just get a lot of rest I'd be all right.
Came then, the unbelievable thirst. Milk with ice, water with ice. Gulps of drinking the orange juice straight from the carton. No time for a glass. I'd freeze half-gallon jugs of milk and water and was emptying them almost as fast as I could freeze them. It was not unpleasant, that incredible need to quench that strange new thirst.
In the middle of the night I'd get up and run to the kitchen. One chocolate doughnut, many grateful gulps of iced milk.
I worn a new trail to the bathroom, every 15 minutes like a clock gone crazy. I developed a yeast infection that almost put me on the far side of Mars. Slight chills. Put on more clothes. Instant heat. Take off clothes. Insomnia. Loss of appetite. Weight loss.
A reasonably good mind kept nagging at me to get up and get going. My body wasn't interested. I staggered into town once a week for supplies. Back to the recliner. I'm just getting older, I told myself. This is normal.
When the Muse had stayed away for more than a month and cobwebs took up residency in my brain, when getting out of my recliner took more effort than birthing a baby, when I became so weak I could barely function, and when I became so bitchy I couldn't stand myself, I asked a friend to drive me to my doctor's office.
Blood sugar pushing 500. Glycohemglobin, 15.1. (The reference range is 4.4-6.4.) She's non-complaint, my doctor told my friend. I can schedule her for classes, start her on Metformin if she'll agree to it.
From some faraway foggy place that despises medicine and thinks doctors are a sometimes-necessary evil, I agreed.
I wish I had a nice happy ending right here for you but I don't. I wish I could say that I am following the diabetics menu down to the last grain of salt, but I can't. I have only been at this 45 carbs here, no carb snacks there, chart your breakfast, lunch and dinner, half-a-cup of this and no you can't put honey on your Rice Krispies craziness for a few days. Only the goddess of neurotic poets knows if I will make it out of the morass I have created for myself.
And there, perhaps, lies the whole enchilada (delicious word): "I have created for myself ..."
I have believed all my adult life that "I" get to tell my body what to do. I have written and practiced "My thoughts are the cause of all my suffering. Nothing outside of me is hurting me." I have taught - and been taught - that the mind is stronger than the flesh. I've straddled the fence of holistic medicine vs. traditional medicine and never threw my headscarf into either arena. I've studied herbs and vitamins and macrobiotics and Eastern modalities and the wise ways of the old midwives of my mountain childhood ... and I don't regret or discount any of it.
What I didn't do was what every serious yogi does - treat my body as the temporary temple of my soul. Treat it with respect. Treat it with honor. Co-partner with it to give my poet's soul the time it needs to finish my life-mission - a few good poems, a few good lines.
Once, in Flagstaff, Ariz., after two emergency-room visits with a racing heart, the cardiologist let me see my grand, ragged heart in action. Like some magical musical waterfall, I watched my heart pumping faithfully and fiercely to keep me alive. I made it a promise I did not keep. I told it I would do better, but I didn't. The chocolate doughnuts called between the half-written poems, and the rich creamed coffee became an appendage to writing columns.
Such is the way of arrogance and ego delusion that insists we, as mind, are calling all the shots.
In his book Listening to Prozac, Dr. Peter D. Kramer waxes long and wisely on the intelligence found in every cell of our bodies ... how every cell and all the rest of our discounted body parts struggle for harmony, for balance, for normal and healthy functioning ... and we sabotage this incredible machine with every cigarette, every fifth of Jim Beam, and every sausage-gravy and biscuit breakfast.
Why we do it is another book for another time.
Right now I have to go find some "free food" carb-less snack that I will try not to throw across the room while frantically rummaging to find the chocolate doughnut that is no longer present in my diabetic's kitchen.
Thank you for listening. Take good care of yourself ... and if you have a prayer to spare, say one for me.
AR Correspondent Elizabeth T. Andrews is a former columnist for the Orlando Sentinel now living in Cartersville, Ga., where she writes poetry. Reach her at email@example.com or P.O. Box 816, Cartersville, GA 30120.