Success is an interesting concept. At the end of the day it should be a very personal thing, but often it's not. Our culture has very high expectations around what constitutes success. We live in a world which celebrates the doing of everything, at warp speed and preferably all at the same time. Our hero's perform and achieve. The person who can have a family, hold down the big job, manage a fabulous social life, volunteer, write a novel, bake the perfect pie, all while remaining beautiful and persistently youthful in the process is celebrated as the modern ideal of success. More is more, and the having, doing and being the most is best. And anything less than that is well, giving up, not living up to your full potential, in a word, failure.
It's only recently that it's become clear to me how much this idea has overshadowed my life. It's not that I'm a crazy workaholic or hyper overachiever per ce, but rather that the fear of this kind of "failure" (as defined in these narrow cultural terms) has weighed heavily on my heart and mind for decades. Though I have a successful career, a happy marriage, great friends and good health, I still worry that I'm not doing "well enough". I want to live a fully realized life and live up to my potential. I want it and I expect it. To accept anything less would be letting myself down my modern mind tells me.
The idea of letting diabetes factor into this pursuit of the "successful life", let alone fuel any kind of trade off has felt like yet another way to settle for "less". At best diabetes needed to be approached as a distraction that should be "dealt with as quickly as possible" so I could get on with "living fully", as if these were two separate things. Diabetes was to be minimized so as not to "get in the way" of my "real" life. Even the mainstream diabetes party line said I shouldn't let "diabetes hold me back from achieving anything I want". Though true broadly speaking, and certainly coming from the best place, it further fueled the already blazing "high expectation" fire inside me.
I'm reminded of the old adage about women and equality: that Ginger Rogers made every dance move Fred Astaire did, but she did it backwards and in heels. I'm starting to think this describes my life with diabetes. For the longest time I've just focusing on "trying to dance the best dance possible". What I realize now is that in my focus on living to my fullest potential (eg. dancing just as well as Fred Astaire), I've missed the fact that I've been dancing just fine and because of diabetes, doing so "backwards and in heels". In my focus on the modern ideal of not only dancing but trying to do it faster and better, I've missed the fact that living life fully with diabetes is noteworthy unto itself. I need to take into account that diabetes does demand attention and focus for me to remain healthy, that it takes time. And that needs to be factored into the equation of my life, by me, first and foremost. Not as an excuse, not as a reason to give up or settle for less but just seen and acknowledged. Noticing that fact and celebrating it along with seeing the beauty of the dance itself, is becoming MY definition of personal success. A job, a family, friends, volunteer work, the garden, health and yes, diabetes, is successful enough for me!
So let the dance begin!