I've always loved birds but have never been able to bring myself to own one. This morning I realized why.
Last week was frustrating for a number of reasons. The usual work stuff, people, politics, everyday things really. That coupled with an underlying anxiety about the state of the economy that everyone is feeling and well, it was just a tense week overall. My team also moved their offices to a new configuration last week, more open and thankfully, up against the windows so we now all have a beautiful view of trees and sky. I'm loving the new lay out though getting there exacted a particular, physical toll on me. Five insulin reactions on the move day. Five! It's not like I was moving boxes or anything. No I was just getting things organized, moving this pile here, my rolodex there. As my coworkers settled into their new digs, I did so while battling the dull headaches, sparkles in my eyes and vague disorientation of low blood sugars, one after another.
In the middle of that night I had a hefty rebound from all those lows. Nothing dramatic, just the usual kind of thing that happens after a day like that. The next day was ok, but I was tired. Again, nothing dramatic, and again, just the usual kind of thing that happens with diabetes. Up and down, lows and recovery. And so it goes. I used to get so sad about this and do so still at times, but far less now thanks to blogging and a new, deeper acceptance of my life as a diabetic. No, more than anything now, I can recognize what's happening, note it, and then get on with life. It's better this way. Much better.
A couple of nights ago though, I did came home very frustrated and upset. I laid down on my bed before dinner and cried. Just let it out. All the anxiety, the fatigue, the heightened emotions of the week. After a few moments I got up and washed my face and sat down to dinner with my husband. I walked him through my day, my week, my feelings. I ranted about the need for meaning in my life, my classic mid-life dilemma. "Is this as good as it gets", I asked. "I've been such a girl scout, a model diabetes patient, a great employee my whole life and this is as good as it gets?" Never mind that I was tired and frustrated, at that moment everything felt dark and confusing.
And then my husband said something that shed new light on the situation, as he's done so many times before. "You know, your life is a little like that of a caged animal, in great part because of diabetes." Huh? I was stopped in my tracks, captured by the images those words brought to mind. A beautiful bird in a cage, alive and singing, but not able to fly. An exotic animal in the zoo, pacing from one end of its enclosure to other, back and forth. With that one sentence the conversation stopped and I thought, yes! Yes, that's how it feels at this point in my life, mid-life, with all the normal stuff that comes with this stage. The time of reassessment, the search for meaning in my life and work, the poignancy of the idea that if all goes well I still probably have less time on earth ahead of me than I've had so far. Natural stuff for this time in my life all made more significant by 22 years with diabetes and all the little limits that add up to a less spontaneous life. Yes, I'm alive and lead a full, rich life. It's a very good life. But yes, too, it's been a bit like a life in captivity, a life with sharp edges and physical limits and a set of rules the wild animals don't have to contend with. Food comes on a schedule, exercise is prescribed and if you're lucky, you get all the medicine that's needed to stay well. You can live long and with health, but its always within the limits of diabetes.
As I said at the beginning of this post, I've always loved birds but have never been able to bring myself to own one of them myself. For me, keeping a bird in a cage has always felt wrong. I don't fault others for doing so and I understand that lot's of birds have been raised in captivity and don't know anything otherwise. But I've never been able to quite make the leap that all the wildness of birds is gone and that they don't really yearn to fly regardless of how they've been raised. So though I adore birds and would love to have them in my house, I just can't bring myself to do so. What I realized this morning is that maybe it's because somewhere deep down inside I know how a bird might feel in a cage. Who knows if I'm right about that but for me that's where it comes to. I can empathize. I think I know how it might feel. And given that knowledge, that feeling, in my life where I can, there will be no birds in a cage.
Photograph by one of my favorite artists, luke stephenson.