A Woman’s Prerogative: Between “She said ‘yes’ ” and saying “I do”

365 days ago, my partner and I ended our 7-plus year romantic relationship. I chose those words carefully. “Partner” because we were. In everything, down the middle. And I modified relationship with “romantic” because although it is no longer romantic in nature, our relationship remains.

P and I still call each other with problems that no one else can help us solve and jokes no else would understand. We co-parent our dog and we support each other in every way we can. We are each other’s family and that doesn’t just go away. I have told people that if our relationship weren’t as good as it was, we never could have broken up. It’s a sad irony that the strengths you may have as a couple – the ability to be totally honest with each other and the desire for your SO to be as happy as they can possibly be – are the very attributes that allow you to move forward, and perhaps apart from, each other.

My intention in writing about this less-than-festive anniversary is not to be boastful about how “successful” my own separation was (there were, of course, plenty of not-so-rosy moments) or to publicly air my dirty laundry (only slightly sullied, really). I say it because I learned something I wish I knew sooner that I think a lot of other people need to understand, a lesson that was impressed upon me emphatically by my parents while I sobbed into the phone one afternoon: You do not have to get married. Even after you’ve said “yes” (or sought a “yes”). Even after you’ve bought your dress or suit. Even after you’ve picked out the venue, entrees, cake, flowers, photographer, videographer, and rings. Even after you’ve paid deposits that you’ll never see again. Even after your guests have booked their flights and hotel rooms and you’re within weeks of your “special day”. You do not have to get married.

Since P and I called off our wedding in July and separated last January, many people I know have approached me expressing doubts and fears about their own long term or serious relationships. They ask things like “how did you know?” and “what did you tell people?” I also had a friend who is now divorced tell me that she knew at the back of the church that she shouldn’t walk down the aisle. But she did. The pressure to stay in relationships even when they’re wrong is real. Beyond the fear and abject sadness of hurting someone you love, there is the constant, in-your-face wedding assault that social media stages on women in their 20s and 30s. There is also a never-ending stream of your friends’ engagement, wedding, and honeymoon photos. At some point, you just have to tell Pinterest to fuck off and chose your own happiness over galvanized watering can centerpieces.

If you’re saying things like “As soon as…” and “If only we…” and “Things will be better when…,” listen closely to yourself. Be honest with yourself. Honor those doubts that pervade your thoughts. While I hate dictates like “should,” especially when it comes to relationships, you absolutely should feel happy and excited about getting (and being) married, without qualification.

They say it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind. Regardless of gender, I think that it’s critical for everyone to feel safe and supported in rethinking major life decisions. While it may feel entirely selfish, ending a relationship that you aren’t truly committed to is one of the most selfless things you can do for your partner. And while you may not receive immediate support or understanding, ultimately it’s your decision to make and your life to live.

You might change your mind. And that’s okay.

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Playing Diabetes

Every year for a few days I play Diabetes. Sure, it may not have the mass appeal of pastimes like Hide-and-Seek or Red Rover but for me, it makes for a great week. I play Diabetes in the same way that children can play doctor without regard for malpractice suits, moral hazard, or healthcare reform. In other words: I play it without consequence, under my own volition, and I can stop any time I want.

The rules of Diabetes are simple: Get an insulin pump (saline in my case); wear said pump for less than a week; test your blood sugar, count carbs, and bolus for meals. If you’re really going for bonus points, set an alarm for the middle of the night to test your sugars again, and then after 3 or 4 days, give the damn pump back. Most of this is simple enough, if slightly annoying at times. And for me, the constant consideration of macronutrients at meal times is second nature anyway. (I’ve learned that if there is one thing that insecure women and people with diabetes have in common, it’s an aptitude for counting carbs.)

pump

Truth be told though, if I forget to bolus (dose out “insulin”) for my meals, don’t feel like testing at 2am, or fail to have fast acting sugars in my purse there are no repercussions in the game. Regardless of my diet, exercise, or stress levels, my blood glucose levels hover somewhere around 100 at all times ensuring that my mood and general health go uncompromised. So during the times when I don’t feel like taking the best care of myself, my pancreas works overtime to compensate for whatever I throw its way. Automatically and without my knowing.

This lack of consequence is where playing Diabetes departs drastically from living with diabetes.

To my friends and colleagues at Diabetes Training Camp, diabetes is not a game, but a reality that is, at times, a stark one. I’ve heard many campers and staff say: “you never get a day off from diabetes,” and while it does not hold any of them down in a way that should evoke pity or guilt, it does warrant consideration and compassion.

Living with diabetes means that otherwise simple decisions like “What will I wear today?” must be followed up with questions such as “Can I fit my pump in the waistband/pocket/thigh strap of this outfit/dress?” Or considering “What mindless snack can I eat right now?” is immediately followed by “What is my blood sugar, how does that food typically effect my blood sugar, and what am I doing 10, 20, 60 minutes from now that might change my need for carbohydrates?” Perhaps most frustratingly is the inconsistency of this condition: what works one day may not work the next; what works for you may not work for me. Like trying to hit constantly moving target.

Beyond the mundane (if you can call it that), diabetes complicates already difficult issues like intimacy (how to properly fuel for the big event, when to unhook, hyperawareness of infusion sets or scars thereof.) Honestly, who needs more to think about at a time like that?! Moreover, long-term health effects, athletic pursuits, ignorance of the general public, and the criticality of healthcare coverage also bear the constant nagging of this needy disease.

I have to admit that the greatest fear I have when I embark on this annual pursuit is that my actions will be seen as a paltry hat tip to life as a Type 1. To those who have to live the disease for more than 4 days a year, what I do could be seen as a condescending half-effort at compassion. I fear the resentment of those who can’t just unhook their pump and fly home unfettered by cannulas and hypoglycemia. Honestly though, I have received nothing but support and appreciation from this group as I have sought to understand. And “living” as a t1 reminds me every year what a bunch of tough people (dare I say badasses?) that I am surrounded by. Since my foray into the game of Diabetes began, I have developed nothing but respect for the disease and for the people I’ve met who live with it every day. I consider myself lucky not to have diabetes, but I am just as fortunate to spend time with those who do.

This month I will be begin my training for a 100-mile ride in Tucson, AZ to benefit JDRF and type 1s the country over. It is my hope that if you are reading this you have at least a sliver of insight into type 1 diabetes and will support me, and more importantly, my diabetes family to help eradicate this disease. Please visit my page at the link below.

http://www2.jdrf.org/site/TR?fr_id=5206&pg=personal&px=9439156

 

To Feel Like a Runner

runner

On my long trip home after a week in Pennsylvania about a month ago, I met a young man in the airport who was traveling from Cyprus to Wyoming. We got to chatting when he asked if he could plug his tablet into my laptop (no, not a euphemism) and he explained that Washington Dulles, where we were at the time, was the 4th of 5 airports he’d traveled through on his way to his destination. He was going there to hold a work-study position at a Wendy’s restaurant as part of his education in finance. We discussed how weary he was of traveling for over two days and how he wasn’t entirely sure of his accommodations and transportation arrangements once he arrived in Denver.

After a few-minute lull in our conversation he turned to me and asked, “Do you do the sports?” I was wearing my Muhlenberg Rugby sweatshirt at the time, but I was pretty sure he didn’t have the angle to see that, so I answered, “Yes. Why, do I seem like it?” and he told me, no: I looked like it. I explained that although I no longer participated in any organized sports, that I had played on various teams since I was very young.

And then he said to me: “You’re a runner,” and it wasn’t a question. I’m sure my face betrayed my elation.

I was simultaneously flattered and stunned. How he knew or why he said it, I didn’t care. Truth is, I hadn’t felt much like a runner in recent years after being plagued with injuries, and I don’t think that I would necessarily be picked out of a lineup as as a runner when compared to the waify, sinewy image that “runner” conjures. But apparently what I lack in lithe legginess, I make up for in the palpable constitution of a runner. That’s what I’ll tell myself anyway.

Up until a couple months ago, I had spent all my time preparing myself to run, but not actually running. Perpetually false starting, though even that requires toeing the line which I failed to do. I spent hours and hundreds on physical therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic, x-rays, and steroid injections, but it was never enough to feel that I was actually ready to hit the road. Ironically, I needed to feel that I was in perfect running condition before actually taking a single step. Truthfully, I was afraid to try again and face another failure.

I realized I was also overcompensating for my lack of miles logged by buying new gear, reading runner’s magazines, and picking out races (that I would never run). I was doing everything I could to feel like a runner short of actually putting rubber to road. It finally occurred to me that in order to be a runner, I had to run, because as I have recently been reminded, that is what runners do after all, they run.

When my flight from D.C. landed in Denver, I saw the young man from Cyprus again looking overwhelmed and disoriented. I helped him to find the baggage carousel, speak with the man at the information booth, and get him to a computer so he could contact his family. I hope he knows that he helped me just as much as I helped him. Though I was not 6,000 miles from home or navigating a foreign city, I had felt perhaps as strayed and adrift as my fellow traveler. I continue to be grateful for what, to him, may have been an off-handed comment and I like to think that as we parted ways we both had a little bit better sense of where we were headed.

Pity, Party of 1.

Tonight I’m staying in Boulder, pet sitting for my brother and his girlfriend. Well, technically, it’s my cat in the first place and they’ve been watching her for a few months while my life upheaves itself. But really, the details aren’t important.

Amanda called me on my way down to tell me the particulars of the apartment – keys, pool, cable (yay!) – and let me know that she stocked the freezer with an organic vegetarian pizza (right up my alley) and a bottle of Proseco, my favorite.

bubbly
How generous. How thoughtful. And how completely wrong for this year, month, day in particular for me to indulge in a beverage of celebration. The effervescent luster of champagne could not be more ill-fitting of my life right now. What business do I have drinking it?

A year ago my fiancé and I cancelled our wedding 30 days before walking down the isle; 6 months ago we ended our seven year relationship; 1 month ago my part time consulting gig and sole income ended; 3 weeks ago realized I wasn’t going to graduate this summer as I had planned, and in the past 24 hours alone I ended another relationship – shorter lived, but a painful goodbye nonetheless – and received a “thanks, but no thanks” letter from a job requiring only a high school diploma (I have all but 2 master’s degrees) within hours of submitting my application. Oh, and a month from now my lease is up and I have no idea where I’ll live. I can’t imagine a person having any less reason to celebrate.

Now, make no mistake: my life is good. I have friends, family, love, health, and the potential for success, but no one would disagree that things could be better right now either. But then maybe being partnerless, penniless, directionless, homeless, and jobless is worthy of a glass of bubbly. If nothing else I win the superlative for most reasons to be bummed the f*ck out right now. And on top of that, I can’t think of a classier way to drown my sorrows. So, I am allowing myself to have a pity party tonight. Entertainment will be a GIRLS marathon and on the menu: vegetarian pizza and Proseco. Because what’s a party without a good cocktail?