In the In Between

Strange things happen late at night when everyone is sleeping. It’s a mind space that really only exists when you’re awake and everyone else isn’t.

I don’t sleep as much as I should or need to. I spend the hours I can’t sleep reading romance novels and creating stories and alternate outcomes in my head. At any given time I could give you a list of the top 15 things I’m most worried about. The time in between is not for happy thinking. It’s where the still waters really do run deep.

Suburbia, where I grew up, was mostly quiet streets. I had a noisy fan and like listening to books on tape far past my bedtime. When I moved to the city, into an apartment with shitty windows, it was a relief to my mind some nights. When it’s quiet, my brain doesn’t like it. There must be noise, or it will create noise.

There are things made to help with sleep. Drugs, herbal tea, meditation etc, etc. But I think my mind has grown to crave the space in between. It claims inspiration in the white space of life. It hungers for the times I’m desperate to shut it down. A rebel through and through.

Statistically, I am at a higher risk of dying in my sleep than the average person. It’s a thought that provides ample fodder on nights when nothing else is cranking through my brain. When I do drift off, I could be awoken at any time by my body’s alert system screaming of imminent danger. Or, someday, maybe not. If you were wondering what some of the things on my list of 15 things to worry about were.

In the time in between night and day, you learn things about other people you’d never learn in the light or the dark. You learn them by thinking of people far more in-depth than they maybe even think of themselves. You crave absolute knowledge or you crave complete blankness. There is no space for teasing leads when all there is, is time for thinking.

Most of the time, I crave the service of a shut-off switch in my brain. But, some of the time, I wonder if I’m not meant to live in between. If my ideas and drive and personality feed in the nebulous grew of others’ dreams. If I’m no longer wondering what could happen after everyone else has gone to sleep, when will I wonder?

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How to Be a Robot 

There are few things that can degrade a young woman’s self confidence more than not looking like everyone else. I went through a brief period my freshman year of college where I felt desperately inferior to all the other 18 year olds with their waifish bodies and sexy “going out” clothes. I grew out of that with the time and perspective that goes with adjusting to a new life. And interestingly enough, my diabetic paraphanlia never played into my insecurities. Nobody noticed my insulin pump. Or, if they did they never said anything. I was dating a guy who had known me (and my pump) before we were romantically involved and besides a few awkward logistical issues in the very beginning, just never made a big deal about it. Basically, I was pretty good at camouflaging it and also at not surrounding myself with mean people. 

There are elements that come with wearing an insulin pump, however, that can’t be hidden or erased. I’ve worn a pump infusion site every day for 17 years. My lower abdomen is a solid sheet of scar tissue from the older, less sophisticated sets. I have small scars all over my stomach, lower back and butt that will never fade out. It’s the price of modern technology and managing diabetes. You may say, you don’t have to wear a pump. That’s true. But I believe my brother does something like 5 or more shots a day so that’s not really going to change the impact. 

A few weeks ago I received a new piece of wearable tech called a continuous glucose monitor. It’s a little pod you wear taped to your skin that inserts a sensor to constantly take your blood sugar. It’s some space age, cutting edge shit that quite frankly I’ve been woefully slow to adopt. At first, I did try it. I had a horrible, painful, bloody experience that soured me on the whole thing about 6 years ago. I was uninterested in putting myself through the stress of one more ugly thing to maintain and fight with in addition to all the other diabetes related things there are to manage. If it didn’t actually make my life easier, I wasn’t interested. And also, why did I need another thing stabbed into my poor abused body?

I’ve grown up and the technology has advanced. I’m at a time in my life where I need to be realistic about how well I’m taking care of myself and the CGM really offers some distinct advantages. But there’s also one distinct disadvantage. There’s now one more weird plastic thing taped to my body. 

I joked to my husband about how I’m now 1/4 robot. Machines pumping into me, machines taking readings out of me. We giggle and make jokes and try and make it fun and positive. But it’s a shitty thing to look in the mirror at everyday. I’m not one to feel to bad about my body image, generally. I try and be fit and active and eat better in an effort to feel better, not to look like anyone else. I figure, Chrissy Tiegen has stretch marks and Hillary duff as cellulite so what the hell do I care. But you know what nobody else seems to have? A bunch of super non-sexy, surgical grade medical tape stuck all over them. 

It’s painful in a way that has nothing to do with needles and bad skin reactions, to know that if this is what my body looks like now, what will it look like in another 10 years? This is the price to pay for staying alive and healthy most would say and I agree. I’m not saying I won’t do it, I’m saying this is some ugly, behind closed doors, crying in the bathtub stuff. Being a role model to young girls is important to me. I want to be able to show them that having diabetes doesn’t need to hinder their lives. It is not an obstacle in the path of achieving dreams. But honestly, it is a fucking hard life to live. It is hard to feel pretty and carefree and young and sexy and also medically hooked up to life saving technology. But it’s not impossible. 

Someday, I hope, there will be a cure for the constant weight on the shoulders of everyone living with T1D. For the ugliness it brings and the wide burden it casts on our support systems. But for now, we learn to embrace our 1/4 robot self. We make cyborg jokes and buy dresses with pockets and we embrace being different so that we may be successful. Being a sexy robot isn’t an easy life but it is better than being a dead robot. 

When we move forward.

Kyle and I have been taking steps one after another, like stones across a river, to get to our new phase of life.

In the span of six months, we will have gotten married, taken 6 different trips, quit or changed jobs, started grad school and moved across the country to a city where we know no one. I once had a mentor tell me that there are three main aspects of life: personal, work and home. She said you never want to make a major change in more than one at any given time. The idea was that while one area was in chaos, the stability in the others would balance it out.

Obviously, I don’t take advice well.

I’d say we’re about half way through the process of uprooting our lives and chaos is a good term for everything about it. The job search, the emotions, the planning, the packing. The leaving behind.

The leaving behind is the hardest so far. Our families, friends and comfort zone almost all exist within a 100 mile radius of our front door. We don’t spend every day with the people we love, but we could. Not having that option will be the scariest part of leaving behind.

But the decision to move forward will be a good one.

There is nothing wrong with being comfortable, but there is something to be said for the options that open up when you depart. We will have a new city to love, new people to share our lives with and the different perspective that comes from being outsiders rather than life-long occupants.

The next adventure will be a good one.

bloom where you are planted

 

Young people these days

I’ve noticed a refrain over the last few years that troubles me. It goes something like this, “Young people these days are so lazy”.

I think there’s a misalignment between generations on what productivity means.

Hard work doesn’t look the same as it did 20 or 40 years ago. Folks are used to hailing skilled labor jobs or 100 hour work-weeks as hard working because they can physically see the evidence of effort and it manifested in things like buying a house or having a car.

But jobs have changed. Education has changed. The world has changed.

In the 1980s my parents got married at 22, bought a car, bought a house and had a kid by the time they were 30. They were unburdened by student debt, had good jobs and proceeded forward as expected.

I’m getting married in a couple months and I’ve had several people who I don’t even know tell me I’m too young to get married. They also told me I was smart for living with my parents when I graduated, advised me against buying a new car, and told me to hold off having any kids.

The people who are actively discouraging me from pursuing these traditional milestones are the same people measuring an entire generation against their old markers of productivity and finding them lacking.

So I would argue that we aren’t lazy, but that expectations of success are no longer in sync with what is realistic.

The fact of the matter is, the education that the workforce demands is exorbitantly expensive. Graduates move home because entry level jobs don’t pay enough to cover rent and student loan payments. I have friends who have more student loan debt than my parents paid for their first house. Their house.

In addition, society has conditioned an entire generation into thinking vocational education is an unworthy pursuit. Call me stupid but computer science degrees don’t translate well into plumbing. But a four-year degree is the only one seen worthy.

Meanwhile, there are analysts out there panicking that an entire block of the country’s population isn’t buying houses. Of course nobody is buying a house. The average college graduate has $30,000 in debt by the time they leave. That’s a down payment.

The point is, we aren’t a generation of lazy slackers. But, as a group we won’t reach the our milestones as proof of success at the same rate as previous generations. Perhaps adjusting the timeline by ten years would be realistic. Most people will get married around 30. They’ll have kids by 40. Hopefully, they will payoff their student loans by 50. It’s not lazy, it’s just realistic.

Treat Yo Self (Right)

A few months ago on a Friday night my fiance turned me down for date night. It had been a long week, he was tired, let’s just watch a movie on the couch etc etc. But I was hankering for an ADVENTURE. So, I took myself out. Went to the outlets where I window shopped and then drove the additional 30 minutes out to the country and my favorite ice cream place. I bought a two scoop cone and sat, by myself, eating my ice cream and watching the sun set. It was awesome.

Truth be told, I’ve never really understood people who don’t like to be alone because I do. I enjoy being by myself, I live in my own head and I think I’m pretty decent company. But I do understand people who don’t like to date themselves. It’s harder than you think because so many of us struggle to see ourselves as people worthy of dating.

Often, when you’re looking at other people, you only see the gloss. The outside, the face they put together for the world. Their great style, great shoes, friendly attitude. You look at other people around you and think, damn, I’d date that. And then you look at yourself. You see the squishy, the wobble, the insecurities, the crooked eyeliner and the second (maybe third) day hair. And you think, God damn self, get your shit together.

But here’s the thing. YOU ARE TOGETHER. Trust me. Every single day there will be a million people more shiny than you and a million others hanging by two less threads than you are. So, love yourself.

It’s tricky, I know this. We are complex individuals and nobody knows our complexities better than us. But it is not impossible. Work on it. Strive for it. Date yourself. Tell yourself you are beautiful and smart and wicked funny. Perfect is not the goal. Every perfect person you see merely has the benefit of hoarding their imperfections on the inside.

Treat yo self, and do it right.

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Shout out to my favorite place: Rocky Point Creamery, Tuscarora, MD

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To My Mom, Everyday

Dear Mom,

Thank you for loving me.

I love you. I respect you. And I think you’re kind of crazy – but in a good way.

From you I’ve learned so much. That girls can do anything because they are smart and strong and creative. That my relationship is a partnership. Quality over quantity in friendship and shoes. You’ll never regret a classic and how to mow a lawn.

You taught me to sparkle, so I do.

Thank you for not accidentally killing me when I was little (seriously). Thank you for forcing me to buy clothes appropriate for my body so it would be easier to love myself. Thank you for coming to every game, recital and awards ceremony. Thank you for every volunteer hour, class party and team mom position. Thank you now for the curfew you gave me six years ago. You were right.

Some people are afraid of turning into their mother. They must not have a mom like you.

You are the best mom I’ve ever had. And I mean that.

I sparkle because you taught me how.
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I love you, Mommy.

Love,
Hannah

It goes like this

Anxiety is a lot like love. Everyone experiences it differently and you can feel it just on the surface or in an all consuming way or as a steady foundation of your life. Anxiety, just like love, does not have an on/off switch. It can’t be solved by just chilling out. That’s not how this works.

Anxiety is like writing a list of everything you need to do on a piece of notebook paper. And then it gets crinkled. But you tell yourself it’s fine, you’ll just smooth it out. But that makes it worse. And then you’re frustrated. Your list is crinkled. You ball it up and throw it away. Now you don’t have a list. Shit. So you take it out of the trash and you smooth it and smooth it but no matter how you smooth it it’s never going to be perfect so you keep smoothing it. It’s critical that this paper be smooth. It’s very important. These crinkles are ruining your list. As soon as you smooth it out, it’ll be fine and you can start actually doing what’s on your list.

Next thing you know, you’ve spent two hours trying to smooth out a piece of notebook paper with five things written on it and you cry when you realize you could’ve just copied it onto a fresh, perfectly smooth piece of paper and gotten on with your life.

Anxiety is the need to control as much as possible in your life while simultaneously knowing there’s very little you can control while also fighting over control of your brain from itself because you’d really like to just tell it to shut the eff up when you need to.

And then getting in a fight with your boyfriend because if you can’t control yourself you can at least dictate his every life decision except it turns out he’s a human being and doesn’t really like being ruled by your control freak tendencies and random crying triggers.

So then you decide the less you talk to anybody the better it will be because then there will be less to stress about. Right? Wrong. Rinse and repeat as your weird physiological triggers dictate.

Anxiety, at its worst, is this burning sensation that happens right behind your sternum. It’s like heartburn but it seems to spread like a weird acid layer over everything inside you.

All you can think about is how there’s nothing you can do to scrub out that burning feeling. You try and control everything. That’s impossible. Your stomach rolls.

You make some lists to make sure you aren’t missing anything, but you always do. Your chest tightens.

You cancel plans so that you can concentrate on getting your life together, but all you can think about is if you’ve upset someone by doing that. The acid spreads and your lungs contract.

Your mind spins. It’s obsessed with how much you can’t control and how badly you’re doing at controlling what’s in front of you. Your stomach rolls and your chest tightens and your lungs contract and the acid seems to eat your body from stomach to heart to head. And you break.

You breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

And then you start all over. You tell yourself it’ll get better. It will.

Doing Big Things, All at Once

2016 has started out like an Olympic track event. Someone shot a gun, I took off at a sprint, only to realize that I am not an Olympic athlete and a year is a really long sprint.

Not to fear.

So far I have: gotten engaged, bought a wedding dress, booked a venue, started a new job, went back to the gym, done 12 loads of laundry, 1 ladies night, 3 “meet friends for dinner”, several familial obligations, made a five year plan, survived 1 blizzard and managed to unclogged all the pine needles from my vacuum. AKA, crushin’ it.

There are a million more things that are on the list for 2016 and 2 million more that will crop up that I have no idea about at this moment. This would be terrifying if I hadn’t already survived 2015.

2015, a year in review: I lost my grandfather, got promoted, moved out of my parents house, moved in with my boyfriend, went on 1 cross country road trip, 1 vacation to Florida, 1 trip to Boston, survived all national holidays, threw 2 parties where nobody got arrested, did in-numerous loads of laundry, bought a new couch, bought a new vacuum, made new friends and got engaged (this happened in the awkward period between Christmas and NYE where everyone feels like it’s the next year but it really isn’t so I’ve put it in both).

Simply put, 2015 was not the uneventful year I expected so I’ve decided to embrace the sprint. January has already been filled with big things, so I should pace out the next 11 months. But I think we can all agree, that’s not going to happen.

Cheers to doing big things, all year long.

Sharing the World

Today, was not a great day. When I got home, Kyle had also had a bad day.

I was hungry, and peeved, so I went right into aggressive tidying and prepping for dinner. He pulled me into a hug right there in the kitchen and said, “Life sucks today, so it’s a good thing we have each other.”*

And he’s right.

The fact of the matter is, I catch a lot of shit for living and planning my life with what most people refer to as my high school sweetheart. But what most people don’t understand is that he’s not.

Sure, we have dated since we were in high school. We also dated in college. And continued to date after college. And moved in together to live in sin until we decide where the next steps will take us in this absolutely crazy adventure known as life.

But, neither one of us is the same person we were in high school, and we’ve already grown and changed more than we imagined since college. I hope the same will be true for the next 5, 10, 20, 50 years as well. Some people have questioned me, “How can you date the same guy you did in high school?” It’s simple. I don’t.

If you’ve never heard Jana Kramer’s song “I Got the Boy,” I highly recommend it. It’s as close to explaining how I feel about my relationship as possible, in terms of then and now. Except instead of being the old girlfriend talking about the new one, it’s just the old us vs. the new us. I consider myself lucky that I get both.

It’s the best thing ever to plan a life with my best friend. To not only see the future as partners for every adventure (and misadventure), but also embrace everything that’s gotten us to where we are today, including everything we didn’t do together.

I’ve said on more than one occasion that I would’ve never predicted where my life has taken me the last couple of years. I’m positive that will be a common theme for the rest of my life. I’m just as sure that the highlights will all include sharing it with that same weird Kyle guy who’s kept me the right kind of crazy for every adventure so far.

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Vintage crazy. c.2011

*He’s apparently gone mushy in his old age as usually he’s only good for the hug

My People

Normally, I try not to lie to myself. It’s fairly easy, when you have a chronic disease like Diabetes, to only see bad things. You hope there will be a cure (but you’re pretty skeptical). There’s new technology out that’s going to change your life (but it’s probably expensive and difficult to use and maybe even hurts). It’s just one bad day (or week or month or year or decade) and things will get better. It’s good to be optimistic, and hope is necessary, but I will not lie to myself.

Today, there is no cure for the disease I’ve had for almost two decades.

And that, is that.

There are, however, other things that add more value to my life than Diabetes will ever take from it. It may surprise some people to know that being Diabetic actually helps to highlight what I am most grateful for in my life. For most negatives, there are positives that juxtapose them.

I have a disease that is often incorrectly portrayed in public forums and not easily understood by many, including those that have been diagnosed. I also have family and friends that ask questions (and read articles and come to appointments) to make themselves more knowledgeable in order to be more helpful and supportive. They do not exclude me from their lives based on a disease that is unpredictable and difficult to manage.

There is never a time I am unaware of my condition, or that I can escape from the diligence it demands. My family and friends have made efforts, small and large, throughout my life to let me know that they are willing to help. My parents cared for every aspect of me before I was able to care for myself – continually teaching me how best to take care of my health by example. My friends stash emergency juice and supplies in their fridges and cars so that they can always be ready to help, and come out to walks to band together in support.

My people do not ever leave me alone. They’re constantly checking in and asking how I’m doing, how are my numbers, am I forgetting anything before we leave for a trip, do I have one extra vial of insulin or two? It could be annoying, and it is sometimes frustrating because I’m not always on top of everything, but it’s also comforting. I will never be carrying the burden of being chronically ill alone and that is bigger than the fact that I am chronically ill.

My people, as I call them with all of the love and respect and gratefulness a group of people willing to smother me in love deserve, are the best damn thing ever.

And that, is that.

Hannah & Ian's Heroes Family at the 2013 JDRF Walk - Team name changed after my brother was also diagnosed

Hannah & Ian’s Heroes family at the 2013 JDRF Walk – Team name changed after my brother was also diagnosed

The original Hannah's Heroes JDRF walk team (2001)

The original Hannah’s Heroes JDRF walk team (2001)