Monday, March 7, 2011

Type 1 Sacred

Many years ago, I underlined this passage in Clarissa Estes' book Women Who Run with the Wolves:
But what if we were to imagine for a moment that the body informs the soul, helps it adapt to mundane life? Suppose the body is a God in its own right, a teacher, a mentor, a certified guide?
I have read those lines over and over. Written them in my journal. Turned them around and around in my mind wondering how, as a type 1 diabetic I would answer Ms. Estes' question. My first reaction is more like protest:  NO WAY can I think of my body as God/dess! My pancreas faltered long ago. My genes have some kind of weakness. My immune system is hyper vigilant. My thyroid has its own agenda. I'm damaged goods, baby! There is also the constant reminders of my far from perfect body. Every time I prick my finger and squeeze blood onto a test strip, I am faced with a number that tells me good or bad. And what about the complications of this incurable illness? That list was filed in some dark corner of my mind the day of my diagnosis, daring me to go any amount of time without glancing at it: kidney failure, heart failure, blindness, neuropathy, depression. Wrapping my head around the concept of my BODY being holy, goddess, sacred is needless to say difficult. More difficult than I thought.

BUT in a quiet space in between the negatives, I realize how profound this concept could be for me, for any of us living with chronic illness, pain, despair. How different might my body look if I examined her through this lens?

I would have to acknowledge that my body has some kind of wild wisdom. That She possesses a knowledge that runs deep in my cells, functioning sometimes beyond my logical comprehension. So often it feels like a tug of war. Surely I know better than my body with a sugar reading of 250 or hint of nerve pain! I want to yank her into submission. But DO I know better? She is simply asking me to take responsibility. Be mindful of what I consume. Understand the ripple effect of my choices.

Working in unison with my body then becomes the most sacred of acts. The dialogue we have is intimate and full of mystery.  She is asking me to be devoted. To hold Her in awe. To serve Her in ways most people reserve for something intangible and elusive. My pancreas, without the ability to produce insulin, is NOT elusive. My body handed me this task 28 years ago. To answer the call of the divine(my body) means I have learned to listen for subtle messages,to adapt in the moment, to intuit a solution outside the norm. To honor Her, I make offerings of insulin and glucose tablets. (And in the last year, green juice and lots of carrots!) I allow her days of rest if necessary. And if She asks me to, I will walk among trees or dance on the mountaintop.

Those of us with words like incurable, dire, or chronic attached to our lives have been given an "in" to that wise voice. We are privy to something sacred. The state of our bodies is holy writ. And not outside of ourselves. It is within our own blood, cells, synapses.

                                                      i found god in myself                 
                                                      & i loved her/ i loved her fiercely
                                                                                         -Ntozake Shange                                                                                
Tell me, do you find it difficult to hold your body in awe?



  1. Congratulations! And welcome to this crazy thing we do ...

    Love that you opened with this ...

    my mind is reeling with responses ... my greatest teacher, the one most patient and forgiving has been my body. eating disorder, breaking my neck, miscarriages, yoga injuries and now the budding of arthritis in my knees ... do you have some time here? What she teaches me is i am so much more than all that ... my spirit is so much more ... and yet, i must care and be grateful for the reminders she does give me to slow down and savor the joys gifted to me.

    sorry, one of my joys is badgering me for a game ...

    much love to you! looks great! now, back to writing you!

    xo lis

  2. Got to this amazing post via Lis H. It comes at a time in my life when I am feeling particularly betrayed by my body, so there is much here to absorb.

    Thank you for putting all this into words.

  3. angela! this is YOU! i read this yesterday, but didn't realized it was YOUR blog, YOUR post, YOUR life!

    OMgoddess! Whoo hoo. So excited to be here. This was a fabulous way to start. I was so moved by your post. I sat there at dinner and thought about all that was going into my body (for the most part, pretty good, could use a little more tlc)... thank you sharing all of this! can't wait to read along!