Faulkner? Homer? Nope. Nichols.
Well I didn’t die; I’m writing this. But, many broken bones, two punctured lungs and hanging on the face of a vertical ice couloir by a worn rope and an outcropping of rock was close enough. Therein hangs the tale.
One of my younger Adult Onset Diabetics thinks he has reached a place in his life where the paradigm finally shifted; where he can actually live the life he knows he needs to in order to put the diabetes and all its attendant worries behind him. I’ve known him, worked with him off and on for 9 years. I met him first when he was a very young, early 30’s, man with disease bad enough that he had osteoporosis, besides the impaired fasting glucose, and he knew this would lead to his seeming family destiny of diabetes. He worked with me for a year and did very well; for example he more than doubled his testosterone and lowered his sugars, got stronger. But I am expensive and he knew what to do.
Well he came back to see me 5 years later. He still had a semblance of the athletic gait we had taught him but overall he looked worse than I remembered him. His new blood tests proved that not very hard to reach conclusion to be true. Well, he got back to work; got his A1c down below 6.0; the old threshold for diabetes. It was recently raised to 6.5 because quite frankly too many people qualified by the old rule; still he beat even the old rule. And then he stumbled again. OK, up and down. Now back to me hanging by that worn rope.
When I was a much younger man I became, against my will, the single father of 2 girls. There was no way back to my life as a surgeon if I wanted to raise those two girls; and for reasons I can only artificially reproduce I did want to raise them.
So I started a large Urgent Care Center and staffed a nicer, smaller one. Nice regular hours, great patients. Hmmm. Well, being the typical self absorbed young professional, while I knew there were injustices in the world they were not real to me until I had suffered my own. My response was to start a homeless clinic; patched together with equipment from hospital store rooms, some of my own money and drug samples from mine and other doctors’ practices. Well, at least it was good for me. Many stories and life lessons learned.
With this desultory life entrain I spent my spare time, a week here, a month there, climbing in the Sierras and occasionally more far flung places. I love rock, cold, ice and nearly bottomless fatigue. This is a hard sell for most but mountain climbers understand.
My plan was simple: as soon as the last one, my last precious girl, was out of the house I was off to climb anywhere and everywhere until too old or dead to care what else there might be to do. I imagined myself becoming a free man at last.
Fate intervened: the ice broke, the rope held and I was not dead. Throughout that first night waiting to be rescued, or not, I watched the beautiful granite face across from where I hung. And then completely out of time, in the middle of the night, that granite face began to glow; a beautiful, golden Alpenglow. That glow, that golden light, was a pulse from the depths of eternity longing to tell me of beauty, truth and mercy. It reached me there as I hung on in pain; short of breath. It would be fair to say that day changed me and my world; in ways too many and wild for me to recount. It was the best day of my life.
One of the changes was a desire to build a medical practice entirely out of helping people become as healthy in as natural a way as possible. “Tempus Clinic” was the result: fancy, extravagant, tech-laden, and fantastically successful at helping the motivated dramatically achieve their health goals. Heart disease reversed, diabetes ‘cured’, prostate cancer detected early and treated successfully. On and on.
Well my young diabetic could not be counted among the successes; 5 years later he was worse. Stories change lives; which is why I recount part of mine. My young diabetic needed to find the narrative thread that made change seem not a good idea but necessary.
He is witty, engaging, a careful, thoughtful software engineer. He writes songs, performs comedy skits, tells jokes; all to teach others how to write code. Whoever heard of such a thing? Well, we got to talking about how he started playing the guitar. He started young, was off and on about it, later in life saw someone else play and it just struck him: I want to play the guitar! He did and does. He always will.
As we discussed his memory of finally picking up the guitar for good, the reasons and conditions that led to his success, I don’t want to get too far ahead here, he became a little more animated than usual; as we talked he made a number of associations in terms of when and why he is prone to ‘shooting himself in the foot’ and how he had done that with the guitar and more recently in his attempts to escape from his diabetes. I have to tell you as long as I’ve known him I’ve always been convinced that eventually he would figure out how to succeed. I get this kind of gut feeling sometimes; sometimes I get the gut feeling that someone will never succeed. But this guy is going to make it; I just don’t know how but I think he does now.
He emailed me a few days later; his email was full of his thinking, the way the world looked from this new angle, a kind of confidence that he was going to make it this time.
Now, the way finally playing a guitar and falling off a mountain are similar may not be obvious; but they, in this one crucial way- the world changed- they are the same. What is your narrative of meaning? What thread of memory, understanding or belief will change your world in a way to give you space and peace to become and stay healthy? Find it. The first few lines or chapters have already been written. It will be a great story; I want to hear it.
Smile, Have Fun, God Speed,