Yesterday, I left my apartment for the first time in eight days.
It was sunny and 68 degrees outside. I went for a run, passing the US Marine Corps War Memorial, the Netherlands Carillon – fenced off and under construction – and Arlington National Cemetery – the first time I’ve seen it closed to daytime public. I then found myself along the heart of the Mount Vernon trail, surrounded by bikers, runners, walkers and strollers taking in the calm quietude of the Potomac River and a view of the Washington Monument. You wouldn’t know there was a pandemic going on, except for patrols closing off the paths to DC and the cherry blossoms.
Eight days seems like a long time to be shut in a 700 square-foot apartment with a cat whose expression mirrors, “why are you still here?” But this past winter, I spent a considerable amount of time alone – re-conditioning myself to enjoy “me” time again, so that I could recharge and improve my overall well-being. Unbeknownst to me, that time alone conditioned me for such a strange time as this. In fact, I kind of wish I had more time alone. With all the virtual meetings, chats, and happy hours, I’ve rarely had time to myself.
But I wouldn’t change the wonderful network I’ve spent the last 33 years cultivating. So many of you reached out when all of this started, knowing I was high risk and making sure I was okay. I heart you for that. All of the diabetes blogs, commentaries, and posts I’ve read tell me not to panic. But that’s easier said than done. I am grateful I have a pet like Norm. When the anxiety starts to escalate, I stop what I’m doing and throw hair ties his way. His enjoyment of the simple pleasures in life eases my heart rate.
A Future With a Disease
With this new quietude, there is ample time for reflection, and I do find myself thinking about the future more – how much is out of my control and how different life may be for the remainder of my youth. But then I remember I’ve been here before – when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I was 22, about to graduate college, move out on my own and enter the world for the first time as a true independent.
As much as I hoped the diabetes would be something else or would be miraculously cured in the next six months, I had to accept the reality that there was no end date to this disease, and it was very likely I would be living with it for the rest of my life. My entire world changed, and no one day has ever been the same. Take for example, this last week. With my stress levels down and my hormone levels fluctuating, my blood sugar has been dropping randomly at different points in the day.
I’m lucky I have a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to clue me in to its volatility, and I’m thankful for having access to the juice and candy and insulin that keeps me alive during these unforeseen times. I’ve learned to manage, and even thrive with an incurable chronic condition. I’m a lot happier at 33 than I ever was pre-diagnosis. My life is not ideal, by any means, and I have no idea the damage this disease is doing on my heart long-term (no matter how well I take care of myself).
But I try to make the most of it. I don’t look back. I don’t question it. I move forward.
We’re In This Together
And that’s all we can do right now. It sucks what’s happening. We don’t know how this will end up. But just like when I was diagnosed with diabetes, I take comfort in the fact that we are not alone in this. We are in this together. And we will get through this together.
Halfway through my run yesterday, I ran into a familiar face, one of my closest friends since I moved to the DC area six years ago. I smiled so big when I saw her – the first known person I’d seen in two weeks. This wasn’t happenstance. We planned it. We live less than three miles from each other and decided to meet in the middle. Together, we walked towards the river overlooking the Washington Monument, keeping six feet between us.
And we stood there and talked for the next 45 minutes, as the sun set behind us. When it was time to return to our self-isolation bubbles, we waved and gave each other an air hug and promised to do it again sometime. At home, I poured a shot of Kentucky bourbon into my Jefferson’s Glen Cairn Glass. I listened to a few of my favorite feel-good songs and danced in my chair with Norm looking on.
A good life.