The Many Mantras of Checkup Season

Excerpt from Wislawa Szymborska’s “Life While-You-Wait”

A quick update on my last post:

As it turns out, people eat a lot of things. Vegetables, for example, chopped and thrown onto a pan with olive oil and then into a bowl over a bed of very trendy quinoa. Feta cheese, for example, which was likely enjoyed by the Greek Gods and just so happens to be scrumptious in salad, couscous, or as a midnight snack with tomato, olive oil, and pepper.

Good news? I’ve gotten better at nourishing my body while still honoring my culinary laziness.

Bad news? I’m still the sort of person who would rather dig into a meal than photograph it, so there are no pictures to prove that I’ve consumed anything other than omelet lately. I have no recipes to share, either. That’s because these dishes are underwhelming and largely self-explanatory. Said recipes would read as follows: “cut some veggies up (however you please), toss them in a pan (with care and love), dance around (to something Irish), then eat.”

So. There you have it.

MadridBirds

Life rolls on. April arrived with all her beauty to the city of my dreams and so too did the pesky word procrastinator (see: me, see also: will I ever learn?). I finally requested a health card from the clinic in my new neighborhood today.

Length of time I avoided this task: six months.
Length of time it took me to complete: between eight and twelve minutes (walk to health center and brief pause to admire an alleyway included).

I have an appointment with a new doctor who will write me scripts, schedule blood work, and refer me to an endo and an eye doctor for those oft-avoided,  anxiety-inducing yearly checkups that make me repeat the same mantras year after year after year:

“Knowledge is power.”
“You got this.”
“You’ll be fine, girl.”
“If you’re not fine, you’ll still be fine.”

And then the pep-talks:

“You’ve conquered monsters with uglier names. If it turns out that you’re not fine (but I’m sure you’re fine, don’t worry, you’re totally fine), you’re more than qualified to confront whatever stupid senseless thing life may have to offer. Fear is fine. Laying on the floor is fine, too, but you probably won’t have to do that because YOU ARE FINE. YOU ARE TOTALLY FINE. It’s a DOCTOR’S VISIT. Ok, fine, it’s three doctor’s visits, but you know what? That’s great news. You love people-watching and the culture of the Spanish waiting room is the best thing that’s ever happened to you. This is gonna be fantastic.”

“You haven’t always done your best but that’s because you’re not a machine and that’s FINE! No, it’s more than fine. You know how angry those self check-out scanners at the grocery stores make you? Those are machines. They’re the worst. They’re unforgivable. You’re not the worst. You are forgivable.”

Diabetes: that sometimes quiet, sometimes clanky chronic illness that makes otherwise sane young women talk to themselves out loud.

Never quite fully prepared for anything and lately certain that I wouldn’t actually want to be, I let anxiety have its moment. I admire the beautiful building that houses my new health clinic and think about nine-year-old me at a dingy office complex in Pennsylvania, unaware that one day she’d be walking into this place, privileged enough to go to the doctor even when she felt just fine.

Move More, Ruminate Less

The last time I referred to myself as “a runner” I lived in an almost-arctic Steel City and I was angry at everybody. I ran in the cold and in the rain and after snowpocalypse when the streets were empty and the snow still white. My legs were firm. I was always surprised when I saw them in the shower. They looked like they belonged to someone else.

Quite a few years have gone by since then. I live under the sun in the center of Spain now. The most intense training I do on a regular basis is carry groceries up to my apartment (which, to be fair, is a fifth-floor walk-up, aka: no joke).

My winter vacation was strange. It rolled along without melancholy until one day I woke up ruminating on all the things I don’t have enough of: money, time, close friends to call for coffee. I lost my appetite, dreaded the mornings, wrote mostly of dreams, felt useless, and wished I was working. People call this “the winter blues.” I called it if I see one more bulging bag of gifts, I’m going to lose it. The only thing that might possibly have satisfied my homesickness (aside from going home) would  have been a dance with a Philadelphia Mummer. Any Mummer would have done. Wishing a Dunkin Donuts barista Happy Holidays! may also have have sufficed.

Those feelings spilled over into the new year and finally into a work week that dragged on and on, into mornings I greeted begrudgingly and nights I wondered why the hell it was I’d decided to move again? Eat your fruit & veggies, drink watertry to go to sleep earlycall somebody, go outside. Those things help. This morning I woke up late, fed and dressed myself, put on red lips and headphones and headed to Dunkin Donuts. To-go coffee has always been my remedy for homesickness in Spain. It feels wasteful and silly–and it is. But drinking from a cardboard cup once a year is worth the relief, however momentary it may be, that mediocre coffee and its memories of home provides. Cup in hand, walking through my new city, my favorite neighborhoods, I thought of running. Of solitude. Of those days when I didn’t mind the weather, when I ran to release, when I learned that my body existed for reasons other than being hated.

I have to train againI have to remember what that’s like.

This time around I’ll learn different lessons but run for the same reason: to remember how much exists outside of me, to live in words other than should, could, and would.

When It All Goes Wrong: A Horror Story

pumpkinbanner

Halloween is upon us, so why not break the blog silence with an awful story? Like the one about my recent return to Spain?

I’ve traveled plenty and I’ve managed to do so with problems no greater than my seat-mate falling asleep on me, drooling on myself, or missing an occasional bus, but this year was different.

Continue reading “When It All Goes Wrong: A Horror Story”

“If there is to be a panic, let it be organized.”

If any of you are regular readers (are you? if so, heyyyyy!), you’ll have noticed that I try to post here every Wednesday. I have a lot of things I want to say about living with a busted pancreas. But I’m also a (fairly functional) perfectionist and I don’t like to let ideas out into the wild until they’re fully formed, with legs and wings and all of that stuff they need to fly.

Today is one of those days when stress has edged its way into my consciousness, effectively squashing my ability to write anything that I don’t want to throw into a deep dark well. I recently accepted a job offer and now I’m calf-deep in paperwork (it could be worse) and organizing a move to the Spanish capital with that annoying, low level nausea that always accompanies change. My breaks involve drinking coffee (I should stop, I really should) and dancing to Sia songs, half wishing I’d grown up to be Maddie Ziegler. Also, this song?

I DON’T KNOW!

So this post is just to say: I’m really sorry that my brain won’t let me organize anything today. My meter is screaming at me: giiiirlll, pleaaaaseee chill!

If you have any fail-proof stress relievers please do Tweet, comment, or send me a raven.

Oliver Sacks and Spanish Social Security

Para leer este post en Español, haga clic aqui.

A bald man wearing a lanyard slaps a “Donate Blood!” sticker onto my right breast. Headphones in, hands sweaty, and my music turned up, I flash him the “A-OK!” symbol and scurry into the health center. His mouth is moving but all I hear are electric guitars.

I am twenty-five and I have lived with Type 1 Diabetes for seventeen years. Today I am using the national health system in Spain, where I live and work, for the first time. I am more terrified than any human adult should be. I’m afraid that the woman at the front desk will kick me and my American accent out. I’m afraid that, if I am allowed to see a doctor, she will tell me that I must sell my soul in exchange for insulin and test strips.

Continue reading “Oliver Sacks and Spanish Social Security”