Other than Franca, there are a few people who know me very well to whom I look for friendship and support in handling the routine face-off between family, work, and pleasure, and of which of course in our house, diabetes plays a significant part in all three. Their opinions, advice and experiences help shape my own philosophies and behavior. So when not long ago one of these friends, a person of very strong faith and commitment, appeared surprised by my use of the yin yang symbol to represent Without Envy on the web, I responded candidly, but with some nonchalance: It represents balance, I said simply and then went on in some disjointed, ineffective manner trying to connect this image of well-being to my concept of spirituality. After all, overcoming hardship has always been a process of moderation and mind-over-matter for both Franca and me, regardless of the circumstance. Why shouldn’t it be the same for diabetes? With the right focus, discipline and prioritization we could do for Lia’s diabetes what we had done with every other conflict that had entered our lives: we’d manage.
But days after my friend’s comment I decided to take a bit more time to consider the question again. What exactly was it about this icon of circling light and dark that I felt it could represent something as momentously crucial as raising a daughter with type 1 diabetes to live life to the fullest? Wasn’t the very concept of yin and yang — two equally dependent opposing forces, each giving rise to the other — in stark contrast to what we most wanted for our child, a life free of this damned chronic illness?
On top of that, I had spent less than an hour, at most, on the internet searching for an appropriate image in response to what had, in an instant, changed our lives forever. Granted in the weeks leading up to Lia’s diagnosis, the Tao philosophy of kindness, moderation, and humility had been a focus in my reading, so it had clearly been on my mind for some while. But where was the balance and natural order of opposition and equality in a life made more difficult because of a non-functioning pancreas? Where does the sunset end and the sunrise begin? How does the seed reach its greatest potential?
The answer: I don’t know.
I honestly don’t, which I suppose is the challenge. Living with reality. Creating a path of sorts through the universe, finding balance where you’re able and learning to embrace the whole and not the parts of who you are.
Lia has diabetes. That is a fact. Also a fact is her wonderfully ordinary life. This journal is where I write about how we manage the two of those things together. There are days where the words and our lives unfold easily, without tears, without envy, without too much of any one effort. Then there are days when they don’t, when it seems only darkness prevails. For comfort we look to one another, or find it in community and from friends such as the one I mentioned above. For hope we turn to science. Both make the journey we’re on feel like we’re not so alone. Yin yang is there for those times we feel like we are.