Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Days of Future Past

~This is the sixth chapter of my year-long exploration of 
living with Type 1 diabetes for 50 years.~

When times get tough,  I think about going. I linger over the dreamy opportunity of what might happen next after my work is done in Maine. I have fantasies about palm trees and perfectly ripe bananas the length of my middle finger and the highlights of being in a different culture. I long to live in a place that’s interesting, inexpensive, and relatively easy to navigate. The thought of returning to an expatriate life has become a lodestar in these times of stress.
Early days networking in Cambodia,
posing with a princess. 

Now that the parental move is completed, a major scope of work delivered, and the summer days beginning to end earlier, I am mulling over what might evolve moving forward. I think about the usual goals: getting more exercise, losing weight, trying to meet more people, exploring the state.

However, as I age and even in the three years since I have returned to the U.S., I’ve been witnessing increased issues with my health. I’ve gained weight and commonly drive upwards of 100 miles per week.  My teeth are crumbling while my gums are receding. My lungs wheeze after just a walk up the stairs or when walking downtown. On this issue, I give myself a break that I frequently carry a heavy bag filled with an "office", but I mentioned it on a recent check-up.  After an x-ray, they found "volume loss" and I was referred for a CT scan. The insurance company denied the claim. Without knowing, I worry now that I will be more dependent on inhalers just to breathe, just like I need insulin to live. 

The U.S, health insurance system makes me want to bolt for points north, south, east or west. Anywhere but here. My thinking, at this time, isn’t to set down deep roots, it’s about positioning myself nimbly so that I can take off when the time is right. Even in the beloved Casa Del Fuego in Anchorage, I always purchased small pieces of art in preparation for leaving. I came to Maine with a 7-year horizon to transition onward. I’m in that halfway space now, a good time for evaluation. 

If I can not let myself get too out of shape and unwell, that perhaps I can find a path back to an overseas adventurous life of doing good work in a different culture. The series of challenges that kept me to the path of increased attention to well-being (and writing).  It's feeling different here in the small town of Brunswick, a culture of staid pudginess and regulations amid an incomprehensible national landscape.

On the check-up, the primary care doctor also referred me for a consultation with a retinal specialist. Many diabetics have issues with deteriorating blood vessels in the eye. After last year’s annual exam, the quirky local optometrist thought he found something. My eyeballs were dilated, photographed and examined under painfully bright light, and I was pronounced remarkably clear for the length of time I've been diabetic. No further need for a specialist until something else changed. 


With that hope and the prospect of a week-long river trip starting in early August, I have shifted my perspective. Despite the realities of aging and the other crap I live with on a daily basis, that perhaps I can rejoice in my past experiences and talents and bring them into a new future. Perhaps after the next step, I’ll consider stashing a small RV trailer for the special belongings and buy a pickup to keep my connection to Maine.

Aspiring to this future is the tool to live with the mundanity of the present. But, as with the common theme of my life, staying connected to goals and choices in daily life can be a challenge. It all circles back, like the river.