Monday, January 30, 2012

Agnosco vos patiamini at Manus Meum

To all of those that I failed in my youth,
the ones to whom I spoke an awkward truth
or careless lie, in malice or in love,
touched with iron hand cloaked with velvet glove
to frame a moment still suspended here,
in time, in words, and in memory clear:

Forgive me for the ills I did bring you
as you cherish joys that I did sing to
calm your heart, or stay your troubled dreamings;
the saint, the sinner, they were mere seemings
formed of fantasies that belied a plan,
draped upon the shoulders of but a man.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Sweetness of Success & The Bitterness of Defeat

Some time ago I embarked on two journeys almost simultaneously: I inherited responsibility for a critical but somewhat neglected function at work (whereupon the immediate professional advice included "ease into it, and try not to stress out"), and within 30 days I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes (whereupon the immediate medical advice included "set realistic goals, and try not to stress out").

To frame both of these endeavors, gentle reader, I will confess to those that do not know me well personally that I am mildly famous in certain circles for my complete unwillingness to take anything easy.  The new job was 180° out from the one that preceded it, and I was woefully, embarrassingly under-qualified academically; I'm not a hack, but I simply never had the benefit of formal education on any of the topics that required my I spent 90 days cramming.  I read dozens of books, called in some favors from friends, and -- unfuckingthinkably -- asked for help figuring some things out.  It was maddening, but it was also invigorating.  And then a third through that process, somebody told me my pancreas was staging a goddamned mutiny.

So, I did what any reasonable person would do: I doubled down.  I stopped smoking immediately, dropped most caffeine and all sugar out of my diet, and settled on a monastic 75 grams of carbohydrates per day when the nutritionist told me only a complete asshole would try to send diabetes into remission instantly with an Atkins diet.  Partial asshole, I noted, was still on the table.  My initial endocrinologist referred me to a partner who was, if I may be so bold, a total dick.  My A1C was low enough that he took me off of one of the two medications I was initially prescribed at my first checkup.  Confidently, I told him I would be ready to come off the second the next time we spoke; patronizingly, he smiled and said "let's not get ahead of ourselves".  Mother fucker, I thought.  You do not know with whom you are dealing.  Having matured in my thirties and being humbled by the recent betrayal of my own body, I refrained from telling him to kiss my ass.

Over the next few months I realized that checking my blood sugar three times a day was freaking me out and distracting me from work.  In complete and utter disregard for the rules, I stopped doing it.  It was always within a few points of where it was supposed to be, and being just slightly high made me stressed out...which made the next check even higher, as stress directly influences blood sugar, my endocrinologist (asshat) had warned.  I managed to have two very painful, protracted arguments over my new professional space, and eventually was vindicated in both.  After the second "uh...I guess you were right" moment from my detractors, the bullshit at work stopped and people began to take me as seriously as they had in my previous role.  I returned to the doctor, who due to scheduling conflicts referred me to another partner, who checked my A1C and told me I could suspend the second medication if I wanted to, right on schedule.  I couldn't help it; I told him to tell his little buddy (my second endocrinologist) to go fuck himself.  Since it was optional, I did the smart thing and stayed on the second med anyway; basically, it was the difference between continuing to avoid carbs like they were kryptonite, and being able to have desert once in a while like a normal goddamned person, and in the end the prospect of an occasional taste of desert won.

I finally felt back in control, and I was even caught up at work.  Like an ass, I immediately rectified that by taking on another responsibility...and that's been my life for the last year or so: I devour work when I'm on the clock, I play hard and spend time with my wife when I'm not, and I revel in the fact that even as a diabetic, I feel like I can eat whatever the hell I want because I've stopped wanting to eat the shit that caused this problem.  I can't stand the taste of high-fructose corn syrup now, and if I eat more than a very small portion of rice, bread, pasta, or even potatoes I feel like I'm going to have to digest and excrete concrete because of it, so I simply don't do that.  I get almost all of my sugar from things like fruit and honey in moderate portions, and most of my carbs from vegetables.  My cholesterol isn't perfect, but my blood sugar is controlled, my weight is down significantly, and I feel better than I did in my twenties.

And just as all of that shit was beginning to make sense, this last week both of these journeys took an unexpected turn.  I saw a fourth endocrinologist (the first is still overbooked, the second was busy, and the third no longer works there...I saw his replacement), and she flat told me to stop taking the second med I was on for diabetes.  No need, not even as a precaution.  I am essentially in remission; I'm still a diabetic somewhere deep inside, but not functionally.  For the time being my pancreas has decided we can be friends again provided I'm not an idiot.  Immediately after getting this news, I get the announcement at work that the functional area in which I've been mercilessly beating my head against the wall for eighteen months is now stable enough that I should pass it along to a couple of people to keep the lights on and the rudder straight.  It isn't that it's not important anymore, or that I didn't do's just...over.  My job was to stabilize it, and my boss feels that now that it's stable the business is going to stop focusing on it, so he wants me to pick up something else that's more visible.  I'm flattered, but I'm also irritated; this last adventure was my third in the department in less than three years when I started, and it was supposed to be somewhat permanent.  Just like the endocrinologist had insinuated that I couldn't get off of the medication in that short of a time, everyone at work had framed my new role as something that would always require attention.  I'd eventually want to do something else, perhaps, but that function would need someone like me forever, and that simply isn't the case.  Now that the specifications have been written and the major arguments have concluded, my superiors feel there is no more room to push the envelope in that space that is useful to the greater effort.  I don't know that I particularly agree with that...but I am, as I may have mentioned before, the kind of lunatic who thrives on charging into the mouth of hell.

I don't just love a challenge, I fucking need a challenge.  I don't know who the hell I am anymore unless I'm doing something somebody told me isn't practical or, even better, possible.  And that weirds me the hell out.  When did an iconoclastic streak in my adolescence turn into a fucking pathological need?  Everybody enjoys thumbing their nose at convention once in a while, or feeling like they've accomplished something that was improbable or simply difficult...but what manner of malcontent has an identity crisis when his boss tells him he can relax because his job just got easier, and his doctor tells him he's successfully mitigated an illness that kills people who aren't that fortunate.  I don't exactly miss working 70 hours a week, and I sure as hell don't resent the notion that I'm probably not going to have to deal with neuropathy, renal trouble, go blind, or have to take insulin in my forties and fifties...but as completely absurd as it sounds, with those monsters slain I'm just sort of sitting here polishing my armor, sharpening my sword, and thinking wistfully about the next time somebody says those three magical words to me:  You Will Fail.

Bring it.