My 17th “diaversary” or anniversary of my type 1 diabetes diagnosis (January 16th, 1999) is an occasion that I enjoy recognizing. I like to think that I am “outliving” this condition because if it “gets me” in the end, I will be able to guarantee that I was, at the least, not easy prey. It’s been a constant reminder that I must make time for adventure –because time is limited. Morbid, perhaps, but that’s a thought that goes through my head literally every day at multiple points. That’s probably why in recent years my two biggest adventures have kicked off around this time in the winter when sane people are sipping coffee and planning summer vacations.

This year I was rolling across western Pennsylvania on a desolate stretch of highway and posting a few droll observations about my 17 years as a diabetic. I was preoccupied with not getting stuck in arctic cold and getting to pick up my trailer on time. Bigger fish to fry, as it were. A friend on Instagram asked what it felt like and what my emotions were as I took the opportunity to reflect. The question made me pause a bit because I realized that I didn’t feel any overwhelming emotion about my diabetes. All the feelings I had welling up in me were about the things that I am doing and have done because of my diabetes.

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Diabetes is the lens through which I have viewed the world for 17 years and change. It’s been the catalyst for my actually getting deeply involved with lenses to the point that I can really hammer this analogy home. There are some lenses that are a real pain in the ass to carry with you. They don’t fit neatly in any pack; they are heavy and irritating because despite their annoyance you know that you have to handle them gently. You curse that lens. You hate it. When you need it, it feels like it’s a little too slow or not focusing where you want. You’re sure you’ve missed the shot you came all that way lugging a heavy camera to capture.

And then at some point you give in. Acceptance.

You stop worrying about the lens or the things you can’t control–and lose yourself in the experience. When you finally get back to the computer to edit, there are a handful of shots you thought would be complete trash–which turn out to be gold. To be fair, 95% of the shots taken are going right in the trash, but you don’t think about them. You don’t kick yourself for the shot that might have been–you celebrate the moments that somehow came through better than you could have envisioned.

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If you’re not following the analogy, I’m saying that diabetes is the lens through which we see the world. Once we stop hating that lens and focus in on the world on the other side of it–good things happen. Life is short. There are no do-overs. Someday we all will die. Even if you don’t have diabetes. Even if you’re a millionaire. The opportunity to live with that knowledge at the forefront of my decision making–that’s a heavy lens, but I wouldn’t trade it for the moments it’s captured. Not on your life.

Now I’d like to hear from you–is radical self acceptance a good thing or is this just a bit to glib for the internet? Leave your thoughts below!

Our first meetup will be March 4-6 in Joshua Tree National Park CA. No cost, no frills. Just action…maybe just a few tasteful hashtags though. RSVP via email: steve@livingvertical.org