the unfinished project climbing el capitan with type 1 diabetes

Love your limitation: The Unfinished Project

I've had an unfinished project that's been nagging at me for a long time and you can't slay big walls just by talking about it from an office chair. I've spent the last several years hating my limitations while doing very little to challenge their preeminence in my life. Some of that has been practically motivated--supporting a family does take time and money. A lot more of it though, was a fear of getting shut down. Failure. Now I'm back on a mission to do what scares me and share it in hopes of raising awareness and empowerment for type 1 diabetes.

It's easy to talk about going beyond limitations but the truth is that before you can approach your limits you have to accept them. You have to love them, own them. Without them there would be no opportunity to transcend the challenge--which is how value is earned. We are not all special snowflakes. Value is earned, not given away like a consolation prize. I stopped earning and started coasting at some point in the last few years. I wondered why I found my well running dry.

I searched back through my past to try and tease out the point where I first started to coast--and I found it in Yosemite National Park, California, May 2012. I met my match on El Capitan. I came away from that climb defeated in a way that I have never really moved beyond since. That's why I'm going back there this fall. I'm going to find my limits and dance with them. I expect a main course of humble pie and suffering. It's not supposed to be easy--that's not why I love my limitations. It's an opportunity to struggle. It's my genuine hope that this project will reach those who need it with a message of empowerment--and that it will reach the public at large with awareness of type 1 diabetes.

In the last couple of years I've enjoyed learning about optimizing my diet using ketosis. I've been so privileged to have access to a CGM. I've spent countless hours checking my graph to see that number, like a rat in a maze, running for the promise of the cheese at the end. I kind of got addicted to winning the diabetes game because I could keep my numbers really tightly controlled--within a really tightly controlled environment. I spent many years advocating for type 1 as a reason to get outside and challenge fear--while ultimately succumbing to the trap myself. Turns out that having great numbers while living your life in service to a numerical readout isn't really winning anything. Winning boils down to investing success in the opportunity to fail.

I'm not beating myself up about the past--it's important to confront failures. We are too often scared of words like "right" and "wrong", "good" and "bad" because everyone wants to know that they're not the sum of their failures. Ignoring failure is the greatest failure of all though. It prevents us from growing and putting that shortcoming under the boot on the way to a higher summit. This is how I know that there is still a need for empowerment. For awareness. For a reminder that just because we aren't wearing an orange jumpsuit doesn't mean we can't be held prisoner. The tools we use to create a brighter future can become a hindrance if we are not vigilant to look beyond them.

I'm calling it The Unfinished Project. 

Is full time RVing even worth it?

As we are concluding the hateful process of replacing the car and preparing to get back on the road after a MONTH of crazy pitfalls the question of "why" keeps coming up--as in 'why are we bothering to do this?' Is full time RVing really worth it? Is there a better way to enjoy travel and adventure--by balancing the spectacular with the mundane? These are tough questions because we knew from the beginning that there would be hard days--weeks even.These types of difficulties are the "stress-testing" of this type of lifestyle.

I don't know what the right choice is going to be for our family in the long run. I fully intend to ride this out and make a solid year of it before considering plan "B" (pull the ripcord and bail). It's totally possible that we just had a rough patch and will pull through it brilliantly and won't ever want to consider quitting again. The question always comes down to quality of time spent together on adventures--which is not always congruent with quantity of time spent in pursuit of adventure! If there is anything I've learned from the last month it's that being out on the road can actually slow you down and kill a lot of time when things go wrong. That's not just inconvenient and costly, it slows down momentum of climbing and creative projects that I am working on to change the landscape of type 1 diabetes.

Like most difficult decisions I believe the answer will be some form of compromise--choosing the downside that allows for the greatest upside. The option for no downside at all doesn't seem to exist. Accepting the realization that a sacrifice must be made under the best circumstances is the best way to make deliberate decisions rather than being victimized by mishaps. This is a major part of my view on life with type 1 diabetes. The time we have is an investment and death and discomfort will come to us all sooner or later no matter our choices or station in life. It's better to figure out what is worth suffering for than trying not to suffer.

Yes I quit drinking coffee. Here's why...

I recently announced on Facebook my decision to quit drinking coffee. This declaration was met with some disbelief and horror given my erstwhile penchant for drinking coffee. I'm still a little bit surprised at how personally people take it when you announce that you're choosing to do something differently with your diet. I promise, I didn't quit coffee in order to disrupt social conventions and that there is a legitimate reason for my choice. That reason is a combination of two factors: type 1 diabetes and El Capitan in Yosemite.

I failed on El Capitan in 2012 during Project365 and I vowed to return, but conveniently avoided doing so for a number of reasons that all seemed legitimate at one time or another. No one wants to fail and it's even less appealing when people are watching. It's also a lot more difficult being marooned on a tiny island in a vertical sea of granite for days at a time when you know that your body could revolt against you at any point, potentially with dire consequences. It's incredibly committing to feel medically vulnerable in a position that is so isolated.

Fear. It either becomes the reason to DO or to NOT DO.

Once I chose to let fear into the decision making process, I stopped making forward progress. Everything devolved into a circular holding pattern. It's totally reasonable to be afraid of having a low blood sugar on the wall. It's fine to be afraid of getting dehydrated and cramping up, or hauling too much extra or not enough extra. It's not ok to let that fear paralyze you.

Fear is a useful ally if it's not allowed to dominate the conversation. For that reason I am training. Preparing. Working out ways to mitigate situations that I am afraid of. That's what the next several months will entail--and here is where the decision to quit coffee comes in. I have found that one of the biggest factors that hindered me on past bigwall climbs has been dehydration which leads to cramping. Dehydration has also gone hand in hand with my most erratic blood sugar swings--which is anecdotal, but it is a pattern that I've noticed.

It's also worth noting that low carb diets definitely leave you more vulnerable to dehydration if you don't take consistent and fairly aggressive action to mitigate the diuretic effects of carb restriction. This is definitely one of the downsides that significantly offsets the blood sugar stability and energy that I have enjoyed in the last year of following a ketogenic diet. There's always a catch! It's not a deal breaker for me--it's a trade off. Coffee is part of what I'm choosing to sacrifice in order to be able to climb further and harder--and hopefully it will make it easier for me to stay adequately hydrated.

I will follow up on this in upcoming blogs because I am genuinely curious to see if this change will impact the way that I feel and my blood sugar as I am training. I have to say that so far I don't miss the jittery nerves, anxiety and insulin resistance I used to experience every morning with my coffee.

measuring my success

I'm back, and I'm sorry.

In the past few months I have been circling the wagons and getting the website rebuilt with the aid of Splitter Designs. I was confronted with the disparity between what I wanted to create and the reality of what I have been producing . The last few years have felt pretty unfulfilling--hollow, as though something has been missing from my work. I looked back at the posts and pictures and kept thinking 'Is this the vision? Is this the best you have to give? Where is the passion, the fire and the cutting edge?'

One of the things that has been skewing my vision over the last few years is a desire to be perceived as successful in order to attract sponsors. How else does and athlete/speaker/artist feed make a living? No one wants to sponsor failure. I needed to make a living doing what I do--creating adventure media that inspires people through my struggle with type 1 diabetes. As that reality grew, it stole my fire--my joy. I stopped speaking to the people who were supporting me and I moved on to the people who didn't care, who needed to be convinced of the value of the LivingVertical mission. I wanted to convert new followers more than caring for my existing ones. By simply reaching more people, I hoped that I could develop LivingVertical into a  quazi-Team NovoNordisk, replete with corporate support and hundreds of thousands of followers--and a salary that could support my work and my family.

What I have found reflecting on all of this is that there is no shame in failure if you choose carefully the hill on which you are prepared to die. There is no honor in measuring success in terms of mass appeal or financial gains. I am returning to LivingVertical--full time until I cannot sustain it further. I  have returned to the reason I started blogging and filming in 2011--to shake things up. To challenge the perception of chronic illness as weakness and to inspire interaction with the natural world around us a the means to win the battle for our minds. I don't think my work will ever be a "good fit" with selling drugs or devices. I am fine with that. I'm done measuring success based on distracting people who don't care. This may be the hill on which LivingVertical goes to die and while it may never be trending on Twitter, it will be honorable and true to the vision that inspired its origin.

I am thankful to have every one of you here--because you do care (or you wouldn't have read this far!)--and you are the audience that I should have been serving all along. I am sorry for failing to see that over the last few years. I am lucky to have finally put my finger on what was missing in LivingVertical. Now let's go rattle some cages and challenge the conventional wisdom, the marketing drivel and the stereotypes. There's still work to be done around here.

Diabetes and driving: what I've learned about stereotypes

The ability to drive is a lot like your pancreas, it turns out. You don't miss it until it's gone and then suddenly you're lost without it. I recently discovered that having diabetes can put a major cramp on the ability to maintain a drivers license in some states--when my license was suspended for not mailing in a yearly doctors note certifying "compliance". Here's where it gets tricky. The state in which I have my license is Utah. The state where I get my healthcare is Massachusetts.

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