Monday, December 19, 2016

Greed, caterpillars and what's under my dress

Poor thing took one look at her shirt and was like "oh hell no" and flapped off.
Several weeks ago, for the second consecutive year, a clear plastic cup containing five worms and their poop came to Elaine in the mail. We were delighted. We'd paid around $15 for this delivery, which comes to about $3 per worm, which just goes to show that we are not very good at shopping for a deal.

Most people insist on calling these particular types of worms "caterpillars," falling for what I believe is a genius marketing ploy that helps alleviate some of the self-doubt you are likely to experience after spending $3 on one. After a few days of intense eating and pooping, they had quadrupled their size and they disappeared into their chrysalises. We transferred them into our meshy butterfly habitat, and about a week after that, we watched in amazement as one rumpled little butterfly wriggled its way out and sat stunned, dripping a grody red fluid and allowing blood to slowly expand and color its wings. We knew the rest would soon follow, but Elaine and I had an errand to run, so we hustled off, hoping to make it back to see more life unfolding. On our way home I commented to my 6-year-old that I was anxious to get back in time to watch more butterflies emerge, wasn't she excited too? And she said, "No, it's OK. I've already seen one hatch. I don't need to see more."

My first reaction was irritation: My beloved little girl is, how shall we say, one who likes to swim upstream, most especially whatever stream her mama is drifting down. The surest way to transform her into a foaming mess of urgency to get back and stare at chrysalises for the remainder of the day would have been for me to declare that I find butterflies unbearable. I assumed she was just claiming her usual contrarian stance. But then I noted her tone, and it was casual, not defiant. She really meant it. She had seen a butterfly hatch and she enjoyed it all right, but her level of enjoyment wasn't going to increase with subsequent viewings. All at once, I was filled with admiration.

Why did I need to rush back to see more? I too had seen the sight before, and there wasn't much likelihood that any part of the routine would become more spectacular. My daughter's serene response made me feel strangely desperate and ... greedy. Why did I want more?

I am always wanting more. I can become unreasonably despondent when a vacation nears its end. When I spot a bunny rabbit in our front yard, I stop everything to stare until it vanishes into the brush because one appreciative glance is not enough. I am reluctant to take my last sips of coffee in the morning because I know once the cup is empty I'll just be sad that I can't have more.

The spurt on the left is really into sunglasses right now.
I have identified greed as a factor when Brandon and I have casually batted around the idea of having a third child. Basically the only reason I'd want to have another kid is to get to have more baby. I love being a mom with a baby. But you only get to have baby around the house for a very short period of time, and then it turns into ... well, anyway, it just grows very quickly. I have no trouble at all getting pointlessly sentimental about its passing (forgetting entirely the sleepless nights, the never-ending torrent of spitup, the days without showers) and achieving a desperate longing to go back for more. At some point, every single parent has to be done having baby around the house, though. It's a dazzling spurt of marvelousness that does all kinds of crazy stuff to your insides, hard to say whether your heart or your brain is less recognizable when it's all over. Some parents layer in lots of spurts by having too many margaritas before they are back on the pill having bigger families, but it is dead clear to me that those parents have a far far greater capacity for sleeplessness and bewilderment love than I do. I know my parenting skill level (Intermediate), and if I were to try to spread my resources any thinner, everyone would suffer. But then I'll gaze at a photo of one of my babies, or find myself creepily trailing a new mom around Trader Joe's, and the greed bubbles up again. WANT MORE.

I think about greed a lot when I think about real estate. Brandon and I aren't crazy about the house we live in, and the reasons are totally stupid. It's not a cute house from the outside, and actually most of the inside parts aren't very cute either (although I of course think our stuff is cute). But it's big, by our standards, in fact it's maybe just outside the square footage that a deplorable housekeeper such as myself should be charged with. If there were more square feet of it, we'd need to buy more furniture to fill the spaces and we'd probably need to hire someone to clean up after us, which seems like a puzzling thing to aspire to (I am not backhanding anyone who pays someone else to clean their house; we have also gone that route and are well aware that it is both more effective and a lot more fun). The kitchen is unfancy but new, the yard is unlandscaped but big (and has a nice playset and a fishpond and loads of wildlife to delight the kids), and the bathrooms all need updating but are functional. So why do I find myself gazing longingly at schmancier homes? It's embarrassing to even admit it. By the standards of the vast majority of the world's population, we live like royalty. Would I be more fulfilled in a house with gorgeous bathrooms? Would my children be more wonderful? Would I have more time to do awe-inspiring things, would my relationships improve? Or am I just being greedy for more when I already have plenty?

And I often think about greed when I think about being diabetic. The advancements in treatment for Type 1 diabetes have been such that I don't have to cut out sugar entirely from my diet. As long as I know where my blood sugar is and don't entirely lose my grip on my self control (a bite or two of frosted store-bought birthday cake isn't total suicide, but I'd pay for it if I Hoovered a whole wedge), my insulin pump enables me to give myself a pretty carefully calibrated dose that can help me navigate my weaknesses with minimal consequences. (My absentmindedness can be a liability, however. One of the worst highs I ever had was while we were entertaining friends on a hot day, and I was chatting away and casually snacking on chunks of fresh watermelon. Suddenly my head seemed to be filled with wet cement, standing on my own two feet felt like an athletic challenge, and I was having trouble following conversations. I bet all the other diabetic people out there are not surprised to learn that if you're going to enjoy a healthy snack of 14 pounds of fruit, you had better shoot up some insulin.)

This is the needle I use to insert my CGM sensor every few days.
Compared to the diabetics of a generation or two ago, I am living large. Many people, when they learn I have this disease, comment that I'm fortunate that it is so manageable, or they want to talk about the latest advancements in treatments. I don't resent anyone for exploring these conversation topics and I am definitely grateful for the treatments and my access to them, but I'm not comfortable with the idea that treatment is a satisfying end point. Perhaps I sound like a greedy, entitled sloth saying this, but managing this disease is a noticeably huge, stressful, expensive, 24-7-365 pain in the cheeks, and it involves a freighter of big nasty needles any way you slice it, and people are still dying from it. Treatment is not enough for me. Cure and prevent, cure and prevent, cure and prevent: Those are my most fervent hopes, the goals I hope current research is gunning for. I want the security of knowing my kids aren't at risk, and I want the luxury of being able to eat a huge wedge of disgustingly overfrosted cake if that's what I wanna do, or the freedom to cram unending fistfuls of watermelon chunks into my face without regretting it soon after. I want to get to sleep through one whole night without my pump, my CGM, or my blood sugar waking me up. I want to spend all the money I spend on treatment on spa visits (and perhaps bathroom enhancements) and not-sensible sandals. I want my abdomen to be free of scars and I want to be able to wear a dress without having to strap my pump to my inner thigh and then walk slightly bow-legged (if you're wondering if there is a remote control I can use to deliver my insulin, no, not so much -- I have to go hide behind a potted plant and reach up my own dress).

I have it good, I have it better than most, but I still want more.

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