Life is Loss; Life is Gain

Life is Loss. We begin life with the loss of the security of the womb, our first
loss, and then it’s downhill from there. Every day, every second we are losing time, losing a piece of our lifespan, losing opportunities. Every year we accumulate more and more losses: relationships, jobs, friends, spouses, children, parents.

But life is also Gain. All is grace; all is gift. Undeserved. Unearned. With each
breath life animates every cell of our bodies, providing one more opportunity
to claim our joy, pursue our bliss, eat chocolate, make love, eat more
chocolate.

When I was first diagnosed with diabetes I refused to accept it. I didn’t feel bad. I was overweight, but I had been overweight since my first pregnancy and to tell the truth I had never in my life been skinny. I had curves when I was twelve.

After I accepted the diagnosis I became angry – at God mostly. I used to joke that if God really wanted to mess with me God would give me diabetes. I have a suspicion that genetics and weight and a perennial sweet tooth have more to do with my diabetes than God, but I blamed God anyway. Blaming God is convenient, more convenient than exercise and diet for sure.

So I had a reason for keeping God in the picture: God makes a great scapegoat.

Isn’t that ironic. We usually think God is using us as scapegoats – making New Orleans take the blame for the sins of the decadent South, for example. And all the time God is our scapegoat. We give God the blame for every bad thing, even things human beings are obviously responsible for: pollution, the spread of Aids, the abuse of children. If there is no God there is no excuse, and I am left with diet and exercise.

Back to chocolate or the loss of it. To a chocoholic like myself that is no small thing. I can do without white bread, only ever ate it at parties – you know those crustless triangles of mayonnaisey goodness. I can do without white rice, and I have learned to deal with whole wheat pasta. I have always loved veggies and whole grain bread. I can usually do without the cookies, and pass on the ice-cream and cake (unless it is Death by Chocolate cake or those brownies with
thick fudge chocolate icing on top), but sugar-free chocolate is for the birds.
Actually, no! It’s not for the birds, because if their digestive response is
the same as mine I would need larger windshield wipers.

So…giving up chocolate, is it a loss or a gain? Surely a loss, right? Not necessarily. I thought it was a loss for a long time and was very bitter about it. But now, every morsel of real chocolate I treat myself to after a low carb meal is absolute and unmitigated joy, or it can be if I do it right. Like oxygen to an asthmatic, chocolate has the power to bring absolute bliss to every cell of my being. When I eat my chocolate miniatures, malt balls, or Hershey kisses one at a time, slowly allowing a piece to dissolve on my tongue and the sugary sweetness to suffuse my mouth, instead of shoveling down a handful at once, I can enjoy each moment of the experience. When I eat gobs at once I only taste the last one I swallow. So my gain is that I am learning to truly enjoy chocolate, to truly taste it. I am not saying that I am always able to control my shoveling compulsion, but I am getting better at it. And as a result chocolate has become more precious to me and now gives me more joy than it ever did in my pre-diabetic days.

What a paradigm for life this could be. Of course we hear it all the time: slow down and smell the roses. But if you have allergies and can’t smell, or have no garden, or have only smelled the indifferent vegetative aroma of store-bought roses, the metaphor is lost on you. Chocolate on the other hand is pretty universal. So how about a re-write: slow down and taste the chocolate.

There is another gain, too: Self control. Not something we are very good at in the over-indulgent, fast-food eating, immediate gratification seeking, poor impulse controlling Western hemisphere.

Maybe there’s a new book in here somewhere: God and Chocolate, or, How I got Diabetes and Discovered my Bliss.

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