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A different kind of story.

April 27, 2009

If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I hate math. I nearly flunked it twice, barely passing algebra with a C average. I managed to go my entire college career without taking a single math class. I’ve never understood math, or liked it. It was too concrete, too static. Not open for interpretation. I liked the freedom of English, the emotion, the way it mimicked certain aspects of my life. I like history because it taught you what you needed to know about who you are and where you could go. But math just seemed flat. There’s only one answer, and I never really cared to find the answer to something someone else has already figured out.

Unfortunately, I was also blessed cursed given this silly disease called diabetes, which is ALL about the numbers. Pretty much everything to do with it is a number: blood sugar reading, carbohydrate count, insulin dosage, A1C value, lipid levels… They’re all numbers. I’ve struggled for fifteen years to keep all these numbers in line, in sync, happy, thriving, out of my way, letting me live my life the way I want to. It’s tricky. Not impossible, but tricky. Time-consuming. Annoying. Tiring.

Another kind of number I can’t avoid? Money. Cash, credit, savings, debt, 401K, Roth IRA, rent, utilities, cell phone, groceries, a ticket to see a movie with your boyfriend. All numbers. I can’t avoid them, and guess what, I’m not good at those either. Like my blood sugars and insulin doses, I struggle to maintain a balance on all these things too. The funny thing is, I have done an even worse job balancing my checkbook than I have balancing my blood sugars. I suppose there’s that whole “life versus death” that diabetes has going for it. I’m not exactly going to kick the bucket early because I’ve neglected to start saving money until the ripe age of 23.

But I’ve been thinking lately about how similar things are that are seemingly unrelated. Managing my checkbook – making sure that what I put into my bank account isn’t any less than what I pull out of it – is remarkably similar to how what I put into my body needs to be balanced with other variables, like insulin and exercise, that take the sugar away. It’s all time-consuming, annoying, challenging, tiring. Obviously, diabetes has a slightly more physical impact on my life than my money – but is that really true? Isn’t the quality of my life, like where I live, and the car I drive, and the kind of food I can afford and what kind of personality I can give my apartment – end up affecting my physically as well. Doesn’t stress and anxiety affect you physically when you’re at the end of the month and you’ve got $52 to last you until payday, which is still four days away.

Well, that’s where I’m at. A bad money manager and a not-so-hot diabetes manager either. My numbers tend to get screwy pretty quickly. I have a hard time paying attention to numbers. I don’t find them that interesting. I can’t remember what they mean or what they were for or why they’re important. They are nameless, faceless numbers and it’s easy to think they’re of no consequence. Which is the biggest mistake we make, in finance and in health. That a one time thing, say, a Starbucks frappuccino, doesn’t mean anything. Sure, maybe not right away. But those numbers start adding up, whether it’s a $4.25 or 425 mg/dl.

It seems like a lot to focus on. I’m trying to figure out how to be a better blood sugar manager and a money manager. But that’s life, isn’t it? We all have a million balls in the air to juggle and sometimes we’re standing there, and we drop one, and we think, okay, really, is this necessary? Do I really have to have seven balls in the air? Can’t I just have six? But in reality, no, it’s not enough. It’s not enough because it’s not enough to give you what you deserve out of life. It can get tiring, stressful and sometimes even downright boring, but at the end of all of it, you have exactly what you wanted anyway. You have a happy, healthy life, with a family you can provide for – or at least yourself – and things are balanced and in proportion.

That’s what I’m struggling with right now, keeping everything balanced an in proportion. I want to splurge on things like vacations and Macbooks, and Starbucks frappuccinos and Cadbury chocolate bars from the secretary. But those kinds of things don’t help me manage anything. They’re fun, but I need to keep those kinds of things in moderation so I can focus on the important things, like paying off my debt and seeing my A1C fall under 7%.

Because those are the kinds of numbers that tell a story I like to hear.

  1. April 28, 2009 10:51 AM

    Well, I’m still working on the diabetes part. And the money part. I swear sometimes I think we are the same person….. Math and I are mortal enemies. 🙂 I did fail my college math twice before a teacher took pity on me and worked w/ me until I could pull a C.
    As for the money, I’m working on it. If you’re interested, check out Dave Ramsey. Christian financial planner. Fantastic guy. And has really helped me get my money in order. I’m not perfect yet, but I’m striving toward getting a handle on the money issues in my life.
    As far as diabetes goes, we all know that’s a day by day thing. Today is a bad day. Yesterday was okay. We’ll see what tomorrow brings…

  2. namelessnorwegian permalink
    April 28, 2009 10:59 AM

    Lovely writing my dear 🙂 You know what helps with counting?……CRIBBAGE 🙂

  3. April 28, 2009 11:08 AM

    Maybe it’s linked to diabetes…I’m horrible at math, too, and can also say I’ve flunked a math class in school. I’ve learned, through much trial and error, that the only way I can keep a handle on my finances is to write everything down. *Everything.* In fact, you know those check registers they give you for free when you get new checks? I always run out way before my checks do, so I actually make my own (computer, tape, staples–complicated process). I also keep a running log in a spiral notebook. I write down every bill I have to pay that month and approximately what it will be. Then when I pay it, I write down the actual amount and when it was paid, etc. It puts things into perspective–what I have to pay versus what I have left over to play with. I also balance my checkbook about three or four times a month. And I always use a calculator. I’ve messed up big time because I didn’t have enough fingers to add or subtract. If I balance multiple times a month, I’m more likely to catch the mathematical errors.
    As for diabetes, I haven’t a clue about numbers. I’m in week two of using NovoLog and I feel like I’m in kindergarten all over again, trying to count to ten.
    I think we’ll all be okay, though. As long as they don’t stop making calculators.

  4. April 28, 2009 3:54 PM

    I tell people all the time that there’s a reason I’m a journalist: because I hate math. In fact, when one of the kids comes to me with a math homework question, I don’t even look at it and say “Talk to your father, he’s the math person.”

  5. April 28, 2009 8:18 PM

    I hate math too! I subscribe to the theory that I hate it because diabetes forced so much number crunching on me.

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