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September 30, 2016
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Waiting for Godot

In one of my high school English classes, we had to read Samuel Beckett's play of this name. Thirty-some-odd years later, I don't remember the details, only that it centered around two men who seemed to be relatively old, penniless, and alone. They met at a particular spot each day, left each evening, and could only remember one day past and think towards one day forward. They awaited a third character, the eponymously named "Godot", who never arrived. The style was considered existentialist in that there wasn't all that much character development: what you saw was what you got. While I never read the French original, in English, "Godot" seemed a thinly-veiled metaphor for "G-d" and since old, penniless (and possibly homeless) folk have always had the shortest from-this-point life expectancy, it made sense at least on one level that these two characters were waiting to die.


Godot was, for many of my classmates, a first insight into Existentialism. Others of us had already been exposed to existentialist thought in French class (L'tranger) or in previous English classes (Camus's The Stranger the English translation of L'tranger and his Myth of Sisyphus; Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead). While I parroted back the concepts we were taught, I don't think I had the emotional maturity to really understand Existentialism until some time after I'd graduated university. As we were taught it in high school English, Existentialism was based on the concept that appearances defined reality, and that life was lived in the moment. In university French, Huis Clos (No Exit) and L'Immoraliste (The Immoralist) taught us that those appearances had karmic repercussions, that private actions manifested themselves in public appearance, and that the Existentialist Hero accepted this, embraced it, and made no excuses for it.


In some ways, I feel as if my life has been a mirror of Godot that is, spent waiting for something to happen, rather than doing something. Waiting for an interview request from submitted resumes, waiting for medical insurance to be available (or affordable, or to kick in), waiting for the returns from something that was supposed to bring in money... and as a person living with chronic illness, waiting for complications to set in. It's not that I want complications from hypertension or diabetes not that anyone with diabetes wants complications to set in but rather that we are living with the proverbial Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads, certain that one day it will drop, and while we really don't want it to happen, there are times we'd rather it just fell (or we pull it down) and be done with. (Wikipedia describes this as "Existentialist Angst".)


Even without the angst, Existentialism haunts our lives with diabetes. We test and dose religiously, afraid that one misstep now will be paid for with complications some time down the road. While we may fear to test or dose in public for fear of others seeing us as "being in poor control" of our diabetes, we know that failure to care for ourselves when, and as, needed will manifest in publicly-visible signs of poor control: blindness, missing limbs or digits, and so on. We see our public selves as manifestations of the guilt we feel for "cheating" by skipping a test, overdosing to cause a low (so we can justify a sweet treat), or eating something that is not 100% perfectly healthy and within an acceptable calorie range for our height, weight, and various medical conditions.


But just as in Godot, sometimes the absurdist element steps in: a high or low reading out of nowhere, a Joslin medalist surviving on cake and cookies, or (tragically) the blue candles we light when another child "in perfect control" meets her Maker decades before her grieving grandparents. Our brief flames of life need to be lived for the day, and to the fullest, accepting responsibility for our actions and accepting that we may be closeted for eternity in a room with two other people picking at everything we did, and did not do, during our lifetimes because just like in the play, "Godot" may never come.

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Megan Holmes
Megan Holmes Megan was diagnosed in 2009 with Type I. As an RN, she was familiar with the medical side of her diagnosis; learning to be a good patient on the other hand, was and continues to be the challenge of her day to day life.   (Read More)
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