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The Arts, and Diabetes

The Arts, and Diabetes

vangoughArticle originlly from WorthEveryPenny

(I promise this will get to diabetes. I don't promise a short trip.)

I believe that ability in the arts - in most things, actually, but that's a broader subject - is composed of two major elements. The first is what is either inborn or perhaps gifted by the universe: talent, genius, soul, inspiration, whatever makes sense to you. The other is what I like to call "chops", borrowing a term some musicians use: the accumulated skills, experience, practice, and know-how that goes into producing the artistic work, whether that work is a dance, a sonnet, a song, a painting, or any other creative work.

The full role of talent, etc., is perhaps disputable. (I recently heard an interview with a psychologist who argues that talent plays little or no role in ability, which is really obtained through education and practice.) But the role of "chops" is not disputable: the cellist is the high school orchestra may have loads and loads of soulfulness to express, but that doesn't make him Yo-Yo Ma. No amount of talent will make a toddler with her fingerpaints into an instant Georgia O'Keefe. The five-year old in ballet class may have been gifted with a body perfectly suited to dance, but he's not (yet) Rudolf Nureyev.

It's my belief that we pay too much attention to the "talent" side of the equation. Many years ago, I read a weird and wonderful book called "Sayonara, Michelangelo", which was about many things, but mostly about Michelangelo's paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the restoration thereof late in the last century. At one point in the book, the author argues that in praising Michelangelo's genius, we wind up giving him insufficient credit for his ability, his experience, and his hard work.

I once read a memoir by the actor Alan Alda, most famous for his role in "M.A.S.H.". The real revelation for me from that book is the amount of the actor's craft that must be learned, from the ways to express certain emotions to successfully mimicking an accent. George Clooney's a great actor, I'm told, but he wouldn't be without his chops.

Earlier week, with considerable reluctance, I blogged a poem I'd written. I got some very nice comments on it, and I'm pleased it connected for some people. But, other than the schoolwork everyone's done, I've written maybe three dozen poems in my life. But I haven't written hundreds of poems, I haven't sat through critiques by fellow students knowledgeable and passionate about the craft, and I know very little about form and meter. While I did write a poem that expressed my idea, I'm not a poet - I just don't have the chops.

Chops plays a huge role in diabetes management, too, and we acquire them only with time and effort. Although our bodies continue to spring surprises on us, we do learn how to anticipate and deal with many of the individualities of our own diabetes. (Shredded Wheat is poison, diabetes? Really, diabetes?) We learn tips and techniques for a thousand things, from how to test our blood to the way we want to handle doing so in public. A person dependent on insulin are engaged in a lifelong process of learning how to be his or her own pancreas. (My hat is off to those who have mastered the "double wave bolus".) From time to time, we need to learn (or relearn) that the things we know HOW to do are important enough to actually do them.

Then, there are the lessons that can be harder to learn because we don't entirely want to learn them, from maintaining our weight (for those with that issue) to avoiding those favorite foods that, although we CAN eat them, just aren't worth what they do to us. (I'm looking at you, white rice.)

I'm learning, and you're learning. We need to be gentle with ourselves about what we haven't yet learned, acknowledge and feel good about the things we have learned, and be open to the things we don't yet know that we need to learn.

Above all, there are no good or bad diabetics. It's all chops.

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