Here, There, and Everywhere: The Impact of The Diabetes UnConference

10450528_10153177751732328_8584133040017261821_n-2My diabetes doesn’t take a time out. There’s no napping, no long weekend out of the office, no sabbatical. I drag this sucker everywhere and even if it doesn’t play nicely with others, it gets to come along for the ride.

And I’ve been doing a lot of riding (as well as writing) these days. Word is getting out about The Diabetes UnConference which means I’ve been sharing my experience (and getting feedback from other people) here, there, and everywhere.

I’m sharing these here, because it gives you the opportunity to get acquainted with new blogs, new voices, and great communities! Attendees of The Diabetes UnConference have been talking about their own experiences here, there, and everywhere.

And Like I said… I’ve been talking about The Diabetes UnConference a lot these days with others:

Shawn Shepheard is the creator of Sugar Free Shawn and one of the most positive people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. He makes me show my goofy face and I find myself using jazz hands when I talk with him. This is a good thing. Check out his website here.

I also chatted with Daniele Hargenrader of Diabetes Dominator – not just about The Diabetes UnConference, but life with diabetes in general. (Do you know her? You should! What a dynamic force!)

One of my goals from The Diabetes UnConference of continuing crucial conversations outside of The Diabetes UnConference is blossoming… Diabetic Connect has graciously extended a hand in making these dialogs part of the larger diabetes community:

Heather Gabel delves into the words we use when talking about diabetes – a topic that we touched on at The Diabetes UnConference.

Here is my first pass for a call to action that came out a discussion about diabetes discrimination and stigma.

un-diabetes-conference-fullcolor-iconWe’ve begun something that I believe is unstoppable at The Diabetes UnConference  – and I can’t wait to propel it even further as a community through some of the initiatives we discussed there, as well as inspiring new conversations next year.

Early Bird Registration for next year’s Diabetes UnConference (March 10 – 13, 2016 in Las Vegas) opens on May 1st.  We are not just here in our words above… we will be there… because we understand that we are everywhere. Come get involved.

Forever Arriving:

IMG_0839I’d love to give you a comprehensive synopsis of what happened at the inaugural Diabetes UnConference in Las Vegas a few weeks ago, but I can’t.

It’s not because of the social media blackout (more on that later in another post) that the attendees agreed upon at the beginning of the sessions so that people could talk freely about personal issues.

It’s not because no one took notes or had nothing to say. Others have already spoken eloquently about their experience.

It’s because I can’t yet fully wrap my arms around what transpired, because they are filled with my heart. And my heart is filled with emotions I thought I could handle, but apparently… silly me. Two weeks later and I find myself struck mute, throat constricted from a remembered confession and the gratitude of brutal honesty.

As Stephen Shaul says so beautifully:

The problem is, the UnConference was not about one subject or another as much as it was about us, the people who were there, and our lives with diabetes, how we choose the devices we choose, how we navigate relationships involving diabetes, and that awful trifecta of guilt, depression, and burnout. And a LOT more.

About Us

He (and many others who have said much the same) is right. It was – and will always be – about us. Not just those physically present in the room at The Diabetes UnConference, but the “us” of our community. I’ll talk about the logistics and what worked and what didn’t – but the crux of what made this event so indescribable was the people and their individual experiences.

We are more than our diabetes, more than our diagnosis, more than our desires for a cure… but if we don’t discuss day-to-day living and “scary” or “taboo” topics with this chronic disease through deep, meaningful interactions (whether online or face-to-face), we run the risk of feeling isolated and disenfranchised.

1436965_20488329The Diabetes UnConference came out of a personal desire to create a safe place for these discussions – and an even more personal desire to push past the superficial connections that are sometimes created (not through anyone’s fault, but the way the Internet works…) online. When we walked out of that room a few weeks ago, were connections made that will take root and inspire others to be more open about living with diabetes and connect in new ways? Time will bear witness.

I know that I’ll be able to talk with greater clarity about what happened and what we are going to do next because of what happened, but for now, the cocoon is still woven tightly around me. I am comforted by that and I’m not ready to let these emotions fly just yet.

 

Stolen Words from Octavio Paz

While I can’t yet talk about it, this aptly describes how I view what occurred…

a crystal willow, a poplar of water,

a tall fountain the wind arches over,

a tree deep-rooted yet dancing still,

a course of a river that turns, moves on,

doubles back, and comes full circle,

forever arriving:

– Octavio Paz, “Sunstone”

1188980_19108234The poem is about an individual’s quest for connection and community and the loneliness that one can experience without it. (If you’ve never read it, be forewarned. It’s 584 lines long, representing the number of days it takes Venus to orbit the sun. It begins and ends with the same stanza above. This monumental work is beautiful and haunting and worth every line.)

The takeaway of the poem and The Diabetes UnConference is simply this:

we need each other. 

Whether it’s at The Diabetes UnConference or in local face-to-face meet-ups or in welcoming online community sites like TuDiabetes.org. We must create these spaces and throw open the doors to those who need to talk, all the while respecting the sanctity of what needs to be discussed

There will be a 2016 Diabetes UnConference.There will continue to be opportunities for more individuals with diabetes (and those who love us) to have heart-to-heart conversations and build new circles that grow, welcoming new and brave souls to share and teach us. I hope that smaller versions of what we began in Vegas will pop up in a local meet-up. I believe it can be done.

What did I learn (although perhaps, I always knew in my heart)?

Our community needs to have sacred spaces and full circles. We have deep roots and we will dance together. And most importantly…

We are forever arriving: