The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away. – Pablo Picasso
In October 2021, I got back the results of my blood test, the A1C – the test that measures the 90-day average of glycated red blood cells and indicates where your 3-month average places you in standard set by the American Diabetes Association. My result was 5.7 – the bottom rung of the Pre-Diabetic ladder. This was a wake up call. I was overweight and, although I had never tested this high before, I was very familiar with what could follow.
My DNA test with 23andMe had indicated that I had a 13 percent greater than average risk of developing diabetes. But I already knew that: I was genetically more likely to develop diabetes because my mother, her brother, and both my maternal grandparents had adult onset Type 2 Diabetes (T2D). It was up to me to prevent those genes from expressing themselves.
As I prepared for my weight transformation, I thought about when I took care of my Uncle John at the end of his life, and what I had learned about the effects of food, exercise and medication on diabetes. I was trained to take care of my uncle by visiting diabetic nurses, experienced care givers, and his endocrinologists.
I devised a daily form to track every factor – the portions of foods he ate, his blood glucose levels, and his medications. We improved his diabetes to the degree that we got his A1C down to 6.0 – a pre-diabetic level. This was a victory of sorts. Although he suffered from vascular dementia, he understood the score, and he said, “We did it.”
The memories of Uncle John and my own successful weight transformation led me to pursue health and wellness coaching. I wanted to have a purpose for the rest of my life — to help others with their health journeys. It seemed like a fitting way to honor Uncle John’s memory through the prism of my own story.
That particular story began many years before, when my uncle held me, a sobbing 4-year-old, in his arms and took me away from the corner scene where a speeding teenager had run over my dog. Uncle John carried me, and without saying a single word, his blanketed me with comfort. In his warm arms, he gave me solace that knew no bounds. An indelible moment of trauma was not erased, but his love and instinctive protection was embedded in me for a lifetime.
Later, we stood together on that same corner — on the day he was tested by the neurologist and couldn’t remember how to subtract 3 from 91. He was devastated. “I used to be an accountant,” he told the doctor.
As we stood on the corner, I put my arms around my uncle, and I recalled that memory of him carrying me away. “Do you remember?” I asked softly. And he nodded. And then I said, “Now it’s my turn to carry you.”
Connecting to my purpose are these book ends – separated by 60 years of time – illuminated by the deepest themes of life and love and memory. My story is as old as I am.
I share this quote by Dr. Atul Gawande from his book, Being Mortal, about the purposeful life:
In the end, people don’t view their life as merely the average of all its moments – which, after all, is mostly nothing much plus some sleep. For human beings, life is meaningful because it is a story. A story has a sense of a whole, and its arc is determined by the significant moments, the ones where something happens. Measurements of people’s minute-by-minute levels of pleasure and pain miss this fundamental aspect of human existence. A seemingly happy life may be empty. A seemingly difficult life may be devoted to a great cause. We all have purposes larger than ourselves.
It’s really about the story — my story, your story. Write down your story and connect to your purpose:
- Find out what drives you.
- Find out what energizes you.
- Find out what you are willing to sacrifice for.
- Find out who you want to help.
- Find out how you want to help.
Then, let’s talk about it together.
♥ Susan L. Ward
Integrative Nutrition Health Coach