Monthly Archives: August 2013

Support among amateur singers

Monday a week ago, I wrote about my faltering preparations for a group recital. Well, after less than a week of flurried final preparations for the recital, the performance came to pass last Saturday. I had a couple of glitches (hmm, maybe a couple more) during the song, but I was very happy with the outcome.

This was me, trying to stay calm and collected, adorned with sparkling paste, before I went on stage. (Please no comments about my tan lines, I’m embarrassed enough as it is.)

Recital August 2013

I learned more about myself in the past few days and hours leading up to the actual performance. I would list them down if I didn’t think it would bore you, but I can tell you that I was so glad that I was not satisfied with a so-so performance, that I did not give up, and that I continued to practice and improve what I could in the last few days. Based on what I saw and what I gathered from chatting with the other singers, I have no doubt that they, regardless of their skill and time spent studying singing, did the same.

I spent quite a lot of time back stage and in the dressing rooms observing and listening to the other performers. The dressing rooms were not just places to change clothes but where we  vocalized, warmed up, and did last-minute practice without being heard in the concert hall. Imagine a room full of vocalizing singers, and you end up with a cacophony of voices. But no matter how discordant we may have sounded back stage, we were all united in one goal – and that is to sing to the best of our abilities.

But, we arrive at our best singing selves in different ways. Some, like me, need a lot of time to vocalize. Others need a last practice with their accompanist. Some spent time meditating, while others were chatting and playing catch up with each other. We also had different learning periods. It may take some several months to learn a 6-minute aria, while others may only need a few weeks. Some may have had only an hour each day practice time, while others may have had lesser or more time. That does not make one’s preparations better or worse than others’. We all arrived at the same concert hall, on the same day, for the same recital; and we all acknowledged everyone’s efforts to get there and to actually be there.

Interestingly, some people imagine that singers try to scratch each other’s eyes out in the effort to be the best singer of the lot. I’m sure each of us wants to be the best singer of any group, but, no, we don’t stab each other in the back. We all know that it won’t help our growth as singers and certainly not our own performance. If we try to out sing others, then we end up ruining our own voices. Conversely, we know that imposing our singing and vocalizing ideas on others may end up ruining their voices. But we freely offer our support, practical tips and encouraging words (both before and after the performance). Often, a whisper of “good luck” before going on stage, and applause and a pat on the back after our song, are all the support we need from each other.

I’m sure you can guess where I’m going with this. Isn’t it so much like dealing with Type 2 D (or diabetes in general for that matter)? The main goal is to keep our blood glucose level as close to a normal person’s as possible, and stave off complications the best we could. But there is no single right way of achieving that goal. Some do it with diet alone. Others with diet and exercise. Still some may need help with some medication, while some may need to insulin. Or, it may be through a combination of some form or other of these treatment methods. Just as performers hope for a good performance on stage, we as diabetics hope to arrive at an acceptable blood glucose level, no matter what path and how long we take to get there.


Supporting each other

I’ve just finished reading a thread on a diabetes board that I’m a member of (by the time I read it, it was already closed). As the founder of the board described it, the thread was “extremely disappointing”. He’s right. I was not only disappointed but also saddened and incensed by the behavior of many of the members.

The original poster (OP), a new member, asked a general question to Type 2 diabetics who deal with their diabetes in a certain way, only to be pummelled by a group of diabetics who insisted on their chosen (but different) T2D treatment and tried to convince the OP of their perceived error of her ways and the superiority of their preferred treatment. In addition to unleashing a slew of unresponsive posts to convert the OP to their thinking, most of the posters from the same mold were entirely oblivious to the fact that they ganged up on her, ignored her question entirely, and wrote what they themselves wanted to hear, and then utterly failed to understand why she was frustrated with them. One poster even described the OP as the bully and as someone who seemed entirely convinced of her position but who needed to accept other people’s right to express their opinion and efforts to change her mind, and then pointed out that she can try to change other people’s views if she wanted to. The irony is that that poster’s description applies, not to the OP, but to him and his cohorts. He also conveniently ignored the fact that the OP was not there to convince anyone of anything but was looking for support.

Needless to say, the OP got so frustrated and angry that she left the community.

This incident is not an isolated one. I’ve seen this kind of incident repeated in different incarnations, not just in that board but in other boards as well. While there is a lot of support in the various diabetes online boards, that support is time and time again spoiled by rude, disparaging, and sanctimonious remarks from members who just cannot get past their own cherished beliefs long enough to contemplate the possibility that there are other approaches that may be as valid to others as their approach is to them. These diabetics are quick to judge, criticize and even bully those who do not agree with them, and are just as quick (if not quicker) to take offense at the slightest whiff of disagreement, at some imagined injury, or even at nothing. Frankly, they often sound and behave like fanatic members of a cult who do not care about anything except to convert people to adopt their own image and way of life.

Type 2 diabetics may have one thing in common, Type 2 diabetes, but we are not clones of each other, we do not have the same lives, resources, desires and goals, and we do not have to think and act homogeneously. We do not have to deal with our diabetes in the same way. What we do need is support and, contrary to what some may believe, support does not come in only one form.

Instead of wearing self-imposed blinders, our community needs to be more open and accepting of others. Let us avoid coloring everything we hear or read with only our biases and prejudices. We need to really listen to each other’s experiences, thoughts, and ideas, not just when they are the same as ours but more so when they are different from our own. Let us take the time to find out where someone came from, where he is now and where he wants to go, and respect and accept what we find. We do not have to agree with each other all the time, but neither do we have to disagree in a belligerent, self-righteous and disrespectful manner. Most of all, let us support each other regardless of our approach to Type 2 diabetes.

Whatever path we choose, whichever strategy we adopt to control our diabetes, and however we live our lives, we all live with this darn T2D. We already have to deal with public prejudices, sometimes even from those with diabetes of a different type. We already have to spend the rest of our lives with this condition and possibly the complications that come with it. We do not need to divide our community and isolate each other by judging, bullying, and alienating others.

Additional information: The OP showed more sense than those who ganged up on her and is still checking in. Good for her. A number of “right” (meaning, those who practice the treatment she wanted to hear from) members have responded to her question. Hopefully, everyone has learned a valuable lesson from the whole episode.

Singing, running and T2D

August 12, Monday, was not my day. It’s five days before my recital on Saturday, five very short days away, and my training is not going well at all.

Recital? What recital?

Singing is a passion of mine, and I take lessons in Western classical singing. I attend our school’s annual school recital in the winter, and I choose to participate in the yearly summer recital organized by my teacher for all her students. This year’s summer recital is scheduled for this Saturday.

Today, I had a session with my accompanist to make sure that we will be in sync for Saturday. We did not have any issue in the past, but this afternoon, I just could not get it right. My voice was either too high (that is, reedy) or too low (that is, heavy), neither of which was good as it showed lack of control, exhaling too much air, heavy consonants (which lead to the vowels being sung late), among other problems. If I couldn’t keep my voice even, I was not being efficient with my breath, which in turn made my singing choppy instead of smooth, my tones uneven, and my voice too weak to get to the far end of the hall. All not very good.

One problem was probably that I did not have time to vocalize in the morning before leaving for work. And I need a lot of time to vocalize. Some people can vocalize in 10 minutes and are ready to sing a full aria, while others like me need more time. Today, sufficient vocalization was important as today was the only time my accompanist and I had for practice, unfortunately for me.  We are both busy and neither of us can take frequent long lunch breaks, so I can’t schedule another session with her before Saturday (we agreed to meet early at the recital hall on Saturday and practice, before the actual recital –  hopefully that’s sufficient).

But whatever the problem is, it’s more than lack of vocalization. My voice itself was not the problem, but the way I was singing. Every single minute of our practice session was horrendous. I tell you, I had to fight back my tears. Something was blocking my concentration, which in turn was affecting my performance. Right now, I don’t know what it is, but I intend to find out. I only have a few days, so I have to figure it out soon if I want to turn in a good performance.

On my way back from practice to the office, while I was mulling things over, I noted that it’s not so different from handling my blood glucose levels. When I think I’ve nailed it, a higher-than-usual BG level for no clear reason will remind me that things are not always as they seem. Keeping my BG level is not a breeze. It requires continuous work, attention and adjustment. With singing, even if you have mastered the technique, you have to continue practicing and adjusting, but also to learn to sit back and be confident that you’ve done all you needed to do and could do, accept the results (whatever they may be), and (if things don’t go as planned) commit to doing well at the next performance. It’s the same with running. Despite the best preparations, something can go wrong at the race itself. It takes a lot of physical hard work and dedication to even get to the starting line. And if you have done all you can do to prepare for the day, then accept what you have achieved for that day. Just vow to lace your shoes for the next run.

But I can always choose to walk away from running and singing, although I’ve not done that yet (I can’t live with myself otherwise). With T2D, though, you can’t walk away from it. Even if, for the sake of argument, that you’ve forgotten about your T2D or have decided to ignore it, it is there, slowly destroying your body. Even if I say it doesn’t dictate who I am, because it doesn’t, T2D remains a major part of me, as are running and singing. The only difference is that while I can choose not to run and sing, I cannot “unchose” being a T2 diabetic.

What to do? Accept and fight. I can’t think of any other way to go about it. Can you?

Accepting is not acknowledging defeat. No, it is only by realizing that there’s a problem that we can actually begin to understand and address it. Then, we fight it. We fight high BG. We fight depression. We fight self-pity and guilt. We fight complications. We fight judgment, not just from non-diabetics or people with other types of diabetes, but also from fellow Type 2 diabetics. Hopefully, with success on our side.

As I’ve said earlier, it’s not so different from running or singing. I’ve done 4 marathons now and some shorter races. As John “The Penguin” Bingham said, “The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” I can say the same of singing on stage in front of strangers. The miracle isn’t that I got through my song, but that I had the courage to get up there and sing in the first place. I can easily pretend that I have sore throat and back out from my performance, but what does that make of me? If I think that I can’t do a personal best at a race, I can fake an injury, but again, what does that make of me? So it is with T2D. I cannot opt out of diabetes, but I can choose not to fight it. But if I don’t face it and deal with it, I suffer. So, every day I choose to fight T2D. That is the miracle, and for me that is the only way to go.

I can’t say if my passion for running and singing contributes to how I deal with my T2D more than how I deal with my T2D contributes to my singing and running. But I can say that each contributes to the other. I firmly believe that every experience we have, every decision we make, and every mistake we learn from, make us stronger, inform other aspects of our lives, and shape who and what we are.

My immediate problem at the moment is my singing recital, but I’m not defeated yet. I will only be defeated if I don’t show up and try my best, and I have no desire to do either. I still have a few more days to fine-tune my performance, and that I have every intention of doing so.

A run cut short

My scheduled run today did not go as planned. The main problems were the heat and humidity. It was just too hot this morning. Of course, it may not have been an issue had I started earlier, but I went back to sleep after the alarm went off. And of course I did not have to go back to sleep had I not come home really, really late last night after a night out with my husband and a friend.

When I finally peeled myself off the bed, and changed into my purple spaghetti-strapped tank top and yellow polka dots short shorts, the morning had gotten hotter – much hotter.  But I decided to stick to my running plan anyway. I had run through many hot and humid days before, so this should be no different. So, after drinking my third cup of water, I headed out.

I managed to run only 15 minutes before the heat became unbearable for me. I stopped. That was good. I should have just turned around and walked home. But my senses seemed to have deserted me because I decided to walk the distance I planned to run. I thought “I’ll be walking so it should be no problem, right?” That was one bad idea.

The humidity made moving, even walking, a struggle. There was hardly any breeze. There was hardly any cloud this morning and the sun was scorching down strongly (the river bank was full of scantily clad sun worshippers). At one point, I thought that I was going to faint. I struggled just to put one foot in front of the other.

Luckily for me, at the start of my run, before the heat had the chance to sap my senses, I chose  a route that was dotted with drinking fountains. I stopped at every single one of them, except for one which was surrounded by about 30 (or was it 40 or 50?) boys in baseball outfits elbowing each other to get a sip of water. I also drenched my head, face, neck and nape at every water stop. I have no idea what I looked like!

I don’t know how anyone can move in the heat, but some did. I saw several groups of boys playing baseball and football (soccer), or doing drills. Many of the high school players wore long tights and tight shirts underneath their uniforms (I know because I saw them changing).  Then, I came across runners who wore long-sleeved black compression tops and long black compression tights. They were trotting along at a slug’s pace. I can’t possibly imagine myself going out in the heat fully covered in tight compression regalia. How can they stay cool? I wondered quietly to myself if they were training to race across the Sahara Desert.

When I got back to our apartment, I spent a very, very long time in the air-conditioned lobby, and I’ve lost track of how much water I’ve drunk.





Tanzawako 10 K Run

I’ve just signed up for the Tanzawako (Tanzawa Lake) 10 K run, although I still have to pay for the entry fee – which I promise (cross my heart) to do tomorrow.

There’s a half-marathon as well, which I initially thought of running. But honestly speaking I chickened out. I could probably train to run a half-marathon by November 24 but I didn’t want to risk another leg injury. I broke my leg only last March. So, yes, I’m not embarrassed (truth be told, I am but I’m pretending otherwise) to say that I used my recent leg injury as my excuse not to do the longer race. 🙂 I wonder if this qualifies me as lazy.

Anyway, I’m just happy to race again.

Now all I need to do, apart from the training of course, is to gather information on scenic and tourist spots around Tanzawa Lake.  I’m not a “guerrilla racer from out of town” (I made this phrase up) who go to a town just to run but not explore the town. I am no doubt looking forward to researching all I could about Tanzawa Lake and its environs.