“… It is when you have left the tried and true, but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. If you are not trained in how to hold anxiety, how to live with ambiguity, how to entrust and wait, you will run …anything to flee this terrible cloud of unknowing.” - Richard Rohr
For years, I’ve been immersed in the Diabetes Online Community (DOC), primarily focused on raising awareness about mental health issues, and advocating for and implementing arts-based initiatives. My interest in the relationship between art and diabetes has been a passion since I was in graduate school in the late 90’s, and has steered my career as an art therapist. More recently, it prompted me to pursue my doctorate, which is currently in process. When I started my doctoral program in 2011, I was warned by my professors that doctoral study changes people. And so it has.
My doctoral experience has been a struggle at times, but remarkably fruitful thus far. Seeds have been scattered, and I’ve managed to cultivate a garden of ideas, connections, and revelations. Once I planted a garden, I became attune to seeds, plants, and horticultural possibilities everywhere, so not entirely inexplicable, but still surprising, and certainly delightful, veganism sprouted and thrived amid my academic oasis. If nothing else, I learned that taking a break from writing a research paper to relax and watch a documentary, Vegucated, can have life-altering consequences. Once veganism took root, I needed to learn how to tend to it, and the more attentively I cared for it, the stronger it grew. I’ve found that the history and philosophy of veganism appeal to my intellectual curiosity, but the ideals of kindness and compassion for animals, Earth and humanity resonated with me spritiually.
I had already been losing steam with diabetes, but since my vegan awakening, diabetes issues have faded into the background, losing the urgency they once held for me. Obviously, I still have to manage my diabetes, but professionally, I don’t know if diabetes is my path anymore. As such, I’m rethinking the direction of my research, which is a profound development, considering I’ve been steadfastly dedicated to developing a career in art therapy for people with diabetes for the last 15 years.
I think this change is good though. Diabetes has consumed my life for years, between day-to-day management and academic, clinical, advocacy, and volunteer pursuits, so following my heart in a different direction has been remarkably liberating. More personally, many of the psychological wounds that festered in my teens, 20’s and early 30’s as a result of diabetes – depression, anxiety, an eating disorder, and the loathsome burden of diabetes shame – feel truly healed.
Between making peace with diabetes, and my increased knowledge and understanding of the suffering of Earth and all her creatures, human and non-human alike, the passion I once had to raise awareness about diabetes has been subdued and usurped by the more pressing need to promote peace through vegan activism. I’m excited and terrified by my impulse to go in a new direction with my academic research as I formulate ideas about vegan activism, art therapy and theories of social justice.
My doctoral work has been at something of a standstill as I’ve contemplated my new visions. Just writing this post, articulating my intentions, and putting the words out there is a significant step in my process of venturing into new territory. On the surface I’ve been feeling stuck, and have no work to show for the last several months. To my advisers, I certainly look completely unproductive. A lot happens beneath the soil though, even when the garden appears dormant. I’m on the verge. The shoots are going to emerge through the soil. Something beautiful is going to spring forth. This is the liminal space.