I calibrate three times a day. I recalibrate constantly.
In the time before continuous glucose monitors, I assaulted my finger a dozen times daily. I do mean finger, singular. Like most diabetics of grizzled tenure, I have a favorite victim, the go-to digit for every blood test. In the middle of the night or the middle of a moment that is not about diabetes, I reach for my left ring finger, and I bleed it like a tube of Go-Gurt.
But the stabbings are down now that a plastic mushroom is planted on my thigh. People without diabetes compare it to a seashell, but I tell you my continuous glucose monitor (CGM) is an extra from Super Mario Brothers, a fat little fungiform that will give you gold coins every time you touch it. Or, even more valuable, a blood glucose reading every five minutes.
All it asks is a blood sacrifice three times a day, to which I say, let’s Go-Gurt.
These “fingersticks” serve to calibrate the CGM, keeping it on speaking terms with my actual blood. Living in my interstitial fluid, which swirls in my mind’s eye like Large Magellanic Cloud, the CGM is a bloodless shroom, tidy and trustworthy.
As long as I calibrate.
Left to its own devices, it would doodle and wander, proposing 350s when my real readings cruise the 120s. Calibration is messy and essential.
Recalibration is life-threatening and life-giving.
Insulin may keep bodies from turning to molasses, but hope sustains life. In the first marigold rays after divorce, I am recalibrating what it means to dream.
I’m still squinting into first light, the epiphany that dreams are plural. This feels as foreign as trying to prick my thumb rather than my ring finger.
Hadn’t all the years barreled towards the one thing? I bled and I prayed and I curated myself with a single mind and a starving heart. Creatures made of dreams subsist on a single dish, do they not? Had I not been planning my whole life for the atomic number one who would gather my sheaves, turn my past into preamble, set me at the one and only feast?
But now, with scarred fingertips and a pad of scratched-out doodles, I wondered. What if love is the one and only feast, but there are platters and tureens everywhere, teacups and goblets, ramekins and popcorn bowls?
What would it mean to dream again, if not of some honeyed “him” who could turn me into an answer? What did it mean that all the stories had short-circuited, that the apparent epilogue was only chapter nine?
Where would I squeeze my blood now?
Was the whole dream only a dish from the children’s table, Captain Crunch with a string cheese in his fist? He looked official in his broad blue hat, but does anyone even know what branch of the military he serves? Had I been looking to the likes of Mr. Peanut and Chef Boyardee for the bread of angels?
If I never kiss another man, can I still say my dream came true?
Perhaps we’re made not of dreams but of day, this day, the only page we hold. While I ramble into the rainbow-sherbet mug of metaphor, my Maker is solid, choosing workday words. Even in myth and poetry, God is a God of clarity: Adam and Eve mean “Soil” and “Life.”
This calls for recalibration. Could it be that the dream is too shallow, a one-story ranch in heaven’s suburbs? Could it be that the dream is too singular, a one-man parody that can’t bear the weight of life and soil?
If I am earth and blood, are my dreams too small?
It is easy to pump in backup dreams, windmilling dancers who jostle for the solo. The dream is no man, no marriage, no single someone to make me the chosen one. But the dream is still ultimate. The dream is a book series that heals hearts! The dream is a nonprofit that saves refugees! The dream is a single poem that makes every drop of blood worth its iron!
They court and spark like birds, holy and hollow boned.
None of them is the dream. Any of them may be a dream.
Am I strong enough to dream day-sized?
Am I brave enough to bleed each hour, to spend every drop on today?
Am I alive enough to be entrusted with dreams?
What if this exorbitant life, blood and water and dirt and breath, is the dream?
A mother who loves me and work that savors my light by the tablespoon. Long-haired cats and cinnamon cupcakes. Aprils that awaken the tulips without fail. Zydeco accordions and Facebook prayer chains and Snoopy birthday cards and solidarity.
The Spirit that prays in my weakness.
The Savior who sits with me in the soil.
The Lord who loves but also likes my lopsided life.
Am I dreaming?
Left to my own devices, I despair in the dream that came untrue. When I calibrate, when my veins run with life, when I come to the crowded table, I dream on.
I recalibrate constantly.
Angela Townsend is Development Director at Tabby’s Place: a Cat Sanctuary. She has an M.Div. from Princeton Seminary and B.A. from Vassar College. Angie has lived with Type 1 diabetes for 32 years, giggles with her mother every morning, and delights in the moon. Her work has appeared or will be published in upcoming issues of The Amethyst Review, Braided Way, Dappled Things, Fathom Magazine, Feminine Collective, and Young Ravens Literary Review, among others. Angie loves life dearly.