Rhythm of Life – By Lucy Thomas
It’s weird when I think about it now but I went through quite a large chunk of my life (well what’s been of it so far!) without having anything to feel really passionate about. Yes I have some great friends and have done lots of exciting things but many things that caught my interest initially soon fell to the wayside as I got bored and went in search of something else to entertain me. My personal investment in anything was shockingly low. I mean we’re talking actual fear of getting a 12 month phone contract because ‘I wasn’t quite ready for that sort of commitment’.
Then I saw Taiko.
For those of you wondering how on earth this relates to being a Type 1 Diabetic or what on earth Taiko actually is….don’t worry I’m getting there!
Taiko awoke something in me that made me realise there was more to life than, work, pub and of course….being a diabetic. Whilst I’m not ashamed or embarrassed of being a diabetic I have always been cautious not to make it the main thing that people use to identify me.
Anyway I digress. Taiko; a performing art since the 1950s that originated in Japan and uses various sized drums, movement and rhythms played by all ages and sizes around the world. It’s extremely physical and requires a lot of energy, patience and a truck load of positivity. All of which when I first started playing two and a half years ago, I was painfully lacking.
Taiko has given me the opportunity to show just exactly what was possible if I really pushed myself. An all too common human trait is to not try something for fear of failure, something I’ve been guilty of on many occasions trying to kid myself with the age old ‘well at least I tried’ excuse. I’ve had the chance to play in some rather interesting shows, and even got to go to Japan last year to perform. Experiences that would have passed me by had I given up every time it got hard.
In relation to my diabetes Taiko pushes me right to the limit. As I mentioned it’s extremely physical and has been a huge factor in improving my fitness, something with is important as a diabetic but something I hadn’t paid that much attention to before I started playing. Naughty me!
Anyway, as any performer knows when you’re on stage whether it is in a theatre or as part of a village fete you want to know you gave it 120%. The anxiety that comes with performing in front of any sized crowd is severely heightened when mixed with the fear of the possibility of an unexpected hypo occurring half way through a set. You can’t just stop, hold your hand up and go ‘Excuse me….I’m ever so sorry everyone…I know you’re enjoying this but it would seem I’m having a hypo. I’m so terribly sorry…I don’t suppose anyone in the audience has a Kit Kat?’ That can’t happen when you’re performing as part of a group, it sort of messes with the dynamic.
It’s not just the performing. Taiko drums are MASSIVE and quite heavy, shifting them about is a workout in itself. The planning undertaken in order for me to get through a ‘gig day’ (help set up a show, perform, load everything away again into the van…and then unload it back into studio) without my sugar levels taking a serious plunge southwards is sometimes EXHAUSTING! But, you know what? I don’t care. It’s worth it.
Cruelly, as some diabetics may have experienced, the adrenaline caused by nerve-wracking activities can cause your sugar levels to spike, making you become hyper which I’ve found has a negative effect on how well I play, like I’m moving through cotton wool and my eyesight goes terribly blurry, though the drums are big enough that I can still see them, even if they are fuzzy around the edges!
Then, just as cruelly, when it’s all over, the relief of not messing up or getting through another show without accidentally letting go of a drum stick and it hitting someone’s face in the crowd causes those delightful sugar levels to come crashing down and whilst everyone around you is trying to pack up all you can do is sit, shake and down Lucozade like there’s no tomorrow.
But there always is a tomorrow, thankfully, and as clichéd as it may be the satisfaction of thinking to yourself ‘I just did such and such and my diabetes didn’t stop me at all’ is extraordinary. That’s not me thinking I’m special because I’m a diabetic but on days where I have several hypos and feel completely wrecked I can still assure myself that it doesn’t matter, I’m still capable of doing what I want, when I want which means I am very, very lucky!
To see some Taiko in action, take a look at this – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdH765YwUsw I’m in the back row, 2nd in from the right!