I first called this post Holidays are Dreadful.
Well, they are. Not, of course, only for dementia victims, although many of them have lost a sense of time or the significance so they are actually fine, but for everyone struggling with loss. While everyone else is kissing and hugging with family, we are on the edge of our sanity, trying to put a brave face on all the well-wishing.
Like millions around the world, for us, the celebrations have a dark edge we tiptoe around, while our friends and family try their best to make it better, and we pretend they are, because it is what it is, and there is no alternative.
But that was that post, and now i want to move from the dark and the pain to the light, if i can.
The gifts this long journey have given me need full acknowledgement. Hold on, it is a pretty long list.
I have learned to dance in public. Always too embarassed to get up and boogy, now i do, at the least opportunity. Especially in the care home, trying to help others to moments of joy. And gaining joy myself, because I have forgotten to care about how or what others see.
I have met and grown to love my caregiving sisters, because we know each others’ hearts in special ways. This is a priceless gift.
Most of those sisters are people i would not, in normal day-to-day busy-ness, have had the opportunity to get to know. My life is richer.
I am slower to judge (still a work in progress) and most of the anger has been burned out of my soul.
I am learning to listen, not to the words, but to the person speaking, and this is glorious. Truly, really listening puts you into a glorious space. Well, yes i must admit, when you hear the pain, anger, greed, that hurts, but better to hear than block one’s soul from listening to all.
I am unimpressed by incontinence. We come into the world as babes and now i see incontinence as an artificial fear. The people remain, despite the disability.
I am more inclined to speak my mind and heart, and damn the torpedoes, but less inclined to be mean about it.
Trust has always been difficult for me, too much and bad consequences, or too little, and ditto. Now I am much happier in the dementia world, and its framework, where you might get whanged if you are in the wrong place and say the wrong thing, but where people are right there, bold-faced, up front, they are what they are. I am learning to be so too and meet them where they are. It is joyeous when that connection happens. Life is short and precious.
I am spending many years contemplating how, as my love got more ill, he went out of his way to rescue earthworms, save spiders, not step on ants, and generally show respect for life. Often with a fond chuckle. Which was a bigger change than those who know him now would imagine.
I have learned with great difficulty, and to my disbelief, that i am not special. Disaster strikes and you … cope. Or fall apart…. Or do both! The choice laid on you could be slow or instantaneous, could be because of a diagnosis, a natural disaster, a war, but none of us are immune. And we don’t know how we will adjust, what strengths we have, until we need them.
And the same is true at death, the mysterious end of our path here on earth.
I remember a dear friend of mine, lost to the cosmos too young, who would not put up with regrets about the past. What-Ifs are useless baggage and we need not drag them around. But we can listen undefensively and with no regrets to those voices woven through our lives. Every day is richer for them.
And that is just life and death on planet earth.
In a strange grief-ridden way, I am content.