Mountains cannot be surmounted except by winding paths. — Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
How do we appreciate our lives as a care partner when we’re worn, torn and forlorn? How do we feel our creative spark when we don’t have time or energy for our usual forms of renewal?
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing some leading creative caregivers for an article on Conscious Caregiving for Natural Awakenings. Click here to read this article.
I’ve also found inspiration on the blog Zenhabits.net, where Leo Babauta offers great ideas for making the most of life. Leo generously shares his wisdom with anyone who wants to learn from and with him. Here are two of my favorite shots of his inspiration.
Treat an activity like a sacred ritual
Every single thing we do can be done as an afterthought, or it can be elevated to something sacred.
Washing your hands? Take a moment to realize how much of a miracle this act is (many people don’t have water for basic hygiene), take a breath, and truly pay attention as you go through this sacred hand-washing ritual.
Do your dishes the same way: every dish a miracle, every sensation elevated to a new importance, every drop of water a gem worth paying attention to.
This applies to every activity: caregiving, writing, responding to an email, listening to a friend, playing with your child, taking a shower, going for a walk, paying bills. Worthy of your full attention, worthy of joy and appreciation.
Your Intention Creates Your Greatness
Start by admitting that greatness comes from making a difference in the world.
Being an example of compassion is one way you can make a difference.
It doesn’t matter if you achieve the result you set out to achieve — you can’t control the result, but you can control your intention. And you can show up, every day with that intention.
Carve out the time. Put aside everything else. Realize that life is limited and precious and amazing, and you shouldn’t waste a minute of it.
Pursue this compassionate work with single-minded devotion. This one thing matters, and all else can be put aside for now, unless it’s in support of your work. (Good health supports your work, including a whole-foods diet, exercise, and sleep.)
This compassionate work, with good-hearted intention, pursued with single-minded devotion: this is greatness.
Here’s to all those sacred acts of daily caring and to the intentional and loving care partners, bringing greatness into the lives of those living with dementia.
Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.
Normally, Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday, a time our family gathered together at my Kansas City home. But that November, my stomach clenched at the thought of our traditional Thursday evening meal.
My mother had Alzheimer’s and the holiday would be different. I felt alone but of course I wasn’t: there were 15 million family/friend caregivers helping the five million Americans who have dementia.
I’d been through my initial storm of denial and grief. I felt I’d been coping well with Mom’s diagnosis, focusing on offering my father extra support and trying to flow with Mom’s now spotty memory and personality quirks. But a pre-season sadness invaded me in October and I found myself dreading the alleged festivities. How could we have our usual holiday dinner, take our after dinner walks, play Scrabble and Hearts and Charades without Mom’s participation? How could we enjoy going to movies and plays when Mom was having trouble focusing and sitting still? And how would Mom react to the situation: would she feel uncomfortable and out of place? Would Dad feel protective and anxious? And more important, what would we have for dessert! Mom was legendary for her chocolate and butterscotch brownies, date crumbs, and bourbon balls. No store-bought cookies would compare.
As I stewed over the prospect of a depressing Thanksgiving weekend, I remembered the vows I had made: I had promised I would try to stay connected to Mom throughout her Alzheimer’s journey. And I had promised to see the gifts and blessings and fun in the experience.
So I began thinking: if the holiday is going to be different, why not concentrate on making it different in a creative and connective way? Here are some ideas I used to make the holiday work for me.
- Acknowledge my feelings of loss and grief. I wrote them down and shared them with a few friends. Just expressing myself made me feel stronger.
- List what I would miss most during the holiday season. My list included cooking with Mom, eating her brownies and rum balls. I asked my brother, who’s a terrific baker, to make some of our favorite sweets and I set up a place in the dining room where Mom could sit next to me while I chopped mushrooms and peeled potatoes.
- Create an activity to give our holiday a new focus. We created a simple holiday scrapbook called, “The Little Kitchen that Could,” complete with a family photo shoot and a playful script.
- Appreciate my blessings. We started our Thanksgiving meal by asking everyone to name one thing he or she was grateful for. I continued my gratitude practice throughout the holiday season, either alone or with others via telephone and social media.
- Take extra good care of myself. I treated yourself as I would a friend who’d suffered a deep loss.
- Set up a lifeline. “I’m worried about melting down,” I told my friend. She urged me to call anytime for encouragement and reassurance.
These six steps helped me enjoy my holiday and appreciate my mom just as she was. Our holiday was “different” but it was also wonderful.
Q 4 U : How have you adapted your holiday expectations?