I so wanted to write one of those “shiny happy people holding hands” New Year’s messages. One of those posts you’d save for the rest of your life, pull out even on Columbus Day, because it was just that good, that positive. You’d share it with thousands. The Dalai Lama would tweet about it, it was so profound.
I sat in my chair and tried. I squeezed my eyes shut and concentrated. I started about 10 posts. After every one, I yelled BS and turned off the computer.
Here’s the truth: I sort of dread this year. I mean, what will happen? Will Mom get worse? Will she die? Will we get to go on the big trip we planned for April? Will the staff in the facility where Mom lives stop changing so we don’t have to worry so much? Will TV Land change it’s schedule again, so all that’s on is Golden Girls, or worse, Roseanne?
These are real concerns, every one of them. They’re part of that mystery universe known only as THE FUTURE. Meaning, I have no freaking idea what will happen.
I can make myself crazy (been there, done that) or I can stop it right this very minute and focus on that tolerable place known as THE PRESENT. Ok, so sometimes it’s not that tolerable. In fact, alot of the time it just plain sucks. But it’s all we have.
Take a deep breath, because here comes that pithy expression that makes you want to hurl heavy objects at breakable things: “Remember the past, plan for the future, but live for today, because yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come.” This quote is attributed to “Anonymous.” You know why? It’s so bad no one wanted to put their name to it. I’ll pause while we collectively retch.[Insert Jeopardy music here].
Now that that’s out of our system, let’s get real.
We love people with dementia, which means the future will be full of pain and heartache, frustration and fear, anguish and anger. We could stop there, or we could retrain our brains and say instead it means we’ll learn lots of unexpected lessons, we’ll have an opportunity every day for service, we’ll grow in ways we never thought imaginable, and we’ll laugh as much as we cry.
It’s a choice. I go back and forth between those two choices on a daily basis. Heck, sometimes I flip flop between the two every minute. I’ve even been known to inhabit both mindsets at the same time. Not recommended.
That’s the nature of the dementia beast: dichotomy. A big word that essentially translates: loving someone with dementia causes crazy-maker split personalities.
OK. I can accept that.
What I can’t accept is spending my life worrying about the great WHAT IFS of life. What if Mom gets worse? Answer: she will. What if she dies? Answer: she will. What if I get all the way to Australia and have to turn right around and come home? Answer: oh well. What if TV Land shows a Roseanne marathon? Answer: Get over it and put in an Andy Griffith DVD.
Get the idea? I can’t control any of this. Worrying about it sure won’t help. So instead, I’ll take Anonymous’ advice and live for today.
Today, Mom is relatively stable and still able to talk to me on the phone. No, she doesn’t make much sense and yes, that makes me sad.
Today, Mom is alive and so am I. The degree to which I’m alive depends on my attitude. No, that isn’t profound enough for the Dalai Lama. Yes, I don’t give a rat’s ass.
So let’s turn to someone who is profound enough for the Dalai Lama, Anne Lamott. As usual, she expresses the truth in a burst out laughing sort of way:
“I said that I thought the secret of life was obvious: be here now, love as if your whole life depended on it, find your life’s work, and try to get hold of a giant panda. If you had a giant panda in your back yard, anything could go wrong — someone could die, or stop loving you, or you could get sick — and if you could look outside and see this adorable, ridiculous, boffo panda, you’d start to laugh; you’d be so filled with thankfulness and amusement that everything would be O.K. again.”
This shall be One Brave Cowgirl’s New Year’s mantra. Repeat after me:
- Be here now.
- Love as if your whole life depended on it.
- Find your life’s work.
- Try and get hold of a giant panda.
I’m envisioning one in my backyard right this very minute. Next time I visit Mom and she sleeps the entire day, I’ll bring out my giant panda. I’ll take my giant panda to Australia, just in case. If the facility is short staffed AGAIN, I’ll suggest they hire my giant panda.
Despite myself, I just smiled at the thought. See? It works.
Off we go, trudging the treacherous dementia trail with our giant pandas. How can we NOT have a happy new year with that plan?