I wrote Requiem to share my family’s Alzheimer’s caregiving experiences with those who might benefit from those experiences. I chose the fiction genre, not memoir, so that along with our family’s actual episodes, I could include those from other families’ lives to represent a well-rounded representation of the highs and lows of the family caregiving journey.
I was my father’s primary long-distance caregiver – caregiving that I carried out in person numerous times for several years at his southern Oregon memory care community, and daily from my home in the Seattle, Washington area. Additionally, as an Alzheimer’s Association support group facilitator and a State long term care ombudsman, I met many family caregiver heroes who I believed deserved to have their stories told.
Journey is a different kind of novel, one that spotlights the challenges of being a fallible human being in a world where what we believe might change from time to time – oftentimes for the better. But the not-so-good changes also exist, because as humans we don’t always get it right. Fortunately, lessons can be learned nonetheless.
But why should you purchase either of these books? Although I believe in my work as a writer, I am painfully aware that readers have millions of titles from which to choose, but I sincerely believe you will be glad that you chose mine as a Holiday gift for yourself or for others. And if by chance you aren’t interested in my novels, please pass this post along to someone who might be. Be well. Stay well, y’all.
The brain is an organ we need to nurture, support, and appreciate. But sometimes the brain steers us in the wrong direction and if you’re like me, when that happens your well-being can get out of wack.
That’s when I end up having a love-hate relationship with my brain. Bear with me while I explain.
Let’s face it, that most sophisticated computer that rests within the skull that rests on top of the shoulders, doesn’t always get it right, like when the following scenarios occur:
- Insomnia because your brain wants you to figure out absolutely everything needed in order to cure the ills of the world – or at the very least, the ills of the small portion of the world in which you reside. Such future-focused attention doesn’t provide much present comfort, does it?
- Anxiety that doubles in intensity because anxiety is always fueled by fear – a fear that the brain expertly releases because of its innate fight or flight behavior that is simply trying to keep you safe but really overdoes it a bit…or a lot, if you’re me.
- Distraction gets in the way of full-functioning because too much input floods the brain so its ability to compartmentalize, eliminate surplus, and operate properly, stumbles a bit out of the starting blocks.
That’s just a few of the computer malfunctions that can take place within this wonderful mass of gray matter that no living being can do without.
But speaking personally, when I examine each of the bullet points above, I can willingly acknowledge that I might have more control over those anomalies than not.
- INSOMNIA: Instead of obsessing about the future – over which I have no control whatsoever while lying on my bed prepped for sleep – I can do my level best to be in the present where the future has no bearing whatsoever. Breathe. Read a book to sideline the brain’s worrisome thoughts about tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day. One thing I know for sure, just lying there being frustrated about my sleepless state won’t do me any good so at the very least it’s a good idea to get out of bed and do something soothing to sidetrack the future-focused craziness going on inside my head.
- ANXIETY: If I address the current state of my being and realistically assess what is and what is not happening – shifting my focus from hyper-alertness broad spectrum attention to in-the-moment reality – my fear of the “what if” has no place in my day. I’ve learned that what I pay attention to magnifies in intensity. If I’m just focusing on that lower back pain twinge, that’s all that exists. You and I both know that isn’t the case but if you’re me, that little twinge may as well be a life threatening stabbing knife.
- DISTRACTION: Understanding that multi-tasking is not productive and is a myth that has been perpetuated over the centuries, challenges me to do one thing at a time so my brain does its level best on one task and then moves onto the next one. The more multi-tasking that occurs, the more chances to make mistakes – some of which can be dangerous; multi-tasking while driving, or taking care of a child come to mind.
Of this I am certain, however: I am grateful for my brain that most of the time serves me very well. You see, my father died from Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 89 so I’m well aware of what can go awry in the brain’s circuitry, and there are so many other anomalies and abnormalities that can affect the brain, but I’ll try not to lose sleep over them!!! Although my brain isn’t perfectly normal, I will celebrate that it’s not all that abnormal so I will do my level best to not sweat the small stuff.
And although I don’t believe that it’s ALL small stuff, I can admit that a heck of a lot of it is.
I learned something very valuable from two writer friends, Jill and Ann, both of whom live in North Carolina. Instead of New Year’s resolutions, Jill and Ann set a New Year intention and that intention is in the form of a single word. Jill selected MINIMIZE for 2019 and Ann selected ENLARGE.
The word-intention I have selected for 2019 is ACCEPTANCE.
You may be saying to yourself, “Oh, oh, sounds like Irene is giving up, lacking in hope, settling for less. Quite the contrary is true, and I’ll tell you why.
I chose the word ACCEPTANCE because applying that word in my life allows me to be more understanding and acknowledging of those with whom I may hold differing opinions. (Accepting does not equate to agreeing, it simply means I accept a person’s right to hold ideas and opinions that are not identical to mine.) ACCEPTANCE also provides me with greater ease of life as I accept reality rather than fight what can’t be changed. I read recently that arguing with reality can be harmful to one’s health; I’m not going to waste a minute on such fruitless efforts.
The concept of ACCEPTANCE started to seep into my consciousness when early in 2018, I watched the TED video, A love letter to realism in a time of grief. In less than twenty minutes of your time, you will witness what Mark Pollock & Simone George learned about reality and about the difference between being an optimist and being a realist. Here’s a teaser explanation that will perhaps explain why I came to choose my 2019 word-intention.
Optimists rely on hope alone and end up disappointed. Realists accept the brutal facts and keep hope alive. Acceptance knows that grief is a raging river and you have to get in it because when you do, it carries you to the next place; it eventually takes you to the open land where it will turn out okay in the end.
I guess if you don’t get into the river, you’ll get stuck and never have the opportunity to find out what lies just beyond the bend. I have stepped into the river, and although I might step out from time to time during this new year, I feel confident I will get back in because of the desire not to miss out on what I cannot see. You see, because I’m not perfect, I’ve set ACCEPTANCE as an intention, rather than a resolution.
With resolutions, it’s all or nothing, baby; the pressure is on to change that something-or-other you discovered and have resolved to change. Sometimes resolutions get abandoned within the first 30-days, others don’t get much farther into the new year because many of us decide to just give up and take up that resolution the following year, or the one after that.
Intentions, however, have a more compassionate energy because they are not tied to outcomes. When I slip up I hope to view that shortcoming with less criticism and simply start over because the next moment presents a brand new opportunity. If I were to break my resolution, however, I think I would look at that setback as a failure because of messing up the “fix” I had decided to make in my life. With an intended action, however, I am on a path to create, rather than fix. Creating seems to allow a bit more leeway, don’t you think?
I leave you with the words of Socrates to explain my decision to intend, rather than resolve:
The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.
To make changes, a strategy has to be effective. Intention does that for me.