The world issues are scary enough, so I offer this piece instead. I was in my thirties when I first began to lose words as I summoned them. I was leading a movement meditation workshop in Vermont and that perfect metaphor, that evocative description of our work, began to slip away from my grasp as I taught. When the workshop was completed, I don’t think anyone but me realized that my MS had begun to develop cognitive malfunction. I tried to adapt language that did not need a master’s degree to comprehend. I pictured my brain as having tiny Swiss cheese holes growing inside. On the long drive home, I decided that I would go back solely to conducting one on one counseling sessions. I could no longer hold the stress of twenty egos in my awareness when I was struggling to keep my own intact.
Now that I have begun my seventieth year, I have joined everybody else around me in those slippages of short term and working memory loss. Euphemistically called “senior moments”, they are a normal feature of our daily interactions. As I am describing the movie that I saw just last night, the name of that actor is….?? I go into my kitchenette for….??? I am learning to stop right there and observe what happens next.
Invariably I run through a number of reactions. Frustration, anger, fear (strong one), and eventually, humor, all take their turns. I live in an assisted living area and my neighbors are in various stages of cognitive capability. My 100-year-old near neighbor is sharper than I am on many fronts. Other neighbors, in a carefully monitored area, are unable to function on their own at all and are supervised so that they don’t accidentally wander off beyond the secured doors. Dementia is very stigmatized label, and I have a healthy respect that their current condition could easily become mine or yours. At Kendal we are given so much compassionate care with appropriate stimulation tailored to every individual. Of course, millions of people are not so fortunate as those who are privileged to live here. I watched my mother die with AIDs related dementia, and my husband had brain tumors that distorted his participation in the world before he died.
What if I looked at my own forgetful blank spaces as a gift? I am stopped in my tracks to pay attention to my normal juggernaut of words and actions. Why not hold them as a teaching and not a sign of something that is being taken away from me?
What happens if I allow myself to not know” for that instant? I am offered an opportunity to pause, to breathe, to be quiet, to be still, to watch what happens next. Often, I sigh in relief when I stop pushing forward where my thoughts did not want to take me. If I am in conversation with a friend, I can simply say,” I can’t remember the actor’s name, but we liked his work in that other movie we saw together last week”. Or in the kitchenette by myself, I can simply sit on my rollator, breathe, and look around. Then I might spot the cup of tea I made an hour ago still waiting for me. If I can do this without embarrassment or hint of shame, I waste no emotional energy to reheat the tea and take it back to my desk to continue writing.
Awareness is a much more efficient space from which to direct our energies. The lack of memory retrieval can be a gift to unwrap. We can learn to treat ourselves with care, respect, compassion, and self-love, which is perhaps the hardest gift of all to accept. Humor also gives us the distance to accept our aging body/minds. My cousin’s mother use to say, “Oh, I’ll remember alright, but it’s not always the same day delivery.”
Stop Right There
That unarticulated thought
the unshed tear
the catch in your throat
was it relief or sorrow for what is lost?
A forgotten name
an unmet appointment
pushing the wrong button
a failed attempt
There is a way
to hold yourself
in loving acceptance
to be aware
for always being exactly who
and where you are
and still to do your best
this is my return address
2 thoughts on “Blue Moon Halloween: Stop Right There”
Judi, I am with you completely. My brain skips, trips and fades. I find it unnerving and
frightening. Shame often takes over too. Your writing seems intact and even eloquent.
I wonder how does that work when other times our words feel like disjointed cars on a train.
Thanks so much for sharing your positive perspective of acceptance.
Sending a warm embrace. Judith
Thanks Judith. I write a lot and often as a way to discover what I keep below my conscious thoughts. Much of it is not for posting as it is far from intact. Every now and then the murk clears and clarity prevails- I try to take advantage of anything and everything that inspires and supports dissolving my default position of shame. Hugs back, and yesterday I wore the purple earrings you gave me before I left. I always think of you whispering wisdom in my ears…xoJ