Memory Lane is Overrated

Ah, the freedom I see in the faces of my friends at the nursing home when they have no other choice but to be in the present moment. In fact, it’s only when this capacity diminishes, and more of what we’d call lucidity comes forth, do I notice a shift in the peace and happiness they were feeling.

The lessons we can take away from this interesting, misunderstood, un-understood state of being are not insignificant. As we live in an era where consciousness is regarded as key to our bliss, imagine how fully conscious one must be within the world of dementia. Sounds oxymoronic, yet the call to live in the ‘now’, in the present, really does invite us to move out of the past, not be concerned with a future that never comes.

My mother rarely

visits the past or future anymore and her sense of freedom, peace and contentment, is palpable. Yet we often approach people with dementia with a great deal of sadness, fear and pity.

When you are faced with your own pain in dealing with a loved one with dementia, try this exercise:

Ask yourself, “What is it I am sad about?” Often the answers seem obvious, yet when examined, they don’t make much sense. Because I want to be remembered? Memory is subjective and fickle anyway!

Because I don’t have anything to talk about if we can’t be connected by our past? The past can imprison us to sameness and inertia. Think of the freedom of expression dementia can bring to both of you!

Next, allow yourself to feel sadness or fear or pity. Honor you feelings in this, for the richness of life can indwell in them. However, at the point just before an emotional reaction, such as tears or an outburst, get a sense of where you feel it in your body. Notice it, acknowledge it, feel the power of it.  Recognize that this reaction is relying on past experiences and not on the present moment.

It seems that the sadness, fear and pity has more to do with OUR inability to be present, our remembrance of past pain and our concern of future troubles. Yet right here, right now, everything is perfect. Just like my mother. Just like dementia.

(Natalie’s mother passed on Oct 12, 2010. “All is dark and they pray, ‘Remember, children, what the days have taught you’ “. The Golden Grandparents in Lavender Ladies)

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