Sunday, March 5, 2017

What you are seeking is seeking You.

The first time I ever met Anne she politely asked me to leave.
“Goodbye!” She said in a strong, matriarch voice. “Good-bye!” she repeated just in case I didn’t get the message.
I had sat frozen in my seat for an extra minute, feeling like a pink-faced candy striper who had just walked in on a naked patient. But. But...I’ve only been here ten minutes I remember thinking. Ten minutes into our one hour visit.
Oh well, I gave her a weak smile and walked out thinking,
...well I guess not all hospice patients want visitors.
Especially when they’re in the Alzheimer-Dementia unit and rarely able to recognize you; although this little insight took a while to sink in.
In the following weeks my visits with Anne have settled into a comfortable pattern of unpredictability where I walk into the room with a big, happy greeting and silently wait to see signs of alertness in Anne’s eyes.

For me these moments have a fuzzy similarity with a scene out of Groundhog Day; except I am Bill Murray’s softer version, gently repeating our first introduction each time we meet.
Sometimes I’ve been excited by the occasional flash of connection that happens during an ordinary visit. Those are good days. Like the time I was standing at the foot of the bed when Anne suddenly lost control of her bowels. I felt sure that something emotionally real had passed between us in those intimate moments before the nurse arrived.
I was the one who saw the flash of horror on her face and heard her repeatedly mumble,
 “What …what happened?! I’ve never had this happen before!”
In that split-second I felt myself catapulted from a quasi-stranger into that of intimate confidante, if only for those moments when she seemed comforted by my words.
And it made me wonder, would things be different from now?
You can imagine how giddy I felt the next week when Anne was totally alert and smiling, even asked me to push her around in her wheelchair, into the garden and through the hallways until we eventually ended up singing in front of the Karaoke machine. Around us was a small huddle of fellow patients that Anne typically avoids, and even they seemed a bit surprised to see her roll up next to them.

We sang together.
And I can still hear her wobbly voice surprising me with these verses she clearly recalled from her past:
“Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me so”
Little ones to him belong
They are weak but He is strong.”

Naive me. I actually thought we had some kind of break-through that could last.

But the next week I found Anne in a darkened room when I arrived. Her mouth was open and her face was relaxed in the throes of a deep sleep. While I stood there, her eyelids suddenly flickered, she saw me and told me to go.

Taking my cues from previous weeks when she often woke up ready to talk, I pulled out a book and sat next to her bed.

And several minutes later she opened her eyes again.

“Why are you still here?” she demanded, her voice suddenly becoming a razor sharp knife cutting through the quietness, “If you don’t leave right now I’m gonna call the lady!”

And that was that.

Later after I sent my report, the hospice chaplain was concerned about my feelings. Had I been ‘traumatized” by Anne’s treatment, he asked.

It was a sensitive question on his part, but traumatized?  Definitely not.

It’s true that I felt the sting from her harsh words, let's face it, being tossed out of someone’s room is a jolt to the heart. But what had lingered afterwards was something else; it was the shock of the complete disappearance of my sweet, vulnerable singing partner of the previous week. It was the dramatic switch in her mood and tone that threw me. Not only was I not recognized, but I hadn't recognized her.

A few days later while I was practicing on my yoga mat, I had this clear insight into how my ego causes me to slip up in real life. It was a lesson on how "egoism,"--what yoga teacher Patanjali refers to as "asmita" blurs the truth. 

In my case, my instant reaction of hurt had been solely focused on me, pure and simple. Even though I had good intentions, I lacked the ability to pause. To create a little space before my own feelings of woundedness enveloped me. Here was a clear-cut example of how easy it is to misread a difficult person in my daily life. My ego had literally obscured the fact that these harsh words were being uttered from someone barely clinging to reality.
The fact that I would take her outburst as personal would be the epitome of ego.

And while Anne's dementia-tinged outburst may seem an extreme example, it comes with a message. It lifts the curtain on those people who go around lashing out at others. 

Do you have one of these in your life? Because it begs the question. Before we react to their words, can we pause long enough to ‘see” how badly they must be struggling?

This is what the hospice director doesn’t know.

 Anne is my teacher.

Anne is teaching me what it’s like to take my yoga practice off the mat and into the real world.

She is reminding me every time I see her that all we truly have is the Present Moment. And whether we’re a hospice patient or not, we should take nothing for granted. There are absolutely no guarantees that what we have today will be here tomorrow.

Anne is teaching me about impermanence. Reminding me—every time I say good-bye—that time is a gift. And that we should never wait to tell the people in our lives, I love you. Thank you. I’m sorry.

Anne is teaching me about how to care deeply about someone without attachment, how to give freely without having any expectations. Even the expectation that she remember me.

 Anne is teaching me about my own annoying flaws and unfinished work and reminding me in the words of our hospice director, “that most of us die the same way we lived,” which simply means there are no magical transformations on the deathbed. Not really. Angry people die with their anger. Selfish people die afraid. It’s up to us --- in the words of Maya Angelou, to “go out and grab the world by the lapels.” It’s up to us to have a clear intention of the person we what to be, and to begin today to put that “ideal” into practice.

Anne is reminding me to keep growing. To keep facing my anxieties. To deal honestly with my underlying fears that make it so hard for me to “let go” of certain situations and worries.

She is teaching me that if I truly want to become a wise, peaceful person by the end of  my life--it won’t happen without mindful choices and effort.

I can keep this list going, but I’ll end it this way.

Every single time I walk out of the beige, brick building where Anne has a room, I am blown away by the fact that I can walk outside and breathe in fresh air.

I have a laser beam awareness that I’m standing on two strong legs that can carry me anywhere I want to go. And that I can look up and see the color of the sky whenever I get the urge.

I can’t explain how simple and radiant and beautiful my life seems at this one moment.

But this is what I do every time I leave Anne's dark carpeted room with it's hospital bed.

I stand on the concrete sideway. I take a deep breath and I feel utterly grateful.

Tell me.

Who is your teacher these days?

I'd love to know.


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Inspire Me Tuesday


Carla from The River said...

Hello Friend,
Another fabulous post.
Thank You!

I deliver Meals on Wheels part time. The meals are served hot in to go containers. You can eat out of the to go containers. Or you can do as my one lady does, she has a lovely plate, pretty napkin, silverware and a wine glass for her milk, all ready for me to help her put her meal on.
She struggles from the side effects of a stroke. She also shakes. This does not keep her from looking lovely, she is dressed lovely each day, with earrings and bracelets.
I know it is not easy for her, to grow old this way, but she is a light to me. To press on the best we can and why settle for take out containers, when we can have real china and wine glasses for milk.

xx oo

brenda murphy said...

Timely question and great post. I just spent 2 weeks with my mother 24/7 assisting in all manner of ways as she prepares to die. So much to learn from her as well as our family. Everyone is adjusting in different ways. I look at this time as a gift, not onerous by any means. However, one sibling looks at this as a competition; needing to be seen as doing good. The most special moments for me, are not seen by anyone but mom. A good lesson in knowing that the richness and beauty of life does not need an audience in order to be validated.

Leslie Harris said...

Carla what a extraordinary woman! Thank you so much for sharing this touching story of your special friend-and 'teacher'--with me, I agree with you. She is a beam of light with her lovely, positive attitude about how to live life. Your description is so detailed I feel like I can imagine her wearing her earrings and bracelets, and despite her physical fragility I see her greeting you with a warm smile. And those dishes. The milk in the wine glass. We should all be following her example, relishing the little things in life and facing adversity with such grace and gratitude. And I'm tickled that such a special woman ended up having You delivering food to her. You--my dear-- are a ray of sunshine yourself!

Leslie Harris said...

Brenda I am so sorry to hear about you mother. Two weeks of round the clock care with your mom must have evoked all kinds of different emotions. I hope you have someone to lean on and share with doing this time. You're right. Everyone deals with death in different ways, especially the death of a parent. I imagine that siblings often revert to their old roles during such a painful time, maybe even amplified versions of themselves. Grief is so hard. But it does sound like you have a wisdom about what matters right now, which is simply being with your Mom. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post and share your situation. I hope that everyone who reads this will send you and your family their prayers for your Mother's peaceful passing and healing for you and your family.

Preppy Empty Nester said...

Leslie... what a beautiful, sentimental wise post. A lot of people would have walked away from Anne. I have a 99 year old father who has a sharp mind along with a sharp tongue. He tries my patience. I pray for patience every day.

Valerie said...

What a powerful, powerful post. Thank you for sharing it.

Art and Sand said...

Well, today it is you!

I've mentioned before that I'm "shallow" and the bad rolls off me quite easily. I'm not sure what events caused my shallowness, but I remember being a child and realizing that the world did not revolve around me alone. When people were angry, it wasn't always about me, but their own baggage.

I've taken that little bit of enlightenment and a minor in psychology to become sleuth. If someone is acting in a negative way toward me, I seek to find what is going on so I can turn that negativity around. It really helped me when teaching angst filled middle school students.

After meeting you in person, I am not surprised to read that you are doing hospice care. You are such an amazing person.

michele said...

Thanks for taking us with you on the hospice journey. It's beautiful, Leslie. Such meaningful, thoughtful, intimacy you are sharing. You brought me back to a chapter when I worked as a counselor at a V.A. It was always surprising that they felt so sorry for me...they would say "Why in the hell is a young pretty thing in here with us?" or "You don't wanna be in here while I'm like this..." I was totally comfortable in the setting and around illness since I lived daily with Crohn's Disease. I thought I would be meeting patients and joining them in their depression and grief, yet I encountered so so much shame. It taught me things about grace. And love. About the least of these. About being hands and feet. These days, it's pain and silence mostly which are my teachers. When I enter silence in meditation, a spaciousness opens up and I am who I was before my parents were born, and it's enough. There aren't feelings or attachments to consider, just a depth of being, just pure relationship between me and the divine. As i age, i am becoming more interested in healing than teaching. Lessons are great, wisdom is so important, but can i allow what is so freely given to me to flow forth into the world so it manifests in the physical realm and others become healed? i don't know. i don't know. but i'll keep trying.

NanaDiana said...

God bless you, Leslie. It is so hard. My mother lived with me for four years when my kids were little-well in to the clasp of dementia. She never knew who I was but for a flash now and then. She never liked me much to begin with so always referred to me as "that one". Did it hurt? Sometimes-until I learned that life is what it is..and I let go of the bad and kept the good that was in the relationship.

God bless you as you continue your visits with Anne. You are one of God's angels here on earth. xo Diana

La Contessa said...

DEALING with my 91 year old MOTHER.........NOT EASY.SHe gives NO LOVE.........I have NEVER BEEN HUGGED.I stopped kissing her years ago as you could feel she was uncomfortable.I visit she has nothing to say to me............I do all the talking.Thing is she is fine.The memory has just started to go.I really do not know how to cope with this.It has been very difficult.But this was not your question!I have to give that one some thought!
I shall return..........XX

Anonymous said...

This post is a perfect example to the question, "Why do you blog?" I blog to learn. My blog friends are a special gift of daily "Nuances". You and so many others enhance my life.

Sunday, when I returned from my parents home, I saw your Instagram post with Rumi's quote, supported by your words to guide us here.

My brother and I are trying to keep my parents in their beautiful home on Puget Sound as long as we can. I live the closest to my parents. For this month, I had set a goal to begin gently interjecting myself into some of the more personal decision making in their life and bring in some assistance to keep their lifestyle in a better balance, both mentally and with their physical surroundings. Mom is compromised (she lost cognitive skills) due to a brain bleed which occurred a few years ago, and is also a fall risk. Dad is her caregiver. He needs a break from cooking, cleaning, and coping. I am now their "event planner" and "home stager", with the help of a deep cleaner who will visit them twice a month. It is my goal to have Dad back on the golf course once a month when winter is over.

You may not know. I lost my youngest brother to early onset dementia. He was 49 years old. It is believed that it was the result of head injuries from two MVA's. He was successful and sold the first portable defibrillators making six figures until age 44. It was the most difficult five years, particularly for my parents. This month he would have turned 61.

May God bless you for caring enough to learn and share what propels your heart and soul with Anne, and all of us.

"Gwen Moss" is always spiritual place to visit for me.

Leslie, thank you.


Leslie Harris said...

Elizabeth. I felt so moved by your comment. I really thought about your stunning description of your mom, especially the words, "She gives no love" ... "I have never been hugged" and "she has nothing to say to me."
And the one word that came to my mind was how utterly cold it all sounded. And I know that being on the end of a cold, withholding mother is one of the most emotionally painful experiences there is. Because we learn about our own lovable-ness from our mothers. We learn to feel our specialness by the gleam we see reflected back in their eyes, and clearly a woman like your mother would have totally and completely failed with this kind of nurturing. 
As a woman who grew up with a young emotionally needy mother (my mother felt abandoned by her mother) I know what it feels like to have 'missed' receiving the kind of empathic love and acceptance that is crucial for our self esteem. Luckily for me my mother was able to grow later in life and we have forged a relationship that while still basically one-sided, offers me enough love and support to make up for her natural narcissism. But for a long time, those deficits in my mother were a continual source of hurt for me.
With all this in mind, I sit here in front of my computer screen feeling in awe of the loving woman you've become and the rich emotional life you've created despite the lack of love you were able to feel from your mother.   
You. Are. An. Extraordinary Woman. Period.

As far as the answer to my question....I can't tell you what you might have learned from your mother over your lifetime. Because whoever she was--with all her emotional stuck-ness and stark coldness--she did teach you about life and relationships and yourself, even if it was How NOT to live your live. 

In the end it's up to us to extract the meaning out of our painful relationships and hopefully we get to the  point where we realize --in the words of my therapist many decades ago---that your mother's inability to see you clearly and with the kind of love you deserved, "was never about you." It was always about her and everything she didn't receive in her own emotional relationships. At 91 your mother is not going to change and so much of our inner peace happens when we stop going to "an empty well."  When we stop hoping and wishing for something different from our damaged loved ones. As for me, that's meant grieving what I didn't get, and eventually seeing my mothers' failings in the context of her times and her own difficult childhood. It takes time.
The kind of giving you offer your mother--when it's so clear that you receive so little recognition and love in return,---is the definition of pure giving. You have an amazing heart my friend.
I'm so glad we've found each other in the blog world.

Leslie Harris said...

Thank you Valarie for taking the time to read my post and leave such kind, affirming words.

Leslie Harris said...

Thanks Katie,
Your 99 year old Dad sure raised a warm, funny, spirited, loving woman.

Leslie Harris said...

Carol the last line of your comment really jolted me (in the best way possible) I'm not good with compliments but coming from you--with all your kindness and wisdom that I've come to admire, it really felt so good. Thank you for being you. :)
I don't know that I would agree about your self description of "shallowness." I think you have a certain resiliency that keeps you from taking things personally, and that's a healthy objectivity to possess. It's taken me a long time to get there

Elizabeth@ Pine Cones and Acorns said...

I read this post a couple of days ago and it has stayed in my mind sine then. Two years ago I went thru an incredibly had time in my life and everyday, no every minute was a struggle. My sister suggested that I get out and do something for other people so I did not have to think about my struggle, even if it was only for a couple of hours a week. So off I went to my neighborhood assisted living facility. One side is for "old people" and the other is called the "garden" and it is for people with Alzehimers. As you mentioned, I never knew who or what I was going to encounter. There were two ladies that touched me deeply. One, Mary, was only 60 and she was married but had no children, she had been married since she was 19 and everyday she woke up and waited for her husband. She was giddy like a school girl at the thought that her wonderful husband was coming to visit her. Everyday he came after work and would sit with her until bedtime. During the day I would go for walks with her, or exercise class and sometimes we would just sit and talk. For the most part she thought she was somewhere in her 20's and we talked about all sorts of things. Whenever the subject of kids came up she would always tell me that she had no time for kids because her husband was the most important person in her life. Their devotion to one another was inspiring to me.

There was another incredibly talented painter who also had Alzehimers and frankly I often left the home after visiting with her very upset, not for me but for her. On her "bad days" she would recount to me horrible stories of the abuse that she suffered at the hands of her husband. She told me how she would have to hide under the bed with the kids to get away from him. She also told me a story one day about how her husbands parents moved in with them and they were just as abusive to her. When they wanted to be very mean to her they would take all of her art and supplies. Which as she said was the only thing that kept her sane. She told me that her husbands parents were retired and her husband fell in so not only was she the "breadwinner" but also their caretaker. What saddened me the most is that often times all she seemed to remember were the horrible things that happened to her in her life and yet she was always kind and courteous to me.

The last person was John. I think I leafed the most from him. He was 50 and had lived in this home for the last 15 years. He had been in an accident as a teen and ended up in a coma, he suffered some brain damage and had mobility issues. Prior to coming to the nursing home he was taken care of by his parents. unfortunately they were both deceased and he has no living relatives. His only visitor is a "caretaker" of his money who comes to check on him once a month and be sure he is being taken care of. He lives on the Assisted Living side and he was the happiest, most intelligent, well read man I have ever met. He work with a spring in his step and he dressed himself everyday. Then he would eat breakfast and plan his day, exercise, a walk, trivia, etc. It was at trivia hour that I learned of his intelligence. He never got an answer wrong, it was amazing.

Because of this and his over the top outgoing behavior he put off some of the other residents. I felt bad for him when they would mutter under their breath something critical and asked if it bothered him, he told me that they were jealous that he was so smart and funny!

Elizabeth@ Pine Cones and Acorns said...

Part: 2

I learned so much from the people I met. First and foremost that no matter how bad your life is, someone has it worse. 2. I learned that perspective is everything. I often felt bad for these people and you know what? They did not feel bad for themselves. 3. I am compassionate but I became so much more so and it spilled over into my own life. I could empathize with other people in ways I wasn't able to before.

I learned that you can learn something new everyday, that there is joy in everyday and that it is often in the small things in life, a smile from a friend, a hummingbird at your feeder, in a sunrise.

I also learned that you simply have to open your eyes to see the good in everyday, even on your worst. day.

Elizabeth@ Pine Cones and Acorns said...

Part 3: I have many teachers in my life now, my father in law who turned 90 on Sunday, and who has lived with essential tremors since he was 40, who has leukemia and who was on his deathbed 1 year ago. In the 22 years I have known him he has taught me the power of taking care of oneself. He woks out every morning with weights, an exercise bike and walking. He has taught me that you should stand up for your rights, your feelings and your opinions even if everyone is against you. He has taught me the power of hard work and perseverance. And he has taught me about love. My mother-in-law is actually his second wife. His first wife died in an accident, he ended up in a coma. She was the love of his life and still is and as he told me love never dies, not even in death.

My teacher on an everyday basis is my yoga teacher. As she says, yoga saved her life, and she want it to make a difference in the lives of the people that come to her studio. Her kindness, compassion and drive to create a wonderful practice and studio has shown me what can happen if you live your passion!

Sorry to drone on, but your questions and thoughts gave me pause and couldn't stop sharing.

Have a wonderful week Leslie. Your blog is a sacred space for many and I love to come here because I love your thoughtfulness, honesty and compassion.

Leslie Harris said...

Michele, As i read over your comment i couldn't stop thinking about the line from Irvin Yalom,
"Only the wounder healer can truly heal." Your ease and comfort in those days at the VA was from your ability to be in touch with your own physical struggles. Your last line seems to exemplify this idea, that in the pursuit of our healing (in which we explore our own brokenness) we become able to touch others in a way that offers relief. You are not alone. I have suffered too. These are such powerful messages that help other who are burdened with shame. I can only imagine how your personal struggles with cancer and pain have affected your inner growth and perspective.
thank you for sharing your wisdom here.

Leslie Harris said...

Diana I can only imagine what it was like juggling your small children and trying to care for your elderly mother with dementia. You are truly amazing. And it hurts to read that your mother "never liked me much." Your wisdom and character shine clearly through your words..."I let go of the bad and kept the good,"

thank you dear friend for sharing a piece of your personal story. It confirms what I already knew, you are indeed a special person.

Leslie Harris said...

Lynne, no I didn't know about your brother. Or about the condition of your parents and thank you for sharing this. I hope that everyone who reads about your situation might relate in some way to the love and effort you're putting into caring for them. Helping them continue in the home that they love and feel safe in. and i hope you get a lot of silent love your way. I know it makes me pause and send you my most positive thoughts and prayers that things work out well for them and for you, as a care-taker. It warms my heart to know that you found something helpful in my post... I feel the same way you do about the blogging world. It's always fascinating how we manage to stumble on the most amazing women. You're one of them.

Leslie Harris said...


What a wonderful way to start my day. Reading about your experiences with John and your father-in-law reminded me of David Brook's book Road to Character where he distinguishes between resume skills and values that our society is consumed with and what he calls eulogy values, the kind of personal qualities--integrity, kindness, honesty that people talk about at funerals. I'm still reading it but one of the things he noted when he examined the lives of those kind of inspiring people, was that they had
"to go down to go up. They had to descend into the valley of humility to climb to the heights of character."

I'm like you, I'm so personally affected when I come across these people--your father-in-law reminds me of my grandfather and father--I think we're blessed to rub shoulders with this kind of inner resiliency and goodness..

The other thought I had was about the talented artist in the assisted living facility you visited. She reminded me of the someone who was experiencing signs of post traumatic stress, as evident in her inability to emotionally move beyond her painful memories. When the "bad" unresolved pain seems to dominate the 'good' stuff it's often a sign.

Bessel Van Der Kolk is a psychiatrist who has done riveting work with trauma victims using today's brain imaging technology and we now know that traumatic experiences remain in a sector of the brain that is inaccessible to words and verbal articulation. People who have experienced traumatic events literally remain unable to "verbally work through" their pain successfully in talk therapy unless someone is trained to help them access these emotions in their bodies. It's fascinating work. It explains why trauma victims continually 're-experience' their trauma in dreams and repeated stories, one of the classic symptoms of post traumatic stress syndrome. It's an area I'm personally drawn to because it solidifies my experiences as a clinician working with sexual abuse victims years ago. Yoga --interestingly has been affected in helping trauma victims begin to re-connect with their bodies and these powerful emotions and I'm toying with the idea of heading into this area in some way.
Anyway, I just want to repeat how grateful I am for your friendship---I always feel such a kinship with you, each time you share a piece of your life I feel like saying, "hey--I feel that too!" or "I know exactly what you mean!"
It's such an affirming feeling.
hugs to you from SoCal,

Linda @ Itsy Bits And Pieces said...

Leslie, this is such a thoughtful post. I often take several days after I read your insights before I respond, because they so inspire me to look inward and examine my own feelings. When I think about what or who is teaching me now...I realize I am being taught by all I see and do every is constant. I also realize that through past hurt and rejection, even...that I am developing the ability to look for the feelings behind it, and not always take things so personally. It is usually something bothering the other person that causes their not-so-nice action. It isn't so much a wall I've put up...rather the opposite...I had to learn forgiveness and acceptance. I can't be in control of what others think and do...and that gives me some peace.
Hospice is definitely a place for honest emotion and growth. I always admired the hospice workers who were so open and helpful with my father. I know the patients where you are, are blessed to have you. xo

Vannessa@Luxuria said...

OMG Leslie!!! What a post. All I know is Anne may be your teacher, but you have been mine today. I've re-read your post twice. The fact that you are doing such wonderful work in a hospice is HUGE for me; it's a place I don't think I would have the strength to give anything back in.
I've been learning about Ho'oponopono-the Hawaiian practise of reconciliation and forgiveness which uses the same words you wrote-I love you. Thank you. I'me sorry.
Meditation/Mindfulness, Ho'op, gratitude journaling etc are all teaching me something at the moment as I try and find balance again after the death of my Dad. On a day to day basis I live a blissful life, but I haven't felt inner peace for a while now. But just reading your post has made me take a step back and has reminded me that the very thing I may be complaining about, someone would give their right arm for. The whole dementia condition terrifies me and I know Anne and all that have the benefit of your loving energy at the hospice are already blessed. Van xx

Unknown said...

Leslie, Thank you for your post. Our 44 yr old divorced son lashes out and can be very rude to my husband and I. We know he is depressed. Reading your post confirms his struggles and how we must understand his pain. Knowing there is no excuse for him to be treating us so badly it is hard to know how to deal with his actions. You have made it clear it is not us but what he is dealing with inside himself. The answer has always been for me just to throw love his way!

Leslie Harris said...

Well Bobbie, I sure appreciate that you could relate to my little post. I can also relate to your situation. I’ve also had to deal with someone close to me who has struggled with depression over decades—and in this case refuses to get help. Because he continues to suffer the ebbs and flow of his emotional pain without real change, he commonly lashes out to his family.
This is what I would say.
When it comes to dealing with your son who is ‘rude’ and treats you and your husband “badly” I would want to balance out the message in this post. First of all, I don’t know what kind of behavior you’re referring to, but I don’t mean to suggest that we ever need to accept abusive behavior. I believe we can do both; we can ‘see’ someone’s struggles and not take it as personal, but it’s also ok to set healthy boundaries too. And to know when someone’s lashing out is crossing a line.
The hope is that in moments of calm a difficult person might be able to reflect on their actions and take responsibility for striking out at others. But the reality is that… that kind of insight doesn’t usually happen unless someone is in therapy or pursuing some kind of self-growth. Otherwise it just keeps happening.
“Throwing love his way” can be a way to love him in spite of his acting out.
But it’s also loving to know your limits and to communicate them when you feel that he crosses a certain line, for example, if you found yourself feeling devastated or even scared. In this case, communicating clearly with him that “this is not acceptable behavior when you do or say such and such ….”
Personally I’m a big advocate of working with a good, sensible family-trained counselor—I think we all get to a point where having a little outside support is really nice. Thank you again Bobbie for reading my post. I hope I gave you a little kernel of wisdom to think about.

beyondbeige said...

Our father died of dementia and our mother is now in the clutches of this horrible, horrible disease. It is heartbreaking in every way. It was a kindness to me to read this post today. Comforting, really. Thank you for that. God is all around and in us all.

Brenda Pruitt said...

Your words are so eloquent and your writing...incredibly beautiful.

JoanMarie said...

A similar but softer situation occurred with my wonderfully magnificent Grandma in her last years. As she slipped into mental confusion, she always tried to remain steadfast to those she loved. You could read the "trying" on her face and this made me love her that much more. In the end I was so grateful that she remembered me, my face, and my heart. She stays by my side to this very day and I often think "what would Grandma do" in testing times. When I listen to her response, whether in the wind or the sudden appearance of a little critter, she always leads me in the right direction....stay strong, true, and compassionate to those around you and good will follow. Thank you for the opportunity to reflect and share Leslie - your posts are gifts....Thank you

Leslie Harris said...


I am so sorry to hear about your mother and father's experience with dementia. You are so right, this is a "horrible horrible disease." And I am so sorry that you've had to suffer your own personal pain as an adult child dealing with your parents. My humble experience with Anne gives me a window into the ups and downs you go must go through on a regular basis and I can only imagine how emotionally exhausting it can be. I truly hope that you have a good support system yourself, others to lean on and share your feelings with after a bad day. You have to take care of yourself first. I know that's hard to remember.
I'm so glad that you got something from my little post. Truly, that's really all I hope for when I write.
sending positive prayers and thoughts your way,

Leslie Harris said...

Thank you dear Brenda for your kind words. I'm always so appreciative when you visit my blog.

Leslie Harris said...

JoanMarie, your grandmother sounds like an extraordinary woman and I can understand why she left a lasting impression on you. What a wonderful thing to experience your grandmother as an active source of inspiration in your daily life. This is what my understanding of real love is, its ability to last far beyond our time here on earth. Thank you for sharing these thoughts of her and your tender memories of her own struggles as she aged. I think we're all humbled by the affects of natural aging on our minds and bodies.

Cat Stegall said...

so artfully written, I am a dementia specialist and work with people in mild to moderate stages at an amazing agency called Memory Matters in SC. We are a day center- I call it a privilege to be there in their world and it always teaches me lessons.... if I am still and listen. I call it living in the new reality-their reality- often it is the best part of my day. Again thanks for the elegant prose- in admiration Cathee S.

Leslie Harris said...

thank you Cathee for your kind words. And thank you for your own service at the Memory Matters in SC. I am filled with admiration at the thought of all the heartfelt work and kindness you provide in your work as a dementia specialist. Bless you for what you do. My time with Anne --who her own children find very difficult---has been humbling.
I hope you have a lot of people in your life who tell you how awesome you are, because it's true.
hugs from SoCal,

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