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Saturday, January 28, 2012

"Simple Minded"

My mother is becoming more “simple minded” – meaning – she is showing clearer signs of dementia. She has been “showing signs” for several years, but it is more pronounced now. Within 5 mins she has forgotten what you have said, especially if it is detailed, has to be reminded over and over again, and is learning to write things down. The other day she said to me – after having to repeat myself several times – “I am beginning to forget things.” She has been “beginning” to forget for years now, but is only now just noticing the forgetting – or let’s say – is now accepting and admitting it. I think she’s known for a while, but could hide it. Well, she *thought* she could, but the rest of us knew. But she can’t hide it from herself anymore. And gets frustrated when we pick up on it, and doesn’t like being questioned in order to seek clarity.

In many ways her strong-willed, head strong personality has changed. That’s what personalities do, they change and in some cases dissolve… She seems more “simple” now – not asserting her power, her will, her motherly authority, her need to control; instead getting lost in herself, and lost in simple things, in simpleness. And I wonder if “she” is getting lost. I’m sure the fact that she can’t see well, or hear well has only added to her “simpleness.” And I wonder if this is such a bad thing – this simple mindedness that allows us to come out from hiding – and just be… But I also wonder to myself if one loses the awareness that we are more than our self, our personhood, (if one has ever realized that, if you know what I mean). And if we do lose that sense of inner Beingness - what then...

In some ways she is easier to be around because there are fewer “personality struggles”, as if this simple mindedness has allowed the veil of personality to drop somewhat – but not by volition. I see her vulnerability and fragility of mind and body – and I soften. I feel compassion for her, and yet frustration arises because her cognitive abilities and comprehension are slipping. She is less and less able to understand. She gets information wrong, and therefore passes on incorrect information, which tends to get everybody else’s wires crossed.

I feel compassion as well as anger and irritation when she can’t “get it”, or gets confused, or can’t get the words out. On the one hand I want to try to explain things to her so she can understand, and be understood, but realize it doesn’t do any good. She is incapable of understanding complexity, and her mind forgets. Her brain isn’t working like it used to. I understand that but it is hard to experience. Neither is mine for that matter. I am losing my words… I can describe what the word I’m groping for does, but sometimes just can’t come up with the word, which boggles my mind even more. How could I *remember* how to describe what a word does, but *forget* the word…. Strange brain… It is disconcerting to lose the ability to articulate… So we laugh about the fact that we are both losing our words, both forgetting. But the reality of it is, well, scary - this untimely “simple-mindedness” that creeps in over time as we age.

In Mom’s simple-mindedness I notice that she relies on things being as they always have been, how things used to be, on things being consistent, reliable, and gets confused when they are not. Don’t we all! And yet, she seems adaptable as well – able to move with life as it is, through her simpleness. Not a bad quality actually. Isn’t that what I’ve been trying to do all these years on a “spiritual path” – find the simpleness and simplicity of just living – just being. But I am *aware* that this is what I’ve been doing. And I know it’s not really the same. When the brain-mind starts to go it’s really a forced simpleness through a loss of connection somewhere in the brain, which means *her* reality of things doesn’t always coincide with actual reality. Well, neither does mine actually! :) And I don’t see that as “bad” either! :) It’s just what’s happening now…

My sister, you remember - the prickly personality, lives with her, and is having a hard time with Mom’s simple-mindedness. Her own brain being short-circuited through years of drug abuse and alcohol - is also forgetting; although insists her memory is accurate, which creates unnecessary conflict. She cannot adjust to my mother’s growing simpleness, and is short-fused. Mom is no longer able to be who she was, or the image of who we want her to be – the “mother.” That role is dropping as well. My mother was never really “mothering” in the sense of being the nurturer, the encourager, the emotional supporter. There really wasn’t much of a “heart connection.” The baggage and the woundings from all that are still there of course. But it’s really time to put that baggage down. In fact I think I already have, although I don’t remember when. It must have slipped out of my hands when I wasn’t looking. I realize there is no point in holding onto the baggage and trying to hold her accountable for old wounds that she can now neither understand nor do anything about. The time for discussion and trying to get her to understand, without creating more wounds, has passed. There is only what is…

I see that more and more. And I see that I am going to have to meet her in her simpleness - *her* reality – to accept her simple-mindedness – to allow her to simply be the way she is, without struggling against it, without closing my heart… I’m sure that will be a challenge for all of us - as we all slip down that rabbit hole of “simple-mindedness” together…



16 comments:

  1. what a very accurate and rich description of what it is like for us with our aging parents. it resonates a lot with me. I remember my mother, who was very sharp, getting forgetful toward the end and being aware of it. It frightened her. She used to say "I'm losing my mind".

    And as you say, it simply is what it is, at some points, easier for us, at other turns heart wrenching.

    And lovely to feel that compassion and softening with her softening. I always think of that journey toward the end it as a turning inward, less need to go out, less need to talk, less need to eat.

    Much metta to you and your mother.

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    1. Thank you Carole... Yes, my mother feels as if she is losing her mind. In a sense she is. And I see her fear about that.

      There is softening *and* frustration - co-existing. I'm sure if I lived with her it would be more intense. I get to come home, to step back from the situation...

      Beautiful description too of "the journey toward the end as a turning inward..." Yes, I see that as well, which interestingly softens me more. Maybe because I realize this is the journey towards the "end"...

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  2. you articulate so beautifully the dynamic of your mom, you and your sister. yes, how sad to see these changes in your mom but it sounds as if the spiritual explorations you have done through the years will stand you in good stead as you bravely care for your mom and sister.

    how lucky they are to have you.

    i must say, living with my mom in her last year was a revelation. although she was always mentally sharp, she lost (thank goodness) her need to dominate, command, have things her own way. she relinquished for example the kitchen to me and let me cook in my own way (not that it was a better way but just the way I had cooked for years). she became softer somehow and much easier to get along with. it was beautiful.

    i dont know what awaits me in my old age if i make it that far but i hope i have a loving person to help me through the threshold such as you are doing for your mom.

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    1. Dear Suki ~ I can only hope that the "spiritual explorations will stand"!I worry that they won't. I still relate very much from the personality, and old roles are still in place, even though I have softened towards her. But I think it's all unfolding the way it needs to and there will be more softening to come.I feel it in my bones :) And so I deepen my "practice." I like that you said your mother experienced the same softening as well.

      I am also not sure that I will be able to help Mom through the threshold. I would like to think I could do that emotionally, but we shall see. I'm not good at death thresholds. But I still have time :) My sister now has become the controller, overseer, authority and has to have charge of everything. So it is hard to find a way through and just be with my mother. But I trust that this too will unfold as needed...

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  3. Yes. . . When you write "she relies on things being as they always have been, how things used to be," I recognize myself, my own mother, a white-knuckled holding on, clenched teeth, and then---the moment of awareness, of letting go, of watching what "used to be" fall away, even the fears popping in little pin-pricked soap-bubbles. This sensation of clarity, even though it's momentary, and that "vortex" you write of may be there---literally and figuratively "sucking"---in the next moment---makes ONE'S PRACTICE worthwhile, as fleeting as its results may sometimes be. (I still long for a permanent "fix"! and chuckle at that silliness in me.)

    And not only that, your details flesh out my skeleton, and help me more fully understand (and feel understood).

    What more can one hope from communication? To you I bow and say, Namaste. . .

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    1. Chris - I so appreciate your imagery of the holding on and letting go that you have seen with yourself and your mother; the fears popping, etc. It is encouraging to know this happens in this way for others. And I do trust that what needs to happen will happen - this awareness, this seeing, this letting go, the clarity.

      I am also "deepening" my "practice" as I see this all unfold. This experience is helping me to turn inward as well - to what's really important, and to be more present internally for the journey to come.

      Namaste...

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  4. What a lovely conversation going on here. Each person adding some more threads to the tapestry you started, truly a heart warming communication!

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    1. Yes indeed, it is! I was thinking how blessed I am to know all of you, and have your loving and uplifting input!

      With gratitude...

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  5. Struggle or acceptance. Struggling to accept. The transition is not easy for "child" or
    parent. Your awareness of the process that is in flow is already a beautiful gift for you to give to your mother, even if she is unaware of it. Perhaps her gift to you is the deepening of the experience of acceptance? I am struggling with this lesson myself, which is why I am prompted to speak of it here. Isn't it amazing that our parents are still teaching us about life.

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    1. Beautifully said louciao... Am so glad you spoke of it... It does feel like a rhythm of acceptance and struggle at times... A rhythm of opening and closing, of expanded awareness and contraction - the rhythm of life... It also feels like the gift to me, at the moment, is in the opening of the heart, seeing my mother differently, and a better understanding of compassion. It all comes and goes (that rhythm :) but it is there... And the experience certainly provides for ongoing awareness.

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  6. Deeps thanks for sharing. I feel a resonance with the 'softening' you and others touch in these relational experiences; how we resist and then soften, the aging movements of change. Beautiful...

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    1. Thank you Darla... ebb and flow, flux and change... :)

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  7. Very profound musing here today, Christine. I especially liked what you said at the end there, "meet her in her simpleness--her reality". I am sorry you are having much to deal with, but how much I admire your grace at this times. Much of our living is about growing softer, isn't it, softening our edges to better be able to meet other people where they are, and ultimately to meet ourselves where we are too. I learn do much from you. :o) ((LOVE & HUGS))

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    1. Thank you Tracy - Right now I'm fortunate in that I can maybe grow into this, because I think the days are coming when I'm going to need to be a lot more physically present, another challenge. I don't feel very "grace - ful" at the moment, as there's still a lot of personality stuff that comes through, but am learning how to navigate this whole situation. It does show me where I'm still stuck in the old dance, for sure! :) Heart Hugs

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  8. Beautifully shared Christine. I suspect that you will dearly appreciate a book recently released by my friend Stu Jenks about his journey with his mother's dementia process.

    https://kindleweb.s3.amazonaws.com/content/B005KV24L2/gz_sample.html

    Warm regards, Jamie

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  9. Thank you Jamie for coming by to visit and leaving me this link. Yes, I suspect I will need as much help as I can get in this journey...

    Warmly - Christine

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