Tag Archives: motivation

The moments I’m not prepared for

Mount Everest, Photo credit: The Tribune, India

Caregiving for a person who is losing themselves is the Mount Everest of experiences. One puts one foot in front of the other for some sort of forward momentum, but without really looking too far ahead. To do so is to risk one’s own break down and that plaintive, wistful, despairing question, “how can I do this?”.

As I ponder it all, I’m realizing the moments I’m not prepared for seems to be a growing list. This morning, Jed asked, “Who are you?” and I really didn’t know where to go from there.

I smiled.

Sweetly.

In the moment.

Said, “I am Malissa,” paused and added “we are married.”

Jed said, “I don’t remember things.”

He then smiled and said, “well Sheila, how are you!”

Now that was typical Jed. A moment of clarity in his fog of a mind, covering his sense of embarrassment at not being on top of things and making a joke of it all. We carried on with the Sheila joke for a bit before focusing on breakfast: a toasted slice of leftover cranberry walnut bread, our Christmas morning family tradition for years. He said, “hmmm, this tastes good, where did you get it?”

I explained, the Christmas morning stuff and he looked at me with wide eyes and a big smile and said, “you made this? It’s delicious.”

And so it went. Through breakfast. Through discussions about haircuts. Showering. the scabs on his arms and upper body from his newly acquired OCD habit of scratching and picking.

And no, none of it is ever something I thought of. I mean, really, who does? At our age, one thinks of the bad luck of cancers or heart aliments, diabetes or COPD from all the smoking we did as kids, but something that slowly erodes one’s ability to think or even recognize or put words to the people they know and love? No. Believe me. You don’t think of it. Not even if it is all around you, never for your own spouse or loved one.

As I write this, we’ve conquered the confusion of waking up and not being able to understand the most basic of things. Slowly though, I am watching as cognition returns. Yes. Morning meds and vitamins. A shower (no fight about it either), shaving using his electric razor, putting on spanking new duds from his Christmas haul. A pet to our kitty Mimi who is on her last legs from chronic liver failure. Sweet words to me about how much he loves me. Appreciates me. More talk about getting a haircut. And then an actual walk, our first in almost two weeks since he accompanied me to the Post Office to pick up stamps.

All went well, but the haircut didn’t happen. We lost the window, too soon when he turned from our apartment house entry way and too late when we passed it on the way home.

Walks are in fact, really tiring both physically and mentally, even our very short ones. He becomes overstimulated by the sights and sounds. People on the street. Noise. Shops. And today from wandering around the first floor of Barnes and Noble, the colors of the fruit stand, the plants and trees lining the brownstones on Clinton Street. And needing to stop as well. The sweat beading on his forehead, needing to catch his breath, this from the man who has circumnavigated Manhattan at night in a kayak by himself and written about it for a Weekend Warrior column in the NY Times.

Once upstairs, he remembered about the haircut. “Maybe tomorrow,” he said. He had to go to bed, to drift for a while in the darkened room with drawn curtains and to eventually asleep.

Meanwhile my day. Yay to getting my delivery of Covid home tests after a pre-Christmas frantic search of medical supply companies on the internet. Yes to laundry, churning its way through rinse cycles and the dryer. Yes to a quick text touchpoint with my daughter. Yes to realizing just how overwhelmed I feel — and to the bits of tears in my eyes as I blink my way through a minute or two of silent meditation to keep myself together for the next steps of the day.

If yesterday morning was self-care at Gleason’s Gym, today, through chores (garbage out, laundry, vacuuming), I’m giving myself the sense of order externally. Sure, not spanking clean, but at least with some of the holiday disorder at bay.

And then I locate myself again. Clear my mind, breathe, inhale, exhale, and start it again. This is the way.

****

For more information about dementia and caregiving resources here are some helpful links in NYC as well as two of the main national organizations. And of course, always feel free to contact me.

CaringKind is a caregiver organization in NYC with remarkable resources, courses, caregiver groups, and other information. Link here: Caring Kind.

NYU Family Support Center has programs for caregivers to include a fully array of “zoom” meetings that range from looking at art with museum curators to music and caregiver “KaffeeKlastch” meetings. Link here:  NYU Family Support Center.

Alzheimer’s Association, website for information and resources for this disease. Link here: Alzheimer’s Association.

The Association for Frontotemperal Degeneration, website for information and resources for this disease. Link here: AFTD

Reflecting the positive

Gleason’s Gym, September 23, 2021


I admit it. Not every day is stellar.

I’d walked to the gym at my usual clip, feeling as if I’d work through my 16 rounds or so with reasonable ease, already planning out the things I wanted to work on: Moving with the jab, followed by a sidestep for a quick right to the body, left hook, straight right combination, before moving on to the next jab. As I shadow boxed, that worked for about a minute of the first round before I started to slow down.

“One of those mornings,” I thought, as I took the pace down a notch.

And yes, Gleason’s Gym was still fairly summer-hot and very, very humid, but today, the stickiness in the air seemed to be getting to me more than usual.

By the fourth round I found I needed to slow it down even more. Still feeling that I could make it work I boxed four progressively slower rounds on the heavy bag and one last attempt at a fifth, making my total nine for the day.  And yep, that was it. I knew I had to call it quits. This was not my morning.

In trying to analyze it, I realized I was still a bit unnerved by news I’d received the night before. Someone I am close to suffered a TIA* – a mini-stroke that left her unable to speak in the middle of a zoom call. She was pretty much back to her self within 30 minutes, but on the advise of her doctor, went to the Emergency Room and was admitted overnight for monitoring and further tests. I had just seen her the week before our first true outing since before the pandemic, so it all came as a surprise. At 76, she is robust, but the reality is at a certain point, things just happen.

As I walked back home, still slow, slow enough that my walk wasn’t even registering as “exercise” on my iWatch, I reflected on it all. I realized that knowing when to pull out was just as important as pushing forward. That there is a moment when the positive of exercise or any of our actions gives way to something that may be less than brilliant. That knowing one’s limits is another aspect of self-care.

So … yes, reflecting the positive sometimes means listening to your body when it says, you are done working out for the day. Time to go home.

There’s always tomorrow.

 

*TIA: A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a temporary period of symptoms similar to those of a stroke. A TIA usually lasts only a few minutes and doesn’t cause permanent damage. Often called a ministroke, a transient ischemic attack may be a warning of a future stroke and an opportunity to prevent it. (Mayo Clinic)

If I can do it, so can you …

If I can do it, so can you …

Superwoman!

Don’t you just love those words?

Meant as a motivator for the under achieving couch potato that lurks in all of us, it can cut like a rapier.

Still, it can have its place — if the underlying, “you are such a slug” is left out it and the words are more action than anything else, without the accompanying censoring glare!

For the one who says it though, there can also be nothing but the best of intentions. All of us knows of someone who hours out of cancer treatment skips her way to the gym for a good workout and though she may excuse herself for a moment to puke her guts out in the bathroom, she none the less returns to the weight room with a freshly glistening brow, worse for wear perhaps, but no less game.

This brings me to the point.

What if we change that around a bit to an if you can do it, so can I, sensibility. The competitive aside (which motivates in its own way), we are all in this together. Certainly that’s the way it feels at Gleason’s Gym where each and every person sweating and grunting their way through a work out is cheering the hard work of their fellow gym rats.

We also all have our stories; those things that thwart our best intentions and no less tangible than a friend’s cancer, shoulder surgery, ACL tear, too many obligations hitting into limited time or the feeling of inertia that comes when you haven’t hit the gym in a while and need to push yourself out of bed to get there again.

I know for myself, I’ve had all sorts of things that I’ve used to not go to the gym some of which leave me with no choice but to stay home and others of which are more of the mental variety.

Having recently started back on a schedule after recovering from shoulder surgery, I can attest to the myriad of feelings that go into missing the gym and returning. If you’ve been a regular, it’s like missing family, plus that intangible sense of identity that comes of regular practice. During my rehab, I’d find myself going to Gleason’s for an hour on a Saturday, not to box but to do my exercises. Still, it was a bittersweet feeling. I wasn’t boxing, I was stretching and even though I was there, it was hard to feel a part of it.

Ultimately, though, it shouldn’t matter. Any work done is work accomplished, and while it might not be at the peak of the performance you are capable of, you’ve made the effort.

So, while you might go through periods when you are confronted with your decided lack of superhuman capability, give yourself a break and be aware of what being superhuman really means.

If you are say, 58 years old, I can assure you that your hand speed will NEVER match that of an in shape 20-year-old, but when it comes to heart, you might well get to wear your Superwoman T-shirt to the cheers of everyone who sees you!

One of my oldest pals is fond of saying, there are no dress rehearsals ‘cause the only life you have is this one. That might get an argument from some New Agers, Buddhists and Hindus who figure you can cycle through again — for the majority of us though, this is it.

In other words, you really do only have one shot so why not give it your all, whatever that means for you and realize that by following through, your example is making it possible for someone else to say … if you can do it, so can I!