February is always challenging. My son Eric was killed three years ago and his birthday is on February 20. February 26 is the last day we saw him before he died on March 26. We call this time of year “Eric season”. On top of this is Gary’s Alzheimer’s and venturing the risk to create AlzAcrossAmerica.
"I wish I could just cross the river of my journey by stepping on the stones that will get me to the other side, but sometimes it just doesn’t work that way. I slip and fall off the slippery moss and into the current. I go into a frustrating but familiar default pattern of my survival. I am dunked under and it takes awhile to find my way back. When I’m drowning, every cell in my being is swept away. I still go through the daily routines, but there is a strange aura of insulation around me. My senses are dulled and my mind isn’t able to access its natural creative self. No matter what is going on around me, I am separate from it. I know that I need to reach out, but it’s hard enough just to get through the day. My daily actions become more of an effort and my mind is like a ping pong game. Concentration becomes almost impossible for the things that matter most to me. The very things that I long to do become out of reach. The very things that would seemingly pop me right out and float me back to the shore seem to be a far distance away."
Now that I am back to higher ground and on the other side, I see that this fall was different from other times in the last several years. This time I knew I would come out to the other side because I am learning to practice a technique to help me float back to the surface. And life is about practice. There is a saying: “How you practice, is how you play.” I am learning to practice a coaching tool called Emotional Agility, created by my good friend and coaching colleague Carol Courcy, www.saveyourinnertortoise.com. Carol’s brilliant work offers several tools for many emotions. My default emotion in the last 9 years has been isolation and depression and the technique she recommends to getting across the river and back to the shore is simply to reach out and make a request. The key is not just to reach out, but to make a request. Any request. It may not bring me back to myself in that instant, but with this practice I can start noticing that I am on my way. My closest friends are there for me. I am learning to trust that if I reach out, they will be there. Also, I remember that it doesn’t always have to be a friend, a request to anyone for anything will work too. It’s an act of consciousness and being aware that I am practicing and learning to trust that I will resurface.
As I move forward on this journey of being a Care Partner for someone who has Early Memory Loss and Alzheimer's, I never know when I am going to slip on the moss. Today is good, tomorrow may be different. What I do know is that I have to have resources that I can count on, such as practices like the one above and my inner circle of friends and trusted advisors. My friends are a constant reminder that I am not alone and the more open I am about how this disease is affecting my life, the bigger my circle expands. If there is one thing that I want Alz Across America to become, it is this: A big purple bus that travels around the country fostering connections and creating communities where people know that they are not alone on this journey. I want to help those affected by this disease create their own inner circles of support so that they can keep stepping on the stones to cross the river and have a helping hand for the times when they fall. Help is always a request away and we need each other more than ever. We need avenues of connection in order to reach out to each other and Gary and I are here to generate those communities.