Turning Bad Into Good
My brush with death, to put it melodramatically, has opened my eyes to new possibilities, to new appreciation for where I am, what I have, and what I can do. I found a quote from Lucille Ball which fits perfectly:
“One of the things I learned the hard way was that it doesn’t pay to get discouraged. Keeping busy and making optimism a way of life can restore your faith in yourself.”
I found myself signing up after church on Sunday to volunteer as a library aide at our parish parochial school. This doesn’t seem like too difficult an act unless you consider my outlook on life since I was diagnosed with vascular dementia. I have essentially played on the periphery of life’s playground. Once extremely active in my church, I withdrew, attending church every Sunday but not extending or opening myself up to new possibilities. I volunteered once a month for Social Security. Other than that, I sat back, hesitant to really step back into the main flow of life. Just this one small step, volunteering as a library aide, has helped to propel me back into looking outside myself to help others.
What has brought about this change? My accidental overdose of insulin last week was the impetus. (After all, something good can always come out of something bad if you open your eyes up to that possibility.) I think my brother’s death has also caused me to ponder where I am. I think often about my brother not being here and I sorely miss him. Last week when I made a sandwich, I began to think, “Glenn can’t do anything as simple as making a sandwich. I’m still alive, I can.” And then I went on to think about what more I could do. How can I live my life, accompanied by dementia, in a way that will be more fulfilling for me and others? What do I need to do to crawl out of this hole that defines and limits my life? I need to put Mr. D. (Mr. Dementia) on a shelf and tell him to stay out of my way. Dementia needs to be put in its place.
Through this blog, I have met many wonderful people, some with vascular dementia and others who are caregivers. My correspondence with a lady named Sandy and a gentleman named Bill, along with others, has shown me that vascular dementia is not a quickly self-limiting condition. We are perfectly able to live within society as productive members for years. Sure, our short term memory is not good—but we’re not by ourselves. Almost everyone I know over 50 is experiencing some degree of forgetfulness. Sure we might have vascular dementia, but we can continue to live comfortably and independently for some time to come. Yes, we may need some aides such as alarms or notes, but who cares? We may need to stay more on top of things. We may have to delegate more. Who cares?
And so, upon ruminating on my future, I am seeing positive changes. Remember when I said I wanted to take a course in interior design? I can’t. Not that I’m not capable of it, I just can’t fit it into my schedule this semester! I’m going to be a library aide, assist the Spelling Bee champion in preparation for the County Spelling Bee, teach a series of lessons at the senior center on strengthening your mind, chair a committee for fundraising with our local Ministry of Aging, and continue to volunteer for Social Security. Is this going to be easy? No, I will really have to work hard to do most of it. It will take all I can muster to keep track of my schedule, to stay on top of my notes, to remember to make phone calls, etc. I will have to work harder than most to complete what I have started. I know I will need to seek help from others along the way, but that’s okay, too. I am going way out of my comfort zone…
“We can do no great things—only small things with great love.”
From great loss, good things have come… and so I take baby steps, doing small things with great love…as I enter back into the mainstream of life.