Several years ago, we spent an evening in Zion National Park in Utah looking for shooting stars.
“There’s one,” someone said.
“I see it!” someone else said.
I saw only the regular stars, which were also gorgeous but not quite as exciting.
“I can’t see any shooting stars,” I finally confessed.
“Here’s how you spot a shooting star,” our friend Ron told me. “You soften and widen your gaze and stare off into the middle distance. You’re looking at everything and nothing. That way you’re open to that sudden flash of light and movement.”
I didn’t see the flash of light from a shooting star that evening, but I did have an idea flash. Looking for shooting stars is like inviting out creativity. You open up your focus, relax, put yourself in receiving, daydreaming mode and wait for something marvelous.
For me, the art of being a care partner was an exceedingly creative endeavor. Much of the time was fraught with focus, dedicated to detail. But when I remembered to soften and widen my gaze, I was able to see my mom for the star she was, even when she seemed light years away from me.
Here are some tips for your own personal “star-gazing:”
Sit quietly with the person living with dementia. If appropriate, hold hands.
Let go of your history and your expectations. Appreciate her just as she is.
Open your mind and heart: be receptive to whatever flashes of light may come your way. Be happy even if you think nothing particular has happened.
For me, this was a rich way to connect with Mom when she was without words. Just sitting still renewed me, and ideas and memories often bubbled up.
Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.