Tag Archives: spirituality

Appreciating the Power of Love

swans“How long have you been together?” the younger couple asked Ron and me.

“Twenty-two years,” we answered.

“Wow!” they said. They’d been in love for seven months and our decades-long romance must have seemed exotic and slightly unbelievable.

“What are the secrets of a good relationship?” they asked. “Please share your wisdom.”

First, Ron and I basked in the idea that two people believed we possessed actual wisdom! Then we shared our insights.

How We Learned about Love

Our insights came from growing as individuals and as a couple during our wonderful long relationship and from earlier relationships that had helped us become our true selves.  We also learned from watching our parents maintain their relationships in the face of dementia.

When Ron’s father Frank was in a memory care unit, Ron’s mom Mollie told her husband, “I love you so much.” Frank replied, “Not as much as I love you!.” lionsThose were some of Frank’s last words and that sentence stayed with Mollie through and beyond her grieving.

During my growing up years, my father was circumspect in declaring his love for Mom. But when she slipped into dementia, Dad showed me what a true romantic he was.  He treated her like he was courting her; he showered Mom with compliments and kisses and frequently he expressed his love for her. Even when she could no longer talk, she still enjoyed her favorite foods—he faithfully fed her sliced strawberries and chocolate candies.

Love Me Tender, Make Me Laugh, Always Have My Back

My parents were my role models and I also learn an enormous amount from the couples I interview every week for the love story column I write for the Kansas City Star Magazine. Here are some of the qualities people most love about their life partners and spouses.

Loves me just as I amlaughing

Takes care of me/Always has my back

Makes me laugh

Shares my values/ Complements me

Works hard/ Is honest and reliable

Always puts other people first/ Always puts me first

Inspires me to be better/ Appreciates me

Love Lights the Way

Some months ago, Oprah had author, visionary and cultural mid-wife Jean Houston on her TV show. “What do you wish people knew?” Oprah asked Jean.

“I wish people knew how powerful love is,” Jean answered.

That was one of the grandest lessons from my journey with my mom through her dementia: the power of love. Her love lasted all her life, far beyond her memory of things and people. Her love was a spark that lit up her life and mine.

sparkDeborah is the author of Love in the Land  of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

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Trusting The Loss Of Your Identity

I met Mary O’Malley when I interviewed her for an article in Natural Awakenings Magazine. She inspired me then and she continues to inspire me. I am honored to share an abridged version of her post with you.

Trusting The Loss Of Your Identity

From Guest Blogger Mary O’Malley, author of What’s In the Way IS the Way

A friend of mine lost her husband about a year ago. She was his caretaker for many years, and before that, she cared for her ailing parents. She feels like she doesn’t know who she is anymore and is trying to figure out what she is supposed to be doing next. She feels like her identity has been taken away. I believe just the opposite is happening. Life has taken away the caretaker role so she can get to know who she really is.

butterflyI too have experienced what it is like to have the old identity ripped away. It feels like a butterfly whose wings are wet and cannot move. Often times our self-worth is tied to how much we accomplish or how much we can get done. When part of our identity is taken away from us, it is painful and scary. And our poor little mind goes crazy because it has always found a sense of safety through the illusion that it is in control. The mind is a tool for maneuvering through reality, but it is not reality.

I believe Life is preparing us for being birthed back into the vast spaciousness of who we truly are. But, it can be confusing and scary for the ego. As the Tibetan Lama Chögyam Trungpa Rinoche says, “If there were no confusion, there would be no wisdom. Chaos should be regarded as really good news.” When we lose a part of our old identify, there can be so much confusion and grief that it feels like death. But, actually something new is being born. Remember that, although birth is wonderful, it is not neat and pretty. A human birth has pee and poop and blood, and it is painful. So it is important to do our Lamaze breathing, whether we are birthing a child or Life is birthing us! We can resist this process, or we can recognize that Life knows what it is doing as it takes this away and that away.

The next time you feel challenged, try asking Life for help by saying, “Help me through this passage, and show me how to see what you are showing me so I can be healed to my core.”

To read the entire blog, visit:  http://www.maryomalley.com/2015/04/05/trusting-the-loss-of-your-identity-2/

To be further inspired by Mary and her work, visit: http://www.maryomalley.com/books/

 Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

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Stepping into the Care Partner’s Journey: Creating the Path

jungle 1 It was 4:00 am and Carlos and Luis, our Ecuadorian guides, waited patiently by the dugout canoe.  It was a half-hour boat ride and an hour trek to the salt lick where the wild parakeets descended early every morning. Carlos had described the cacophony of sound and the brilliant flashes of yellow that blotted out the sky when the birds arrived and Ron and I were eager to be part of the experience. The morning was silent save for the paddles pushing through the still waters. When we reached the land, Carlos tied the canoe to a thorn tree and Luis helped us out of the boat. In the dim light, I headed toward what looked like the only opening into the brush. But Carlos stopped me.

“Deborah, you’re heading in the wrong direction,” he said. He held up his machete and pointed to a tangle of vines and trees off to the left. “This is our trail.” And he and Luis began creating a path through the jungle.

Recently, my friend Janet Sunderland shared this Joseph Campbell quote:  “If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.”

So many times during my time with my mother, I was drawn to those bright openings, the beautiful array of well-worn steps. All too soon, I would be reminded by an inner or outer voice, “Deborah, you are heading in the wrong direction.” And I was guided back to the core of my care partnering journey, the intense creativity of the path-in-progress, step by step, creating a trail only I could make.

jungleDeborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

 

 

 

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Forget Control: Remember Breaking Through

imgresToo many times, after I’d spend time with my mom, I’d come home and instantly misplace my car keys or forget a phone number. The panic rocketed through me, the fear almost knocking the breath out of me, and I’d think, “I’m losing my mind; it’s happening to me.”

I recently read an insightful and reassuring blog by Mary O’Malley, author of What’s in the Way Is the Way. Mary offers a creative and spiritual perspective on the concept of forgetfulness. Here are some excerpts from her work.

It’s a Breakthrough, Not a Breakdown

By Mary O’Malley

A friend of mine is struggling right now. He has been the caregiver for his spouse for quite a few years and lately, he often feels disoriented, confused, and has had trouble remembering things.

He said recently, “Mary, I think I am losing my mind.” He went to his primary care provider, but so far, all of his medical tests are negative. So, what is going on?

I believe that my friend is experiencing an initiation through fear. He thinks he is having a breakdown, but I call it a breakthrough.breakthrough Losing our mind is one of our biggest fears. Most of us think our mind has been our safe place; we believe it needs to be on top of everything and in control. It has given us a false sense of security our whole lives. When we believe the mind is checking out or losing control, we have a hard time accepting it. But we are not in control; life is in control. We are all going to completely lose control at some point. Our bodies are going to break down. We are all going to die. And there is actually something inside of us that is totally okay with all of that. Life loves us enough to give us the exact set of experiences we need in order to become free from fear, including the experiences of confusion, disorientation, and memory loss.

Often we think we are in control, but are we? Are we in charge of our breathing? Some people would say, “Yes.” But just try to stop your breath. We can make it shallow or deep and we can hold our breath, but ultimately we are not in charge of our life force: We are being breathed by life. Stephen Levine, author, poet, and spiritual teacher, says, “May you be so lucky to come across something you can’t control.” This is where we find the healing.

The Tibetan Lama and founder of Naropa University, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche gets to the heart of what we are exploring here when he says: “If there were no confusion, there would be no wisdom….imgres-1

Chaos is workable…not regressive.
Respect whatever happens, chaos should be regarded as extremely good news.
Respect the upsurge of energy that is emotions, no matter what form. … Let yourself be in the emotion, go through it, give-in to it, experience it….. Transmutation involves going through such fear.”

In other words, confusion is a necessary part of our spiritual awakening. What would your life be like if you trusted it all, even deep fear and confusion?

To read Mary’s entire blog, please visit:  http://www.maryomalley.com/2014/12/07/its-a-breakthrough/

To learn more about Mary and her work, visit:  http://www.maryomalley.com/

imgres-2

Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

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Six Creative Thoughts on Acceptance

letting go of control

Recently we have had the pleasure of talking to people from various Alzheimer’s Associations. One piece of wisdom many of them have shared:   Accept persons living with dementia as they are, without trying to change them.

Here are a few quotes that remind us of the power of acceptance and an inspiring story from Annabelle Montoya of the Alzheimer’s Association, New Mexico Chapter.

Click here to hear a great story from Annabelle

accepting life as it isAcceptance

 

patiencehappiness

     monkey with bird

 

 

Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia:   Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

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