Last night and for most of the morning, I have been lost in thought about how very rich I am. Those riches may not come in the ways most people measure wealth, financial, status Etc. Nonetheless my life is rich beyond what I would have ever imagined. Yes, even living with Dementia my life is rich. Oh its not that I have not had my share of trauma and tragedy, goodness knows I have. But had it not been for all those things I may not be in this place where I can look at and recognize how rich my life is and on and in so many ways. From adventures that have seen me in Europe, many areas of the US, Mexico, Alaska, most of Canada, and I say most because there is still many highways and byways that I want to travel and explore. I don’t want to be done yet, and most of my excursions have seen me explore areas that are off the beaten track, where I could mingle with the locals, explore their neighbourhoods, eat in the places they eat, instead of following the tourist trail. It has created in me a richness, for people, for culture, for the natural beauty to be found in each of those places, each different, each unique, all very special.
Many of those trips were further enriched by the person or persons who traveled with me. They helped create memories that will stay with me throughout my life, despite my dementia, I will look at photos, it will take me back to how I felt in that place with that person, in that moment, those feelings can never be erased. They all bring a richness to my life that I will always be grateful for. From the tops of mountains to the ocean shores, the rain forests, the deserts and grasslands. I was fortunate enough to have my beautiful little car, which I sold when I was not allowed to drive, I could not bear to look at it sit there, to being grateful when I was again allowed to drive and learning to love the little car I know drive my little Mazda 3. My Mini Cooper was a special edition, iced chocolate with teal flecks in the paint, it was a lot of fun, I had a lot of great adventures with it, richness, because I had it, richness because again I can drive and have a little car in which to do it.
My dementia has also brought many riches to my life, from the experiences I had, to the people it has brought to my life, people who I would not have likely been to meet, to form friendships with, to share parts of each others journey, those are gifts, those provide a richness money can’t buy. So although dementia takes much, it provides gifts that enrich our lives in ways we never could have expected. Beyond the devastation and gloom of being diagnosed life becomes good, in some ways better, maybe I had my career taken away, maybe I have had to endure many losses and changes and challenges. but it has also brought new perspective on life and living, on being grateful.
It brought wealth beyond what I could have thought, wealth in those experiences, from speaking at the United Nations in New York and at the Alzheimers Disease International Conference, to finding the courage to write my blogs, and to write a book, with a second on the way.
My life is lived in large part in isolation, partly because of the changes since my dementia diagnosis, some just by nature of life. But in that isolation there is also richness and things to be grateful for. Within the isolation I have learnt more about myself, because without the business of life, the noise of life, I have learnt to listen to my thoughts, to be in touch with my emotions and my feelings. I have learnt to like wait no love who I am today.
I like that I am no longer afraid to speak my truth, that I am no longer afraid to hide the things that I am passionate about. I like that I have room in my life to try to help others, to be kind and compassionate, to try to make a lasting impact on things that matter, or at least matter to me. I no longer feel less than anyone else, I have learnt we are all walking through this life, some of us are forced out of and off of the hamster wheel, I am grateful I was one of them.
Life is lived more in the moment, with more presence, with a greater sense of feeling and gratitude. And I am not saying that others don’t, I am just saying that for me it comes from a deeper place within, I stutter, I stumble, I make mistakes, I don’t try to be perfect or do perfect, I am the most real I have ever been. That came from having life, a life my life, stripped away without any say, from one day to the next forever altered. Maybe I won’t like and don’t want the end stage of my illness, but living with it, letting it be part and parcel of me, it doesn’t control me, I don’t control it, we just walk together, forever one, but we have formed a sort of friendship and respect for each other, it kicks my butt, I kick back, then we both settle into whatever it is for know. Right know it’s kicking my butt, but in all fairness, its triggered by the smoke and heat from all the fires, it’s creating a lot of inflammation and inflammation is the bad monster in my dementia world.
2021 has challenged me in ways that have been much harder than the year prior, even though 2020 was a year full of changes and adjustments because of covid 19, this year the year 2021 has been much harder. With Covid 19 still running rampant, with fires, heat domes, smoke, the effects are staggering, but again knowing that it too will end and change my focus is getting to other end of it all. The heat will end, the fires will end, the smoke will disappear, covid 19 will eventually settle into a part of our lives that is not quite so disruptive, I cannot control any of them, I can only try to manage the ways in which they impact me and do my part to ensure what I do does not impact others in a negative way.
I may not know what the full richness this year has bestowed on me until it is long past, but I do that that the richness I have already felt from in, from those near and far doing what they can to be supportive, to check, to share laughter and tears, to all of those people they make me rich, rich in the friendships, rich in the kindness shown and deeply grateful to them all for being part of my life.
Right know I can honestly say I am in survival mode, trying to get through the smoke and heat and fires with as little ( although the impact on me and my dementia are increasing daily), damage as possible. Feeling like another level of richness comes from the team of doctors who keep a close eye on me, who know the situation we all find ourselves can quickly put me into a full crisis, so they monitor and I do what I can.
Happy that I am able to see and recognize all this richness that embodies my life.