This Transforming Shitty Life is All Good

 At the top of the highest peak in the contiguous United States at 14,505ft. 

There are days when I'm inspired to write and there are the days when I HAVE to write. I'm not talking about the "have to write" like it's a real job, I'm talking about the "have to write" because I need to get shit off my chest. Well this is most definitely the latter.

One of the things that I miss most about being married and sharing a business is the fact that there was another human occupying the same space where I lived and worked almost 24/7. Ok. Well maybe the 24/7 pushed that relationship a tad over the edge but the point is there was always a sounding board potentially available to listen to my shit at any given point during the day. My crazy idea shit, my I-did-something-stupid-shit, my dreams-and-goals shit, my anxious the-sky-is-falling shit... all of it. Knowing that someone was just listening was so critical for me. In fact, I've learned that being heard is, for me, a very deep layer that gets triggered in strange ways. I actively work at bringing awareness to that layer that doesn't feel heard or finds it painful when someone speaks over me or for me, but maybe that's for another post.

Bare with me while this post will be about stuff that I haven't really talked about, but need to.

I've talked a bit about meditation and how it has really become a foundation of my daily life. When my life gets busy, as it has over the last few weeks, I feel the contrast of not being able to keep grasp of the ritual and I can get lost in my head easily. In the past, I lived inside my head a lot, but I'm not a fan of this state.

So I find myself seeking out reflective opportunities whenever they float into my daily experience. Like driving in the car, for instance. Driving, unless I'm with my kid who I lovingly allow to hijack my Spotify, is one of the few spaces of silence and reflection I've been getting lately.

And so it occurred to me recently while driving to and from my mom's new memory care facility, that my life is pretty shitty lately. But this thought wasn't a judgement. It didn't even have emotion attached to it. I wasn't getting teary-eyed wishing things were different or even better. It was... well, just a thought and I was actually OK with things the way they were.

Everything… just… was.

And then it also occurred to me how transforming this shitty life is at the moment. How even in the thick of the realization that my mom was in need of memory care, my finances were imploding, and my teenager was on the podium for "Challenge of the Year Award"  I could, in fact, see that all this was good. Good in the sense that these things were happening in my life without the impact of my internal judgement. No emotions attached. No self pity. No fear. There was nothing negative or positive. I didn't cope by convincing myself things will be better or use positive affirmations. I didn't "choose" to be happy despite my life. There was no sunshine. No rainbows. Not even unicorns. But everything was good in a way that I could see how things were just supposed to be.

WTF does that mean?

I've been thinking about thinking a lot these days. Sometimes my thoughts are like a county fair fun house.

I could see how things were SUPPOSED TO BE. This was critical awareness for me. I'm beginning to see how the pieces are woven together. How when I look at each thread – the finances, the teenager, the mom, I can see that from a distance they disappear and the pattern they form emerges.

So when my brother and I met with a neurologist the other day to get his opinion about my mom's prognosis and I finally discovered that in fact, my mom has Alzheimers I felt myself letting that just sink in. Without judgement but with stillness. I let that be what it was supposed to be. I could view this diagnosis from the wider angle of things.

In a way, I'm relieved. The stress of moving her came with this. A full diagnosis was never explored with her previous doctor. It wasn't at the top of my list because she was in good general health, but she was in dire need of a new doctor and now she had not only one, but two. The new facility we moved her in comes with a primary care doctor who makes the rounds every three months and a neurologist who visits residents once a month. I had been looking for doctors in her area that were specialized in geriatric or dementia care and were accepting new patients but it was tough to find.

Funny how letting go and allowing life to pull you in it's own direction effortlessly illuminates the path.

When I first learned that my mom was exit-seeking and wandering out of the gates at her previous facility back in August I will admit I was in a state of denial. Afterall, it's really only been a couple years since we moved her into her first facility. I began watching my thoughts submerge themselves into the "NOT AGAIN!!" waters and I immediately started feeling the stress of the process like a heavy weight pressing into my chest again.

There was an aspect of myself that was feeling selfish and didn't want to move her. My friends had secured permits to climb Mt. Whitney, a mountain I had been wanting to climb for years, and I was invited to join them on a trip down to the Eastern Sierra. I didn't want to deal with another move and transition. Admittedly I didn't know what to expect with my mom's transition this time. The first time we moved her from her home of almost 45 years my mother wouldn't hug me or look me in the eye for about 4 months. Every time I came to visit she begged me to take her home. It was almost unbearable. My heart could hardly withstand the guilt. So this new unknown was uncomfortable for me. I informed my brother that I would be keeping my plans to climb Whitney and that I didn't see the necessity in moving her out of her current facility. They had a perfectly good memory care.

But eventually the reality of the situation required my focus and I went to visit my mom to assess the situation, speak with her caregivers, and see where the facility was recommending to place her for her own safety.

While the facility had a fully acceptable memory care option with caring staff, I quickly realized that it wasn't the best fit for my mom who was still social and mobile. Making life changing decisions for a parent is a task I'm still wrapping my head around. It's especially hard when communication with that parent is jibberish at best and the only means of assessing her opinions on things is to read the emotions that lie underneath her nonsensical sentences.

This decision, along with the other challenges life was launching at me began to sink me down into the anxious thinking and endless loops of negative thoughts. But this time I found myself catching the thoughts and inspecting them from a detached perspective. I saw that I was experiencing emotions of guilt and feelings of self disparagement. I saw the guilt bleeding out of me and I heard the voices in my head that said I was a horrible daughter for even thinking of climbing that mountain right now.

But this time I didn't get lost in guilt or the "me bashing" in my head. I was detached from those voices. I decided to take some time to open myself up to all the options. I chose to climb the mountain, afterall those plans were literally days away and giving myself some much needed time to reflect in nature was probably in my best interest. Limiting my trip to the bare minimum of three days, I decided I would focus on finding a solution to my mom's situation when I got back. What ended up happening was an alignment that I couldn't have predicted.

I checked my texts on my phone once I was able to get a signal on the mountain and saw that my brother was actively visiting facilities. My brother's wife suggested we take the opportunity to look into a new memory care and as it so happened, a room was available at one of the most sought after care facilities for Alzheimers patients in Sacramento but we had to move her ASAP to secure her spot.

So once I got off the mountain and back into Sacramento we prepped my mom for the move. Really, there's no way to prep a person with dementia for anything. Preparation requires the person to be able to know and understand that a change will be taking place in the near future and to be able to wrap their head around that. My mom's brain is like a cloud that carries thoughts that travel like a mist, changing, morphing and eventually disappearing within a matter of minutes. So the best I could do was to tell her to trust that the decisions that my brother and I would be making for her in the upcoming days and weeks would be to ensure that she is safe and happy. That's all she needed to know, and with her acceptance of that the conversation quickly floated out of her grasp and her attention was diverted to the smoothies that we were sipping on, which were quite tasty.

We are still in that transitional phase at the new facility and there's no way to tell how well my mom will handle it. So far it's been ups and downs but hardly the intensity of the first move. The fact that we now have a solid diagnosis with a neurologist and a new primary care doctor gives me peace of mind. Knowing that this will probably be her last move is another reality that I'm witnessing with stillness.

Now that the threads of the details of my life have somewhat settled and organized themselves, I see what was supposed to be. I was supposed to move my mom again. She was supposed to move into this place that was built and designed specifically for people like her. I was supposed to find her new doctors. We were supposed to confirm her diagnosis.

I was suppose to climb that mountain.

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