Verdi’s opera Un Ballo in Maschera vividly portrays differences between men and women in a love triangle. King Gustavo feels love in his heart for his best friend’s wife, so he acts on his feelings and declares himself to her, regardless of the risk or potential cost involved. Amelia asks instead for a witch’s potion to cure her of her feelings for the king, desiring to remain a loyal and protected wife. Many people long for new passions and become bored with their ordinary lives. Is this a morality play meant to show the tragic outcomes of following one’s dream?
When we are caregivers for our beloved spouses, no path leads to anything but tragic outcomes. If we feel moved to declare our affection we are often misunderstood or even ignored; we strive to remain loyal, loving and kind, remembering for both of us the fondness and love in the past. At holiday time, we decorate the house, prepare traditional food and attempt to feel as if everything is normal, but of course it can’t be. One partner is a shell of what he or she used to be. We go through the motions, we put on a good show, but there is a hollowness inside where true love once resided.
How do we fulfill ourselves when we are providing good feelings and activities for our loved one if these activities are no longer rewarding for us? What do we do with our feelings of disappointment which are often present at holiday time, even without Alzheimer’s disease getting in the way? Depression often accompanies the holidays as we see revelers and carolers on television celebrating and gifting each other when we feel alone. How do we keep these feelings from turning into anger directed at our families and friends whose attempts at helping us are so well-meaning?
It is definitely true at holiday time that we need to reach out to someone who understands what we are experiencing, true friends, family members who "get" what we are feeling and especially to an Alzheimer support group, preferably in person, but also available online and in chat rooms where we can get immediate feedback from a peer. Relating our stories with other caregivers helps them to cope as we are supported in knowing we are not alone. We have all been there; we know how difficult our lives are right now. Sharing our feelings lightens us, we feel less guilty and most of all we feel supported, cared for, taken care of, by others who are caregivers themselves.
And what about our dreams and passions that have been put on hold since our partners developed Alzheimer's or other life-limiting, personality-stealing illness? Figure out a plan that will permit you to pursue your old dream or forge a new one. Find a companion to stay with your loved one, budget your funds if necessary to get yourself some free time to learn to study to DO something for yourself!