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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Satisfaction December 25, 2013

I guess I was raised to expect the most satisfaction in my life to be marriage and family; we all were in my generation, which came after the Great Depression, especially the Jewish people who survived the Holocaust. As a family, we were happy to be alive and together, satisfied with whatever we had. My mother was the best example. She never coveted anything anyone else had; she felt that whatever she had worked and was the most that she needed or wanted. She didn't need a telephone answering machine or a microwave oven; she loved her Chevy Impala and did not yearn for a newer or a higher level car. She loved her three daughters the same way and never wished for a son; my Dad teased that he did, but we knew he loved us with all his heart.

My mother had daily satisfactions which filled her life; can we match that feeling with the more rapid pace of our lives and the extreme competition for our desires to be whetted for faster and more technically  advanced merchandise? We are bombarded by the latest in fashion, the most popular restaurants and at this time of year the lists of the best "top ten" movies, books, etc. which make me feel less than satisfied until I read and see all ten!

I begin to think we are all getting obese because we feel little satisfaction in our daily lives and look for the comfort of food to provide the satiety (fullness) which we confuse with satisfaction.

I begin to think folks participate and watch extreme sports events for the same reason; we wish to feel satisfied that we have accomplished something extraordinary-or at least watch as someone else risks his or her life climbing an ice covered mountain or skiing off a cliff.

I don't know why our expectations vary so much; many others have told me how surprised they were, as I was, that their  school children's concert or chorus was well rehearsed and delightful "this year." Are we so afraid of being disappointed that we no longer let ourselves be excited, anticipating events? Let us each strive to feel satisfied with our daily lives without looking to compare our events with others, without measuring how much we received or how much our gifts were appreciated by their recipients.




Sunday, December 22, 2013

Make Someone Happy December 22,2013

Audra Macdonald made me happy when she appeared last night at the Mesa Arts Center with the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra. I was in the next to last row of the mezzanine with tears flowing gently down my cheeks as she sang songs about love and loss in her rich, strong, mellifluous voice.

Although performed in a large wood-paneled auditorium with wonderful accoustics, the show seemed almost as intimate as my husband and I were privileged to see and hear in the Rainbow Room in New York several years ago, before he became ill with Alzheimer's disease. Naturallly, my thoughts drifted to him and to our life together as I applauded each song Audra sang.

As Audra sang Jule Stein's lovely lyrics I was enveloped by the wonderful feeling yesterday afternoon before the concert, when I entered the memory care unit where my husband lives. I was "dressed up," wearing a dark grey suit with a form-fitting waisted jacket over a short-sleeved red cashmere pullover. I was "adorned" by gold love-knot earrings which were my husband's first gift to me and a gold bracelet my husband purchased for me at an antiques show shortly after we were married. He had such pleasure in recognizing valuable jewelry at pawn shops and flea markets, negotiating a good price and seeing me wear what he bought for me.

I envelop myself in fond memories each day so I have a genuine loving feeling as I enter the home. My husband  was in his room standing facing away from the door as I entered.I watched quietly, waiting to see if he was going to seat himself on one of his comfortable chairs or if he would turn toward me. He merely stood in place in the center of the room until I quietly said hello. He was startled nonetheless as he turned and saw me. He reached out his arms to hold me and to kiss me, exclaiming "You are SO beautiful."

When the veil of indifference lifts for a few moments and my husband has a moment of lucidity, when his eyes light up in recognition of our partnership and trust, I know I have made him happy these past score-plus years which sustains me now. This Alzheimer's disease has robbed us of so many years and experiences, but  we still can feel the connection we have to each other and I for one, can still build  fond memories.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Shopping Successes and Defeats December 21, 2013

Happy Winter Solstice. Today is the shortest day of the year which means that the days will now begin to lengthen once again. Even in sunny Arizona, the day begins chilly, overcast with a 90 per cent chance of rain, but I am willing to bet that the sun will shine at some point during the day and that the presence of clouds will ensure a brilliantly colored sunset this afternoon. Successes and defeats, the yin and yang of life confront us all each day.

Why do I accept some of them and get really upset by others? My car received a recall notice this week. The warning that there is a problem is the airbag light which, when I checked, remains lit throughout the drive and does not turn off after six seconds as it should. My car had its mileage- required checkup on December 2nd. Why did no one check this and leave me at risk for brake failure or airbag deployment enroute? No problem, I'll phone and make an appointment on Monday.

But strolling past the shoe aisle at a local department store yesterday, I see a similar pair of sneakers to the ones I purchased at a discount store with a $20.00 coupon for the same price without a sale or a coupon! I feel defeated, just as I felt a few months ago when I saw that my formerly favorite coupon-loaded megastore was selling a sports bra for $46.00 which I believe is outrageous. I found the same brand at another store at regular price for $21.99. So I will now be more careful as I realize that the discount stores are selling their merchandise at the same price as the mall department stores. I will no longer follow the coupon trail, but rather I will wait for the department store sales.

Which reminds me of other shopping successes I hear about. Dr. Oz will recommend a product and masses of people will follow the trail from one store to another to find the product a bit less expensively. The effectiveness of the cream, lotion or supplement is surpassed by the feeling of success at finding the item at a lower price! I do not participate in those hunting expeditions but I did order four boxes of an all herbal product that recently received FDA approval for preventing or ameliorating the symptoms of early Alzheimer's disease. I will advise you in a few months if I feel my cognitive skills have improved. Stay tuned!

 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Happiness-What is it? How Do we Feel it, Judge it, Define it for Ourselves? December 15, 2013

The Sunday NYTimes has a lead article in the Review section which started me thinking in this direction. I was planning to write about jealousy and envy but that blog will have to wait.

Researchers have now decided that three things determine how happy we feel-- our genes, events and values. Once again, they study identical twins reared apart to separate out nature (genes) vs. nurture (environment).
First I will retell the old Christmastime joke about the twins who were placed in different rooms--one filled with new toys and the other filled with horse manure and a shovel. One was sad when the doors were opened a few hours later, the other happy. Which one was happy? Not the boy who  was sitting among a pile of broken toys and complaining about the lack of batteries, the directions he didn't read etc. but the boy who was enthusiastically digging. "There must be a pony in here someplace," he said.

Some of us from childhood onward have this gift of optimism, this aceptance of life, this appreciation for whatever comes their way. Others see only the faults, the missed opportunities, the indignities; nothing makes them feel happy or content. Usually it is "others" who are to blame, but sometimes that insecurity is turned inward, toward themselves and they feel guilty about everything "wrong" that happens.

Which brings us to events. I spoke with a stranger as I was waiting outdoors on line to purchase a movie ticket. "Great day, isn't it? Waiting outside in the sunshine? Couldn't be better."
He answered, "Yes, Arizona has great weather. If it could only be 10 degrees cooler in the summer or 10 degrees warmer today it would be perfect."
And my friends in New York this weekend? For one the weather is "no big deal" while the other response was "I'm staying home all day until it gets warmer."

Of course when I read about the genetic component I thought about my parents and my children. What have they passed on to me and what have I passed down to my children and grandchildren? If we become aware of our "programmed" parts as adults, we can develop our own values so we can look at events in our own chosen way. We can learn to appreciate what works to make us happy in the events over which we have no control, whether that is staying home and enjoyiing the bad weather from afar, or digging out boots and hats and gloves and discovering how good it feels to have the brisk air in our lungs.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Appreciation-Is it Easier to Receive than to Give? December 9, 2013

At holiday times we talk about and spend hours wondering about and selecting gifts for those we love--and even gifts to show our appreciation for the business, personal favors, teachers and others who have provided a welcome service for us during the past year.

Insurance companies and funeral homes send out calendars for the coming year with their logo attached; other businesses send pens or specialty food items to their best customers to show their appreciation. With technology taking the place of pen and paper it gets more difficult each year to choose a gift that will be welcome and express our feelings well.

As the spouse of a resident in a memory care center, I am truly appreciative of the loving services the caregivers and the supporting staff provide for my husband, from the daily skills assistance to the hugs and the kind words each and every one of them make sure to provide on every meeting as he wanders the halls or sits and eats a snack. Due to my husband's Alzheimer's disease, he is not able to show his appreciation but he still says "Thank you" when he is served most of the time.

That small response is appreciated by the staff and is something we sometimes forget. Look at the person  directly and voice your thanks and your appreciation for the kindness received this year in the same way that we all appreciate a "thank you" from others.

But do we?  I often feel embarrassed when I receive appreciation for something I have done. I often don't take the time to reply meaningfully, saying only "It was nothing." or "I like to be helpful when I can." Receiving gifts, compliments or thanks graciously and gratefully is a skill requiring openness and when I take not only the time but make the effort of truly relating to the other person, the relationship with that other person has a chance to grow and deepen.




Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Never Give Up December 3, 2013

I guess folks have the opinion about me that I don't give up even though people in my life are questioning me daily about the progress or lack of progress on publishing my new book. It will happen, just the time frame is a bit over the estimate at this point.
I try to find solutions for others that avoid despair and in my own life I have turned the idea of giving up into the idea of modifying my goals. One of my goals was weight loss and I met the first part of the goal; now I need to modify my expectations and accept that at least during this holiday time, I will be content to maintain the progress I have made.
Another goal was to read the stack of books on my MUST READ pile ; some for a book group, some to improve my knowledge about dementia and others that are Holocaust related. Yesterday, I amended that goal and visited the library to borrow novels and mysteries so I can sit out in my backyard in the sunshine and read for my own pleasure.
I still visit my husband at the memory care facility daily even though he often doesn't know or seem to care whether I visit or not. My expectations for my visits have been reduced; I feel I go to make sure he is being trated well, that he is not in pain, that his clothing is up to my standards for him. I sort of gave up on my expectation that I can still have positive memories of him as was the case just a few weeks ago when he told my son to tell me to "sit down and stop talking" to another resident's family members.
So yesterday when I noticed that my husband's belt was not pulled through all of the belt loops and his  pants were riding dangerously low on his hips, I walked with him to his room, chattering all the way and explaining to him as I rethreaded his belt. When I finished we were standing face to face. My husband looked straight at me and said, "You're getting old."
I thought, "See, he does know who I am," and I answered, "Of course I am. So are you. We both get older all the time."
He stood there a moment, gathering his thoughts. "So that's it," he said.
Perhaps he occasionally wonders why he is in the memory care center; perhaps he had a momentary understanding about advanced age as a reason. The curtain closed and I could understand no more of what he said.
But he is still "in there." He still has thoughts and feelings. We still have a relationship that is important to both of us.