Live Better

16 Jan

LiveLifeBetter

Some days you have to look in the mirror and confront the realities looking back at you. Today is one of those days for me.

My family and closest friends know that I can have a pretty volatile temper. At this point it takes a lot for me to get angry. It usually builds up over time. When I get to the point of anger there is a long story playing in my head that I feel justifies the completeness with which I am going to go off. When I was younger my explosions would come immediately after anything or anyone made me cry. Being the youngest though my outbursts didn’t always get the reaction I needed. I was smaller, slower, weaker than everyone else. I also grew up in a household where you couldn’t say or do anything you pleased so a lot of things had to be played out in my mind rather than in reality. As I got older I moved into not letting people see me cry, so the explosions would seem irrational when directed at someone who didn’t know me. They would say something as simple as “Hello” and I would go completely off. What they didn’t know is that I was reacting to the sound of the voice I had attached to numerous painful and harmful memories. I was reacting to a list of perceived wrongs. Then e’Marcus Harper entered my life. One day he challenged a group of us to address the fact that we had so many buttons that people could push. He asked us to shift from focusing on our anger and frustration with the people pushing our buttons.  It was then that I really started embracing that the problem may not be all of these various and sundry people. I was my biggest problem. It was a turning point for me. e’Marcus went further. He challenged me to find ways to demonstrate love…to be a living example of Christ’s love…in my interaction with everyone. Well it’s been more than 10 years since e’Marcus said that and I’m still working on it.

At this point in my life I have very few buttons. The ones that I have are interconnected. It basically boils down to these: Please note that these are all based on how I perceive someone else’s actions and intentions. 

  • I do not like to be hurt, played, used, or hustled.
  • I do not like to see the people I love being hurt, played, used, or hustled.
  • I really do not like being used in anyone’s efforts to hurt, play, use, or hustle someone else.
  • I get beyond angry when someone is attempting to use me in their efforts to hurt, play, use, or hustle someone I love.

Recently I found myself going though all 4 things in the matter of a few moments. I tried to just sit with it. I also tried to let it go. None of that worked. I ended up typing a vitriolic response to a message posted in a private chat group. One problem is that NO ONE who received my response had ANY idea that I was responding to buttons 1-4 having been pushed. Another problem is that my response did not exemplify the way I want to live my life.

Last night, I thought about my response to the group and felt bad about what I had said. I re-read the response this morning and felt ashamed. There was no love in my response…NONE. I knew I had to apologize. I had missed my opportunity to explain myself, but there was time and space for an apology. I sent the apology today and it was accepted. I am grateful for that.

Now I must face the choices and consequences part. The person who I wanted to protect was the one that I hurt with my response. If my role was that of a bodyguard, it’s a though I brutally attacked the person I was supposed to be protecting, Our relationship may not fully recover. That is a consequence of my choices. I demonstrated a complete lack of love…in any form. That memory will linger with everyone who read my response. That is a consequence of my choices. I decided that re-framing my anger as passion made it OK to say whatever I wanted to say. I went against the old adage to “stay sweet so your testimony won’t spoil.” Choices and Consequences.

I hope this is the last time I have to learn the following lessons. If it isn’t the last time, I hope the next time is at least less painful:

  • It is better to deal with the fundamental issue rather than the symptom.
  • I must still slow down and heavily examine the possible impact of my actions before I say and do things.
  • Whenever my reaction calls for me to say to God that it would be best if you plug your ears and cover your eyes for a few minutes, it’s better that I simply sit quietly and do nothing.

I wish I could tie this up nicely and stick a big pretty bow on it,, but this is not that kind of post. This is a post that ends like this. I’ve taken a look at my buttons, choices, and consequences. I’ve learned some lessons. Now it’s time to stop writing and start living better. I hope you are inspired to take a hard look at some aspect of your life or way of being.  Let’s Live Better!

For Christ’s Love Compels Us… 2 Corinthians 5:14

Standing on the Precipice

10 Jan

precipiceI stood on the precipice today.  In a 2 hour span I received back-to-back text messages and calls that showed me that I am not in control. Being forced to submit to the fact that I am not in control of anything pushes EVERY button I have. I get mad, angry, afraid, childlike, irrational…then I start grabbing at anything I can control and control it to DEATH! I eventually graduate to trusting God, submitting to the process, and believing in myself. I’m still working on skipping the 1st part and going straight to the second part…

Being out of control feels like chaos to me. I don’t like chaos … somehow this does not apply to the clothes all over my bedroom, but I digress.  I have spent 99% of my working life focusing on turning chaos into order. I do it well. Today though, I couldn’t find anything to take me to the safe waters of order. My only hope for order was silence. I needed complete and utter silence so that I could think this all through. When I got silent, I got  mad at God. I mean REALLY mad. I ranted and raged. God was silent. I ranted and raged some more. God remained silent. Then I just got REALLY pissed off.

I needed to feel in control of something. I sat down and couldn’t make sense of anything. Then I decided I would have my cell phone turned off. I soon realized that having no cell phone would impact many other things in my life, including my life with BNFIT. I sent Byron, my trainer,  a crisp, clear, unemotional text message announcing that due to a decision I have made, this will be my FINAL week as his client. I clicked SEND and the rush of CONTROL went COURSING through my body. He quickly replied, “No M’am!” I was baffled by his response. I did not ask a yes/no question. I made a declarative statement. I’m not sure what I expected his response to be, but it was not that. His rejection of my resignation had more weight than my resignation. Control was slipping away again and I didn’t like that one bit.

I was teetering on the edge of the precipice. God was silent. My trainer was defiant. I was overwhelmed. Tears started flowing and I just let them flow. It was at that moment that I realized I had a decision to make. I was either going to succumb to the voices telling me to give up or I was going to submit to the voice telling me to trust God. I decided to trust God. Standing at the precipice was scary and powerful. I felt weak and strong. I felt like I could do nothing and everything. Standing at the precipice made me feel alone and aware of the love and support that surround and support me. It was another adventure in my long winding road to submission. Let me make this clear, nothing magical happened in this moment re. the matters I need to address. Everything is not suddenly roses and sunshine. I have work to do…including strengthening my trust muscles.

Later in the day I got to experience what happens when I do my part and let God do the heavy lifting (thanks for that, Steve). My mother’s doctor took her off of 3 of her medications. When I moved in with my mom she was taking 10 medications. She is at her ideal weight. her blood pressure is normal. Her cholesterol levels are in the good. She is now off of all 10 meds. My mother is 83 years old, has Alzheimer’s and is healthier than most people in their 50s. Mom did her part. All of us who are participating in her care did our part. God did his part. My mother is only on 2 medications for Alzheimer’s symptoms at age 83. That’s pretty incredible.

When life takes me to the precipice, I decide whether I fall, leap, run away, or freeze. I decide whether I will trust God, submit to the process, believe in myself or let fear, anger, doubt, and worry stop me instead of motivate me. Today, I experienced all of this. It has been a rough day. It has also been an incredible day.

cliff_jump

“When I am afraid, I will trust you.” Psalm 56:3

Daddy’s Girl

6 Jan Mom at Dad's Funeral

Today marks 19 years since my father died. I still mark it as THE WORST day of my life…and my life has not been a bed of roses.

I have never been ashamed to own the label “daddy’s girl” even now in my late 40′s. My role as a daddy’s girl is as present today as it was 19 years ago. My devotion to my father is the driving force behind my decision to serve as my mother’s caregiver. He loved her passionately and completely. As a daddy’s girl, it is my duty, since he is not here to do it himself, to take care of the woman he adored. I recently shared this thought with a friend of mine. At the time, I felt ashamed of feeling this way. Shouldn’t I be taking care of my mother just because she is my mother? Well, the problem with that premise is that Alzheimer’s has basically erased her role as mother from her mind. She knows my name, but RARELY knows that she is my mother. I am most often the lady that takes care of things around the house. At this point, it is at times painful for me to think of her as the woman that raised me. That woman had a bright and quick mind. That woman could juggle the priorities, needs, and wants of a husband, 4 children, a demanding career as a hospital administrator, and the many duties of being a pastor’s wife…Sam Hines’s wife. The woman I am caring for cannot do any of that. What she is, was and always will be though, is my father’s sweetheart. For that reason, even when she is agitated by the mere mention of the fact that she has children, she is treated with great love and care.  It is also powerful that in the midst of every thing that Alzheimer’s steals from my mother it has not put a dent in these three knowings for her: 1) God is real; 2) She loved her husband; 3) Her husband loved her.

Here is the painful part. My mother is at a point where I need to recommit to my commitment to take care of her, even if that means letting go of my role as her primary caregiver. I see this as also the final act of really letting go of my father. THAT’S THE PAINFUL PART. My grief, anger about my father’s death, and love of my father have defined me for almost 20 years. I am aware that being this lost in grief and anger is not what my father would want for me. This is not the way he would want my love for him to play out. He always wanted me to live my best life – a life submitted to God; a life in service to others; a life full of love, joy, laughter, and sacrifice; a life that allowed me to experience how big and great God is; a life where my gifts and talents are known, developed, and demonstrated. That is the ultimate life of a daddy’s girl…if your daddy was Samuel George Hines.

Here are some of his favorite sayings:

1. Reconciliation is not cheap
2. We are Ambassadors for Christ
3. Jesus Christ is Lord
4. We are Image Bearers
5. If you can’t find a role model, BE ONE
6. Still Under Construction
7. Alive and Grateful
I want to end this with the same words that were the last words I spoke to my father before he died. I LOVE YOU, DADDY.

Dads Birthday Collage

Samuel George Hines
April 19, 1929 – January 6, 1995

Let’s Keep Holding On

6 Dec

It’s been one of those days where I just feel like I am living out some personal version of hell. Mom was up when I got back from working out (always a sign that things are going to be a little bumpy). She was dressed and ready for me to take her home. Due to not having time to get my filters together before engaging with my mother for the day, I challenged her reality. That interaction has set the tone for the rest of the day. She is clear that she needs to get out of here and go “home” to where her things are and where people understand her. This has gone on non-stop all day. At this point I am exhausted, in tears, and wanting several strong drinks.

So you may wonder why am I posting this blog. Well what I know is that often caregivers get isolated. We feel like no one else is hanging on by their fingernails. We feel guilt about being overwhelmed with caring for a loved one. We need to know that someone sees us, feels our pain, and simply knows we are alive. I post this blog to let some other caregiver know that I see you. I feel your pain. I know you’re out there and I am so glad that you are there doing what you do.

In the middle of being completely overwhelmed today, I received a text telling me that someone close to me had received a miracle. That message meant more to me that he will ever know. I needed to know that miracles were still happening. I needed to know that God was making things happen. I needed that desperately today. I needed it and I got what I needed. I can keep going. I can keep holding on.

LET’S KEEP HOLDING ON!

Below is information from a post on the Alzhiemer’s Association website. For the full article, click on the link at the bottom of this excerpt.

How to respond

  • Don’t take offense.
    Listen to what is troubling the person, and try to understand that reality. Then be reassuring, and let the person know you care.
  • Don’t argue or try to convince.
    Allow the individual to express ideas. Acknowledge his or her opinions.
  • Offer a simple answer.
    Share your thoughts with the individual, but keep it simple. Don’t overwhelm the person with lengthy explanations or reasons.
  • Switch the focus to another activity.
    Engage the individual in an activity, or ask for help with a chore.
  • Duplicate any lost items.
    If the person is often searching for a specific item, have several available. For example, if the individual is always looking for his or her wallet, purchase two of the same kind.
  • Share your experience with others.
    Join ALZConnected, our online support community and message boards, and share what response strategies have worked for you and get more ideas from other caregivers.

Read more: http://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-suspicion-delusions.asp#ixzz2mjUTd3Bg

Is Your Mother Still Alive

19 Nov 2013-05-12 14.04.40

While having her lunch, my mother asked me if my mother is still alive. Yep. you read that right. Nope. I didn’t miss a word nor is that a typo. My mother asked me if my mother is still alive. That question literally took my breath away. At first I could not respond. I was looking at her and processing a million emotions at once. She asked the question again and I calmly replied, “No, she isn’t.” I have been pretty numb for the rest of the day. Later on mom mentioned that she went to my mother’s funeral. I just had to walk away. There was absolutely nothing left to say. Now I’m simply going to go to bed and pray that tomorrow is a better day for Mom and me. Confession of  a caregiver of a parent with Alzheimer’s

NEXT DAY: Now the real test is for me to approach the day as a clean slate. My mother will not remember anything about yesterday. She may even ask the same question several times today. This is when the dance between my reality and her reality gets complex or as simple as a choice to embrace her reality.

Aside

The Mystery of Truth and Reality

24 Oct YOUR-TRUTH-VERSION-REALITY-WOB_t

My mother is brilliant. My mother is 83 years old. My mother has Alzheimer’s.

Truth and reality used to be black or white issues for her and for me. Now that I am serving as the primary caregiver for my mother, I realize that black and white do not begin to capture the complexities of truth and reality when dementia joins the party.

Mother spends most days trying to figure out where she is and how she’s going to get back home so she can get her church clothes and get ready for church.  She gets terribly disappointed when I tell her that it’s not Sunday.  The multiple daily reviews of the fact that she is home and that all of her belongings are here don’t register as truth with her. Her realty is that this is some other house were she has to pay rent. Since she is no longer working she wants to get out of here because she can’t pay the room and board fees. Although she has lived in her home for 35+ years, it is no longer familiar to her. Her home in her reality is now a place where she lived 70+ years ago. Anything that I or anyone else says cannot register as true because it does not align with reality…her reality. I watch her trying so hard to make sense of it all.

I decided to try something new today. My story is that the nice people who own the house are letting us stay here rent free because they appreciate the years my parents spent helping others. All I have to do is keep it clean. They also allow us to eat whatever we like as long as I cook it. She LOVED that. She was moved to tears and wants to write them a letter of thanks. I have repeated this story several times, but it keeps working. It aligns with her reality and her truth. We both feel better.

One of the blogs that I read regularly is the Alzheimer’s Reading Room. This blog is full of great information for me as caregiver. In a post, Communicating in Alzheimer’s World, by one of my favorite bloggers, Bob DeMarco, he emphasizes that the goal of a caregiver is to lessen the stress of the deeply forgetful. Constantly attempting to force my truth and reality into my mother’s world is SUPER stressful for both of us. When caring for my mother, I must enter her world. My goals are peace and safety. Those goals are not reached if I do not embrace and support her reality and her truth. Learning to hold both her reality and mine along with her truth and mine is challenging when I lose sight of the goal. Peace and safety are accomplished when I focus on supporting Mom’s reality and helping her align the things around her with her truth.

I keep saying that I am going to be ready to deliver Oscar, Emmy, and Tony award winning performances at the end of this journey. I am learning the ebb and flow, twists and turns, and ins and out of owning someone else’s truth and reality. I am learning how to peacefully live with someone who lives in Alzheimer’s world.  This is the key to success as a caregiver for a parent with Alzheimer’s. This is the mystery of truth and reality in my life.

YOUR-TRUTH-VERSION-REALITY-WOB_t

Putting It Bluntly

22 Oct HardWork

It is rare that I wake up at 4:30a and am hyped to go workout (my boot camp, BNFIT, meets at 5:30a – Monday-Friday). It’s the truth and I’m not going to deny it.  At this time of year, it’s dark, it’s cold, and it’s often raining. Not the ideal situation for getting out of my cushy bed, off of my comfy pillows, and from under my warm sheets, blanket, and comforter.  I know I’m not the only one but here’s the thing. I want the results. I want the body. I want the great numbers: BMI, muscle mass, body fat ratio, weight, measurements, cholesterol level, blood pressure, glucose level, resting heart rate, dress size, etc. I want it all to be GREAT!  Pills, powders, surgeries do not bring the long lasting results I’m looking for because the results I want go beyond numbers. I want a better life, a healthier body, a healthy relationship with food, a disciplined relationship with money, and deeper intimacy in my spiritual life.  You just can’t find any of that in a bottle of any kind. I know. I’ve tried. The results I want are the outcome of work, HARD WORK. So here is the truth…the cold hard truth. 

I can’t blame genetics

I cant blame my family, significant other, friends, society, or history

I can’t blame the stresses in my life…and they are numerous.

If I want change, I must suck it up

I must stop eating trash and eat food that nourishes my body

I must drink water…lots of water

I must workout hard…every day

I must sweat…every day

I must push until it hurts and then keep pushing

I must be focused and knowledgeable in my career, my passion for justice, and my pursuit of financial security

I must spend time with God everyday in prayer and meditation

I must read the bible and other books that deepen my knowledge of who God is and who I am.

I’ve got to put in the work to yield the results. That is putting it bluntly.

It’s better to tell yourself the truth, than to have life slam the truth in your face! 

Gotta Keep Working!

HardWork

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