This email may be of interest to caregivers.
Many people over the years have recommended the book “Ten Thousand Joys, Ten Thousand Sorrows” by Olivia Ames Hoblitzelle. The subtitle is “A Couple’s Journey through Alzheimer’s.” Recently one of our longtime CBD group members, Charmaine, put together some excerpts from the book that resonated with her during her journey with her late husband Eli. I’ve copied those excerpts below.
Ten Thousand Joys, Ten Thousand Sorrows: A Couple’s Journey through Alzheimer’s
by Olivia Ames Hoblitzelle
I found myself keeping so busy, that I couldn’t feel what was really happening.
The threads of connection are pulling apart, as we slowly began to disengage from each other, and he was slowly disconnecting from the world around him.
The tug of pain would come unexpectedly, which felt like being ambushed from the unknown.
It was sometimes hard to keep grief from spiraling into depression.
I was aware of his dependence upon me. I was his grounding in a groundless reality. I was the word finger, the one who intuited the lost train of thought, who held the structure of his days. No wonder his dependence felt so heavy. After years of sharing together, I felt he was tugging at the core of my being, and I could feel his vulnerability.
I feel distracted, preoccupied, irritable, forgetful, like living in another state of mind, sometimes feeling very present, but other times, disconnected, distant, and adrift.
Our lives are changing and our relationship is changing. Our relationship, even with the love, is disengaging slowly from its old form. We increasingly lived in worlds that were drifting apart.
I realized that I can’t do it all, and I need helpers. I am totally with him, even when I leave sometimes to lead my own life.
I often felt burdened by the responsibility of being the caregiver on this journey. Gradually, a deep level of acceptance replaced doubts and struggles. I was committed to live the years as consciously and lovingly as possible. There were cycles of discouragement, fatigue, determination, and then acceptance, in spite of the challenges. I knew that along with the most difficult harrowing times, there would be lessons and some hidden treasures.
I was being forced to grow in new ways. I needed to look beyond the outer appearance of what was happening and see what lessons were hidden in the hard times. I deepened in love in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I learned that compassion for myself, and for others could embrace anything, even death.
Sometimes I felt as if my heart was breaking open with my feelings for him. Along with the grief and challenges, unseen blessings were woven through the complexities. The love kept deepening with the adversity, and that was the gift of the journey.
Our experiences are always teaching us, as incentives for growth. It can help to develop peace and strength. If you are peaceful, you can have strength.
How is it possible to “feel” in the midst of difficult circumstances? This means the level of reality is a dual level. Relative reality is the world, as we know it. Absolute reality is unconditioned, free. We have glimpses of that in the presence of death.
Suffering comes from resisting the constant flux of experience. Mindfulness can lead us to a peacefulness that is not dependent upon our experience. Willingness to see deeply, without resistance, the truth of the moment, in the absence of our habitual triggers and reactive hooks to the challenges of life can help us to more wisely decide how to act, and when to take a stand.
Aging is not the demise of your body, but the harvest of your soul. It can be a time of great strength.