Effort and Acceptance

One of my favorite presents this Christmas was a five-class card for a local yoga studio, given to me by my darling husband, who pays very close attention to what I say starting November 1st and always gives me exactly what I want. (Got that? Amazing, right?)

So yesterday I used the card to take a hot yoga class. The room was packed with sweating bodies, all moving in unison to the instructor’s calm voice. Her theme throughout the 75-minute session was acceptance, followed by effort: accept your body as it is, and then make the effort to take it farther, but only as far as it will go today.

I heard the word “acceptance” over and over as I stretched and moved and sweated and stopped for water. I had no trouble accepting my physical limitations; that was easy, because I knew what they would be. (I have been doing yoga within my limits for a long time.) But the word wormed its way into my head and applied itself to my relationship with my mother . . . as all things do at this bittersweet time of her life.

The hardest part of dealing with dementia is acceptance. In my head, I know that this is my mother’s condition and that it will only get worse. But my heart is silently screaming NO. No, no, no, no, no.

Effort is easier. I spend a lot of time figuring out what I can do to make her life (and by extension, my life) more bearable. I read books on dementia care and apply the principles in them to the best of my ability. I try to anticipate her needs. I visit her six days a week and take her out to do things I think she can still enjoy.

Lest you brand me a saint, bear in mind that I have a lot of help. My mom can afford assisted living so she doesn’t have to live with me; my sister, brother, and cousin are deeply involved in her care; and I have that amazing husband (see paragraph one).

Still. I get caught up in effort, because acceptance is just so hard. How can I accept that my brilliant mother, the scientist, the math teacher, the violinist, the seamstress and baker and dancer and civic leader and sweetest off-key-bedtime-lullaby-singer in the whole wide world is losing her mind? How can I accept her suffering?

I don’t have an answer for that. It just seems like the right question. I’m curious about the concept of acceptance before effort. I wonder what would happen if I could accept everything about this painful situation, just as it is, before taking one more step to improve it.  I may never find out.  But I wonder.

4 thoughts on “Effort and Acceptance

  1. Carolyn, you really hit the proverbial nail. Acceptance is so very difficult for me. As you said, I will do anything to make Bev and Tuck’s life easier but accepting their condition is the hardest thing to do. For me, I think, it is that I still see flashes of their old selves. One of them will tell a joke, or remember something from two days ago, and I say to myself “If you can do that right now why can’t you do it all the time?” I know the answer is they just can’t, but that is where my frustration kicks in, and of course it leads to anger. Not necessarily at them but at the situation. Thank you for your insights. Dave

    • I completely understand the anger, Dave. I live with it every day. And the worst part is, there’s no-one to take the blame . . . because the disease is this invisible entity, eating away at the people we love. Just know that you are NOT alone. There are many companions on the journey. We just have to reach out to each other. Love to you and SB!

  2. …and then one day we discover that ours never was to ask questions of Life, but rather to bring forth our best answers to all it asks of us. Which you are doing. Can you accept that, too?

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