Thursday, October 29, 2015

Lean Back

A couple years ago someone came up with the most revolutionary catch phrase of the twenty-first century: Moving forward. It was the more concise "from this point on," and it took the business world by storm. Marketing giants missed the mark, however, and never capitalized, fumbling their "Where's the beef?" moment. "Moving forward" became the most overused two words in corporate history:

"Moving forward, there will be no more smoking in company vehicles." So, you can only smoke when stopped?

"Moving forward, avoid backing in traffic." Isn't that redundant?

My mom has dementia. She came to live with us a few months ago. Usually on days off, I try to get at least three miles in with the dogs, do some writing, a couple hours of Bible study, lots of cooking, or some volunteer work; I am addicted to achievement. While Mom is usually content to spend hours sitting out back in the fresh air, watching the trees sway, I'm trying to figure out my next big thing; the next project that will give me the sense of accomplishment I crave. Sick, I know. And wrong. But thanks to Mom, these days, "moving forward" no longer applies.

This morning was rainy; no outdoor woolgathering for her. I left for an hour or so, making sure the TV was on downstairs. Columbo! When I got back, Mom was sitting in a chair at the kitchen table. Books, catalogs, puzzles were well within reach, but she was just sitting there petting the dogs. I went to shut off the still flickering TV, and found every light in her room on, as well. In the kitchen, she'd merely rinsed off her cereal bowl and spoon, leaving them on the drain board with the clean dishes. She was wearing a heavy sweater although the temperature had risen to about seventy-some degrees. I say all this because with dementia, there is rarely progress. No matter how many times I urge Mom to work the "muscles" of her brain with a puzzle or some reading material, she will not do it without prompting. No matter how many times I ask her to ensure the lights are turned off, it does not occur to her the room is unusually bright when she leaves it. Nor does she hear the TV still droning. Asking her to use soap to wash the dishes, leave the door unlocked when we're outside(!), take your shoes off in the house, clean her dentures, or dress in layers in this weather, is pointless. Even mothers raising children cling to the promise of "moving forward", progress, maturity. With dementia, not so much. Day after day we have the same discussions -- or not; we go through the same routine, with little to no change whatsoever. And if there is progress in an area, chances are something else has slidden back. For someone who measures her value by the good she's done, the volume of work she's produced, or even the quality of the relationships she has, that can be disastrous.

I am guilty of buying into the lie that "moving forward" is synonymous with winning. I'm not used to having the Judi Train derailed by ten minutes of explaining which pair of shoes to put on -- especially when I know I will be having the same conversation again tomorrow. The second the delay is over, I want those cars right back on track: laundry, post office, cleaning, bill paying. With dementia, the next derailment could be minutes or hours down the track. No predicting a meltdown; no heads-up on a "redo." But taking this ride too seriously can lead to frustration, depression, and a lot of other "-ions" we don't need. Instead of expecting more than good sense allows, I am learning to stop thinking like a corporation, place my value squarely in My Savior, and take some time out to watch the trees sway. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to dial back my slightly twisted brain, but I can stop it from believing "moving forward" is the best measure of success.

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