I could imagine it. Worse, I could sense it. Her disorientation. Her malaise.
Yesterday, I took two hours out of a hectic afternoon to give a little bit of me to someone I love. She is going through a difficult and disorienting transition.
The world didn’t stop spinning on its axis because my schedule was shifted. If anything, the gift that I received was far greater than any small token I gave by visiting – a reminder that human connection fills us, and that these connections are often easy to achieve.
As simple as getting in the car or picking up the phone. Not thinking, not planning, just doing.
Helping Through Disorienting Transitions
A woman who is important to me was recently moved from one retirement residence to another. The services in her new environment are more comprehensive, the rooms are wonderful, the staff is caring, and the location is ideal. She is now a ten minute drive away instead of a half hour or longer.
But she is understandably rattled from the move and adjusting to change is worsened by Alzheimer’s. I am some thirty years younger and I was extremely disoriented when I moved after divorce, and not by choice.
I recall what it felt like to lose the sense of security that was so deeply rooted in my feelings about home. Home matters to me. It matters to many of us, tremendously, as we derive an enormous sense of strength and stability from our environments, surrounded by familiar objects and memories. For me, that includes the pencil markings on the threshold that trace my sons’ growth over the years, the stain on the wall where the dog used to sleep, not far from where I do my daily work; paintings on the walls done by friends or my children. Even my precariously stacked towers of beloved books add to my sense of security, productivity, and ease.
The Importance of “Home”
I love changing environments – traveling overseas is always fascinating – but home remains my touchstone. I recall all too clearly the tough period not long after divorce, when finances forced a significant downsizing. At the time, I was so focused on the adjustments my children were going through, dwelling on my own feelings of disorientation was a luxury I couldn’t afford.
Still, those feelings were acute and challenging. I wondered if I would ever recover a sense of “home,” some small measure of safety that so many of us take for granted. I wanted something to feel familiar. Tangible. Solid.
It took time. More time than I could have imagined. And in helping my children, in establishing new memories in our new little place, I helped myself as well. In helping others, generally speaking, don’t we feel better?
When Cognitive Abilities are Impacted
I also recall a few years ago when I was in such an extended period of sleep deprivation that my cognitive abilities were impacted. I would lose track of where I was in the middle of a process. I would grope for a word and not find it. It was frightening. No, it was terrifying. Worse still, I was putting on as brave a front as I could with my children, battling to parent through an especially distressing time.
I was lucky. When sleep returned and stuck around, so did my faculties. But I will never forget the sensation of fear that is associated with knowing that your mind isn’t working the way it ought to.
When I add up those bits of personal experience with the face of someone I love, it seems a small thing to get in my car, to drive ten minutes (or thirty), and to do it whenever I can – especially during this period of transition.
Giving is the Best Cure for Whatever Ails Us
If there is someone you care about who is living through a difficult challenge, who is disoriented or in pain or simply lonely – get off your computer, get out of your house, take the extra thirty minutes on the way home from the office, the extra twenty minutes on the phone at night before bed. Make the connection. The human connection that doesn’t involve clicking this or texting that.
Step inside their shoes. Recognize how important a familiar, loving voice or face can be.
I’m certainly not knocking our emails or our Facebook chats or messages we exchange. We all depend on our technology for connection and I’m no different; it’s the only way I can see my sons when they are away, so I’m grateful. But they’re young and I’m not yet old; they’re strong and in a good place and so am I. All the more reason to reach out, to shift a schedule a little, to make room for what truly matters – the people in our hearts and our lives.