Wow, another year flowing by like the tidal waters being called back out to the ocean. My office faces out to Fulford Harbour, on Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada. The constant ebb and flow of the tide reminds me that things are always shifting and changing.
I love this time of year to harvest the learning and give thanks for the ebb and flow of the past year. I spend extra time journaling and reflecting, a chance for mindful attention to support my new intentions for the new year.
2018 has been a year of new awakenings and losses too. Some highlights include:
The re-awakening/launching of the new IAJW.org on January 19th, 2018 was a true highlight of this past year! Thousands of people receive our museletter and our membership community grows every month with members from many countries in the world including Canada, United States, UK, Australia, Spain, Mexico, Botswana, India and more. Connection and community fuels our creative self-expression and supports healthy living too!
Meeting Ruth Folit, the founder of the IAJW and Sheila Bender, one of our Journal Council members in person for a special time shared together is a memory that has really stayed close to my heart.
I have been offering a lot of resiliency, self-care and burnout prevention training to healthcare and helping professionals, as well as work in the areas of team building and mitigating vicarious trauma within First Nation’s organizations through my business Thrive Training & Coaching. I am always reminded that teaching is one of the most powerful ways to learn new things!
I turned 49 on September 11th and this date also marked the one-year anniversary of my Dad’s death (he passed away on Sept. 11th, 2017 after a long good-bye within the realities of Alzheimer’s disease). It is also our wedding anniversary that day. The fall brought lots of emotional stirrings, memories and declarations for this final year in my 40’s.
My mom, who sadly was also diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (the same year my Dad died from this illness) has spent over 2 and half months with us this past year – visiting from Ontario to our home here in BC. As I was watching the news coverage yesterday I learned Jann Arden’s (one of my favourite Canadian singers) mom recently passed away from this same unmerciful illness. My heart instantly filled with both empathy and anticipated grief – a feeling that is ever present when supporting those we love with this declining illness. An illness that steals more than just memory away, but gradually wipes out a whole person bit-by-cognitive-bit.
As I write this, I realize some of my greatest learnings of the past year have been the lessons that witnessing Alzheimer’s disease has taught me and continues to reinforce…
- So much happens in a year, a month, a week, a day, a moment.
- There is always gold and good things to harvest from every experience, even the painful ones.
- Simple moments matter most. One of my favourite moments of this past year was sitting with my mom on our living room couch and not saying anything, but just holding her hand. I knew she could feel my love in that moment, and that is really all that matters. I try to wrap my arms around her as often as I can (this photo was taken Nov. 2018 during my Mom’s most recent trip here)!
- Raising my sons, while also intensely caring for my parents on their respective journeys, has impacted who I am as a parent. Sometimes they understandably get frustrated when their Grandma asks the same questions multiple times within a few minutes time span, I remind them that patience and compassion are the ways we show our love to one another. Telling them this, reminds me to honour/love them with the utmost of patience and compassion too.
- Alzheimer’s causes more than just those memory blips like repeating oneself, or forgetting where we put our car keys, rather it slowly erodes the functioning of the human brain – memories get lost, verbal skills deteriorate, motor skills and coordination decline, and slowly, oh so slowly, we witness someone we love completely disappear. I already anticipate that there will be the moment when I say “I love you, Mom” and she will not know who I am, not my name or my relationship to her, and it won’t matter much – all that will matter is that love will still be flowing long past the details of recognition.
- Gifts emerge – like the strengthening relationship with my brother as we work together as a team to care for our mom and make arrangements for the supports and care she needs now and into the unpredictable future.
- Life is fleeting – filled with things we will remember and forget.
- Being fully present in the moment, is the most empowering, grateful and peaceful way to live.
I am devoting 2019 to making many moments matter – in my family, my marriage, my parenting, my friendships, my self-care and my work in the world. I am immensely grateful for the moments this life gives me.
Reflective Journaling Prompt: What are you devoted to, committed to, within the moments available to you in this new year?
May this be a year filled with what matters most individually and collectively. AND may journal writing be one of the practices that nourish each of us in mind, body and spirit. To the healing power of writing and story.
There is nothing for you to go back and live over, or fix, or feel regret about now. Every part of your life has unfolded just right. And so —now — knowing all that you know from where you now stand, now what do you want? The answers are now coming forth to you. Go forth in joy, and get on with it.