Island Blog – I Can Do This

Having my young and strong bodied children with me for a few days shows me my age, not that I have any problem with ageing for it is a very natural part of the living process. Nonetheless, my observations shunt forward somewhat around such ebullient fluidity of movement, of thought. I smile, I did smile a lot, as they leapt off steps, landing two feet square, knees flexing whereas I consider each step, paying close attention to my feets and pausing prior to each cautious descent. In fact it chuckles me. It seems like just yesterday I watched my own mum, my in-laws doing this pausing cautious thingy whilst I was still a gazelle, albeit minus two legs. In a doorway with a step down into and up again from the garden, on the stairs, at the top of a set of steps or when wheiching a body in and out of a car seat, I could flow then as they could not. Now I am experiencing it all for myself.

I find the same around packaging, lids and cork-pulling. But, unlike some, I am determined and my favourite of all phrases is my mantra. ‘I Can Do This.’ It might mean I need to ascend a hillock on all fours. It might mean the descent is on my bottom. It might mean I have to cut the packaging with sharp scissors instead of using what are left of of my teeth. It does mean, in the realms of cork-pulling, that I must needs squat on the floor, hold the bottle between my feets and brace myself against the kitchen unit in order to avoid a backwards somersault when the cork comes out but I will succeed because I Can Do This. I say it out loud, just to ensure the full attention of my whole brain, expecting it to communicate new strength to all required limbs. And it does.

When speaking an affirming and encouragingly defiant phrase out loud, I can feel my body responding immediately. Ok, she says, wake UP you sleepyheads! The Boss requires an elevation of pep right now. It always works. When himself vacated his position as the strong one I did flapdoodle a bit, I confess, but there is something about finding oneself on the spot that brings the opportunity to rise strong in circumstances as yet uninvestigated fully. I didn’t then need to find the strength, either of mind or body, to achieve the result I wanted. Now I do and with that ‘I do’ comes the option to falter, fall back, to bemoan my lack as if that lack is terminal. It isn’t. I have succeeded in more situations wherein I was lacking, or believed I was, since being alone than I would ever have believed possible back in the lack. The thing is this:- I don’t want to miss out on anything. Allowing myself to miss out would be my way of dying long before my death and to hell with that shower of nonsense! Ok, others may run far ahead of me, skipping down 3 flights with alacrity, popping corks with one hand or skipping over hillocks, but I will allow myself my place behind them all and I will find my way. I will run the gauntlet of my ouches and my anxieties and will think of life and not on the demise of it because demise is for someone else who gives in too early. I don’t even like the word.

I Can Do This, I tell myself when I have to barrow a load of wood into the shed. I Can Do This, when I manage to press the wrong button on the right machine and it goes into either chatty overdrive or a huff; when I find it hard to twist a lid or descend a hill or climb a fence or any other little challenge that comes my way. I will even manage to free a toothbrush from its ridiculously tenacious package, because I Can Do This.

What are your favourite words of self-encouragement? If you don’t have a line, pinch mine. I have it written in fat felt tip on a card where I can see it all the time. and each time I feel a falter coming on, I read it, speak it out, lift my chin, straighten my spine and smile. Suddenly I am invincible and it feels so very good. Life is for living no matter a person’s age. And remember this……

Circumstances do not control man (or woman)

Man (or woman) controls circumstances.

Island Blog – Shift, Fly and a Dog’s Questions

This afternoon I walked into Tapselteerie, as I do every single afternoon, small terrier bounding afoot. She is always full of ridickerluss bounce as if we have never walked this way before; as if she and I are about to discover a gruffalo nest or a ferocean of fairies. I pointed out the conkers to her, the star moss, the positive pebbles I hid that someone has moved on, but she just looked at me like I was a weirdo. Her plan is to locate the biggest and longest stick she can find and then lift. She waits for me to forward, then runs full tilt, whacking the backs of my legs with half a hazel tree, thinking it hilarious and most satisfying. I don’t mind. She thinks I don’t know what’s coming, but my advantage is my human brain. I have worked out the math of this particular pole, considered the level of scratchy branch activity, the then width of the track, the level of recent rainfall and its ability to soak my calves. It’s a daily game and only infrequently I am required to say enough is enough. This day was one of those times. The pole would have held up an elephant’s weary head, no bother.

Up in the woods I heard childlaughter, my favourite sort. Poised on a rock and looking like a dream, a little girl squeaks with delight as her father completes the construction of a swing. I can see she will begin on the rock, but the fall away of the hill and the subsequent leap into the sky takes her 20 foot off the ground. She is tiny, wiry, slim and excited and I want to hide. I see a thousand disasters, but she sees none of them and nor does her father. He has swung many times higher in his time, almost to the moon and back, and, for all I know, touching moon base. He is, after all, my son and all of my children are risk takers and always were. I have no idea where they got that from. After successful launch, momentary panic as she looks down to see the blue planet below her tiny butt, followed by a happy landing back on the rock, the game is on, the shift from land to outer space completed.

Back home there is a shift. A sudden shift. In the journey that is dementia, this is oft how it works. Plateau, shift, level out, plateau and shift again. Everyone involved needs to catch up, learn, accept, take action. This is where we are now. Just 2 weeks ago the plateau felt like it was staying flat, for some long time, with only little skips and twirls that showed a gradual demise. But now on this road, the pilgrim has met landfall and it seems there is no way around it for him. He doesn’t want to eat, cannot move anywhere or anyway without help. We, his family, are coming to terms with that but I won’t say it is a natural nor an easy thing to come to terms with nor accept. How could it be? This is Dad. This is the strong provider of 50 years and then some, the one who knew the answers to everything and, if he didn’t, never let on. I remember a violently horrific North Sea crossing when I was so terrified I thought I would faint clean away (but didn’t), with a force 10 gale battering our boat, full sails up because it had come in so fast there was no time to reduce, nor crew (me being terrified) to strap on, walk the slippery deck in lashing rain, and then find the strength to work the winch. But, and but again, he never left the helm, navigated us home to within a few maritime feet of home harbour, using his skills and whatever stars he glimpsed. 17 hours of rocking and no soft cradle in sight, but he got us home and intact. This is the Dad who took risks, flew high and taught all of us to trust in him and to shut up and fly.

This shift is tough. I want to reach out to anyone and everyone who is going through this end game or who has gone through it. My utmost respect and admiration to you all.

Even the dog knows something’s up. She keeps looking at me, a million questions in her eyes.