Looking for beauty ….
I have put more conscious efforts lately into keeping a positive attitude and finding beauty in challenging situations. The last few months have been hard on all of us. We have all been affected by the global pandemic; some of us have lost jobs, others have gotten sick, and we’ve all had new reasons to complain.
Complaining has proven to be a downward spiral for me, and I soon found myself depressed and unmotivated.
That’s when I started searching for tools to feel happy. How can I train my mind to be positive? Where do I find hope during hard times? How can I focus on seeing the beauty around me during challenging times? My research led me to inspiring quotes, books, and specific tools to support a positive attitude, and to help me find beauty everywhere, even where it’s not so obvious.
Then, somewhat serendipitously, I was presented with the opportunity to support a great cause and write a piece about Alzheimer’s Disease. To be honest, I knew nothing about the topic, except for maybe having seen the movie The Notebook (and subsequently crying for the next 4 days straight).
I accepted the gig, thinking it might help me get out of my rut and feel better.
To inspire me, my editor sent me the personal story of Chloe, a young woman whose mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the age of 55.
“When I was 19, my mom, then 55 years old, began forgetting common words, getting lost on drives she had done every day for 20+ years, and confusing details of our lives she had known inside and out. We noticed it right away, but she had sacrificed so much taking care of her mother, my grandmother, who had died from Alzheimer’s only a few years earlier, that it almost seemed unfathomable that she herself would develop the disease so young and in a matter of years after her mother’s death. Flash forward six months and there we were, listening to her doctor explain her diagnosis, already knowing what was in store for my family and that nothing could be done to treat or reverse it.”
Chloe’s story moved me to my core. Imagining my own mother slowly losing her memory, knowing that the days of her ability to recognize me are limited, broke my heart.
“The eight years since that diagnosis have been marked by sadness and grief, for everyone: for my mom, who may be physically with us but is now a shell of the mom that I grew up depending on for just about everything; for my dad, who imagined by 2020 being retired and traveling the world with my mom as they always did, but instead devotes his entire life to keeping her comfortable; for my older sisters, who are at different stages of their young adult lives and have had/will continue to have countless milestones without our mom; and for myself, with most of life’s major milestones still ahead of me and without my mom to share them with.”
This is not a story that leaves you feeling hopeful and energized. Sorry about that. It will not warm your heart. It’s a story that breaks it. It’s a story that shares the raw and real pain of slowly losing a family member from a disease that is cruel and vicious. As if leaving a mother to forget her own children were ever okay.
As I struggled to find beauty in this story, since that was my new thing, I thought of Chloe. A young woman whom I have never met. A young woman navigating through life with such grief. Yet, a young woman who is leading the way by participating in the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s. A young woman determined to be part of the solution. I am reminded of Chloe’s words and how, despite it all, she is still able to find beauty around her.
“The devotion that my dad has shown in taking care of my mom is something I had never seen before. He has been completely selfless, putting her needs above his at all times. Barely leaving her alone for a single moment, even when she may not notice his absence.”
Now, THAT’s beautiful. Is there any greater expression of love than such devotion and selflessness? A husband dedicating his life to caring for his wife is beautiful. A daughter putting energy and resources into finding a cure for her mother’s disease is beautiful. People across the nation walking to End Alzheimer’s, is beautiful.
That’s what I must keep looking for, the collateral beauty. It’s there, even on the days when it’s hard to find. There is beauty underneath it all, and it’s on me to take the extra step to look for it.
“Every 65 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s.
By mid-century, it is estimated that someone in the US will develop the disease every 33 seconds. Yet it is the only disease among the top 10 causes of death that cannot be prevented, cured, or even slowed. Many simply think of this disease as one of old age, but that is not always the case. It starts years before the first onset of symptoms of cognitive decline and can, as in my mom’s case, emerge in the prime of your life.
I’m leading the way to the first Alzheimer’s survivor by participating in the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s®. Together, we can end Alzheimer’s disease. Please make a donation to advance the care, support and research efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association. Thank you for joining the fight against Alzheimer’s!”
I’ll be walking. I’ll be thinking of Chloe and her family and how I aspire to be as devoted, dedicated, resilient, and strong as they are.