I have had this Buddha statue for twenty years now, and taken many pictures of him in all seasons and at the few homes I have lived at in that time. I bought him for my 47th birthday, after I bought my very first home in Loveland Colorado. I had two great shelties back then, Mica and Calla.
A few years later I moved in with Mike in Fort Collins
He had a magnificent backyard with over thirty aspens in it. I placed Buddha under a big old Upright Willow tree and then planted flowers in front of him. I had Lilies of the Valley, Johnnie Jump-ups, Sweet Williams, Hosta and Bleeding Hearts. By then I had my dog named Rasta.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Oh how my garden grew!I called it my Peace Garden.
I took photos of Buddha in all types of weather back there. Buddha loved his coats of snow!
Then we moved to Walsenburg to begin building our solar home west of there… We rented a rundown hundred year old miner’s home there and Buddha was not so happy sitting out back in the weeds. I asked him and he said, “YUCK!” He said,
“Build me a glorious garden with a tremendous view of the mountains, so we did.”
The garden grew and grew and Buddha smiled.
Sometimes I could barely see him, but he didn’t mind…
…because he knew that spring would come again in all of its brilliant natural glory!
There are many whom we love, but not all of us are willing to become a caregiver to them. Since I became a caregiver, that distinction interests me. I do understand the urge to avoid taking time out of your own life to be available to help a loved one, but I believe the main reason many of us do not choose to become caregivers is because of the sometimes confusing emotional demands of keeping a loved one going from day to day. Sure most would offer to pick up some groceries or provide other services to their Mom or Dad or sibling, but what about the activities of daily living? What about managing their prescriptions for them or helping them cleanse themselves?
After years of training in emotional caregiving, I am now called to use that training in service to my brother John. My greatest fear at first was to overstep his boundaries by offering more help than he wanted or needed. Just this past week I realized that he so appreciates anything I do for him as his energy and memory continue to fail him. For example, I learned that he can no longer manage his prescriptions and take his drugs on time. I didn’t notice that until he stopped taking his thyroid med and he had all the problems related to that including fatigue, brain fog and severe depression. I got him back on that med as soon as I realized what was going on.
It feels like a lot of responsibility to manage someone else’s life, but I love my brother and I want him to feel better. I can’t imagine not helping him at this point in time. He says he would never go into assisted living or some other care setting like that, so I will continue to help him as best I can.
Here are a few things I have learned about being a caregiver:
Caregivers value and appreciate help from others.
Caregivers take into account their own needs, the persons being cared for, and the other family members involved.
They respect other people’s opinions.
They appreciate the strengths and positive attributes in others and themselves.
They understand that caring for another person consists of letting that person make their own choices without ultimatums.
They wait to be asked for advice.
They are enthusiastic about their role as a caregiver.
They are empathetic and feel love towards the person they are caring for.
They don’t take other person’s words or actions personally.
This is not a job I ever expected to find myself in. I do know it requires patience, compassion, attentiveness, dependability and trustworthiness. I can do that. In fact I cannot imagine not doing it. I just appreciate even more that I’m here to help.
I just saw an interesting piece on the importance of sleep on the NBC morning news show, which reminded me of the most important thing I have learned from experiencing a traumatic brain injury and a few serious concussions. That is the amazing healing powers of sleep!
I’ve always been a pretty good sleeper and enjoyed every minute of it, but now I see that sleep, whenever you feel like you need it, is your best brain restoring behavior. When we are younger we may try to get away with less sleep than we need, but, as we age, deep REM sleep is essential to brain health and memory retention.
After my traumatic brain injury fourteen years ago, I had no choice but to sleep quite a bit for months afterwards. I also had fractured ribs and breathing problems. That kept my activities to a minimum. But my brain did slowly heal itself over a few years. It literally re-wired itself to work well again.
It was only after a recent serious concussion in April 2021 that I knew that I must take it really easy on my brain and rest whenever I felt fatigued. Then I read Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s amazing book “My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientistʼs Personal Journey” where she explained how she slowly healed from a terrible stroke. There she re-emphasized the need to sleep as soon as you feel any need for it. In this way I have slowly regained clarity and stability over the past year and a half.
We must all stop fighting sleep and ENJOY IT! It has such a healing effect on your brain and every other part of your body. If you don’t believe me, believe the Dalai Lama:
Did I ever mention how stubborn I am? Most who have known me well would certainly agree!
Most recently it took me a very long time to accept that I really did need to be on oxygen 24 hours per day. And there’s those annoying concussions I have suffered in the past few years mostly because I refused to wear my oxygen, or simply forgot I didn’t have it on. So here I am lost-in-space too much of the time… It isn’t as bad as it sounds, because I now accept all of it.
But I had to be convinced that Mike and I could not handle a new puppy at this late date. And it wasn’t just us, our other pets, Rasta at age 14 and Rosie, Mike’s cat, completely rebelled at the experience of one wild and crazy puppy dominating everything while running around our home non-stop.
Mike was just going along with me when I suggested this new addition to our family, because he loves to make me happy. He is the most loving and tolerant person I have ever met, but after five days of pee and poop everywhere and absolutely no peace in our home, we both knew the puppy needed to go back to his pack in Raton. We were so lucky that Bodie’s original owner was also caring and tolerant. She just wanted everyone to be happy too. She already had five dogs, so what the heck! We all saw that this pup needs a household full of kids and/or other dogs who LOVE TO PLAY… FULLTIME!!!
I have always been fairly impulsive, and apparently my brain injuries have made that worse. I guess this lesson falls squarely under the heading of “Live and Learn.” My old dog Rasta took a full day to believe that a puppy wasn’t going to pounce on him at any moment, and our cat has finally emerged from the bedroom. We love having our peace and quiet back.
One of the results of my recent psychological and memory testing was a diagnosis of apathy. I thought about that for a few days and then spoke to a friend I’ve known for almost twenty years about my supposed problem.
His response? “No, you are absolutely not apathetic!”
So what is apathy? According to Oxford, “lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.”
Signs and Symptoms of Apathy:
Lacking the effort or energy to do everyday things.Dependence on others to plan activities.
No desire to learn new things, meet new people, or have new experiences.
Lack of care about your own problems.Tendency to feel no emotions when good or bad things happen.
After further thought I realized that this type of testing mistook “apathy” for a natural sadness and frustration when someone with a great brain experiences multiple assaults on their brain health. I would challenge anyone to experience what I have in the past fifteen years, and not feel sad and frustrated.
The most reassuring book I have read about brain injury is: “My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey” by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D. There I learned how slow the brain recovers from injury, but it certainly can rebuild itself eventually! My first brain injury, a TBI in 2008, taught me that. The most important thing to remember is that your brain will tell you when it’s tired and you really MUST STOP when it tells you that. For me now, an hour or two of any type of total concentration exhausts my brain. So when I took a two hour focused memory test I failed and came across as suffering from apathy, when in fact I felt total brain-exhaustion halfway through and after it was over I slept for over twelve hours straight.
I find myself excited and enthusiastic about many things like plants, gardening, photography, writing, old movies, music, new foods and learning something new everyday. I have just learned to pace myself to give my trusty brain plenty of space to recover with endless hours of restful sleep. Few understand my specific needs these days like I do. My brain will simply shut down if I don’t respect its messages to me. I certainly expected a brain specialist to understand that!
Unfortunately, it seems I must continue to educate “the experts” what brain injuries are all about. Perhaps they don’t know, but one of the best benefits of brain injury is the full realization that we MUST make the most of every single day we’re alive!
“Do we really need much more than this? To honor the dawn. To visit a garden. To talk to a friend. To contemplate a cloud. To cherish a meal. To bow our heads before the mystery of the day. Are these not enough?” — Kent Nerburn
With so many nasty things happening on the Internet these days, I would like to call attention to a few marvelous friends I have made over the years and recognize a wonderful source for these friendships. The “Women of Midlife” group on Facebook was started about a decade ago to attract and assist women writers with support and friendship. I joined as soon as it formed, and through the years, as I read the writing of various other women past age 40, I developed online friendships. But I had no idea how much these women meant to me until I ran my last post about aging faster than my friends.
I wrote there about friendship loss as we age and our health begins to fail and was astounded by the response from the friendships I have developed over the years on “Women of Midlife.” These few women have watched me grow as a writer and as a woman over the years and therefore understand best my frustrations with brain injury and how that is now limiting my abilities to communicate and connect with others. They also seem to know that it has been quite difficult for me to make any real friends in my new environment in rural southern Colorado.
One message in particular hit home for me:
“Laura, you have always been tenacious in your hold on life. Your connection to nature often pulls you through. Your love for those in your life MAKES YOU YOUNGER than many. And finally your mental strength. I believe when we lose some of the physical the mental takes over. That is certainly the case with you.”
I had no idea Beth understood my struggles so well and yet continue because of my desire to keep pressing on in spite of multiple challenges. I knew that some women, whom I have known for years but have never met in person, do care for me, but this response was unmistakable in its understanding, love and concern.
Thank you to “Women of Midlife” for fostering these kinds of close online friendships!
P.S. I also just learned what ‘ghosting’ is from one of those friends. Shame on those who do it!