Good Advice, Except . . .


The concept of living in the moment is popular with contemporary mental health specialists. It makes sense in the context of too-busy lives complicated by conflicting demands from work, family, school, social causes. Don't miss out on today obsessively planning for, or worrying about, tomorrow.

I get it. But when you are companion to a dementia sufferer whose conscious thoughts have no such framework, good advice can start to feel like scolding.

Zelda lives in the moment by default. She has lost her ability to connect today to tomorrow. And yesterday—unrecordable in the jumble of disconnected synapses that define her disease—may not exist for her at all.

 Now I must train myself to identify with her new perspective without being swallowed up by it. Some days—most days—this is a challenge. But the will soldiers on. Good intentions must count for something, right?

The following is a snippet cut from the original manuscript of Loving Zelda:


For Zelda, trips to the grocery store take place in a bubble of oblivion, with no relation to prior shopping forays or what we have already amassed at home. Feigning a patient attitude becomes  toilsome for me.

I need to learn to turn my thoughts inward, to seek my hidden cache of zen. Calm attentiveness. Intuition as my guide. Detached. No longer reacting, simply accepting. Stepping into her reality and seeing things through her eyes.

Why is it so much easier on paper than it is walking the aisles of our local Cub Foods outlet?