Some people seem to live in the past. They reckon the old days/old ways were always better, maybe not in every way, but in many ways; like good manners, standards of behaviour, bad language, busy-ness, value of money, attitudes to people who are different, and many other aspects of ordinary interactions in life. I can’t help agreeing with many of those sentiments but, conversely, I see lots of positive reasons why accepting the notion of living in the moment according to, and accepting, changes in lifestyle of ourselves and those around us can also liberate us from frustration and despondency.
When I fail to accept that we exist by ever-changing, I risk falling into that black hole of grief and self-pity that is so destructive and causes so much breakdown of personal relationships. I have, constantly, to remind myself that it is ‘now’ that is the most important part of my life, and that of my wife Dorothy. Certainly, we are defined and constantly refined by where we’ve been on life’s journey and even Dorothy’s core behaviour, now in the throes of Alzheimer’s, is still heavily grounded in her past life experiences. The incredible difference is that, because she doesn’t cognitively remember instances of past happenings, her behaviour seems simply based on what she perceives now, in this instant, but modified by the core values she has somehow retained.
The result is that Dorothy doesn’t usually exhibit or express the stressful worry of current, or even remnant, unhappiness or conflicts, or places or people or things for that matter. Putting the best spin possible on Alzheimer’s, one could say it frees her mind of all the past dramas that she has experienced. But, forgotten they may be, but they still shape who she is and how she reacts with others, and her current environment. That is a somewhat over-simplified observation because she does interact with her environment and those people in it, and her responses are usually predictable, sometimes unexpected, but always directly concerned with the present moment. For example she could become very upset, even striking me (not hard!), if I persist in asking her to remove her shoes or jacket; or she may have (apparently) flashback memories that cause her to cry; or she may fail to respond to a request to stand up, or wash her hands.
Gone are Dorothy’s thoughts of where she’s going to sleep, what to eat, what to wear, where to go, where’s the money coming from, and all the other ‘living’ decisions; she can no longer make them. You and I still make them, though, constantly from minute to minute, day after day, as we remember the past and prepare for today and tomorrow…..That’s what I do, anyway; and my mind says I must do it, and keep doing it, from when I wake until I finally fall asleep at night. Perhaps it’s time I learned a lesson from Dorothy, and live a little less in the past and worry less about the future? Sorry, I can’t quite do that extreme position; I am still wired to plan and worry! But I am learning to worry less, live more simply, to do those physical exercises to keep fit, to plan a holiday, but most of all, to savour the moment, now!
P.S. I have discovered an excellent, small, book that covers this topic brilliantly:
“Live the Moment” by Paul Arnott (Harper Collins Publishers) ISBN 978-1-86371-796-0