When driving along the road of life, I tell myself to keep my hands on the wheel because, although there are signposts, I am constantly distracted and sometimes miss the signs and could lose control. That’s the advice we readily accept when driving a car, but that concept of self-control equally applies to a life journey, too. It takes some effort, at times (for me, anyway) to remain focussed on the positive aspects of that journey. It’s so easy to avoid and neglect the core requirements of a balanced life, whatever that is! Fortunately, being creatures of habit, and comparatively healthy we are normally able to cope with the rigours of modern life, even in these coronavirus times.
And that’s despite the myriad of things which impinge on our minds and constantly influence our personal responses at every moment. Those of us without Alzheimer’s symptoms have our own distinctive, individual, idiosyncrasies which determine our responses to each ‘now’. We are (mostly!) able to instantly assess the circumstance of the moment and decide how to react, regardless of how infinitely varied and complex that process may be.
In those moments of decision, we instinctively adjust our thinking and, despite distractions, attitudes actions and beliefs, automatically and rapidly make conclusions and take actions. In the blink of an eye, we can take account of our current location, our environment, the degree of our control of the circumstances and its effect on others – and they are just some of the aspects evaluated. In that ‘moment’, we will have also considered some alternatives, the effects on others and the permanency or temporary nature of our choices. That magic of individual choice is enhanced or debased on how we are feeling at the time, too!
As well, we are often being affected by environmental matters, especially those we can’t understand or change, and perhaps fearful of losing control, of being overwhelmed by a person or people around us, of losing focus, of forgetting where we are or, worse, where we’re going. And of course, we may feel tired or can’t be bothered, or just be unaccountably disturbed and not know why, or even forget how the topic started!
At times, all of us can also feel thirsty or hungry or grubby, or out of sorts, perhaps regretting having not done the preparation before an ‘event’ or be short of cash or spend frivolously or be fixated on saving, or feel sad, worried, lonely, unloved, or inadequate; of being ‘put down’ in an encounter or embarrassed by a person with a ‘stronger’ or ‘unpleasant’ demeanour. And of course, who hasn’t forgotten someone’s name, or their partners, their jobs, their special interests?
Now imagine having none of those extensive thoughts, limits, or expectations, like my dear Dorothy. It is impossible. But writing this, by going though through those executive brain processes, has helped me get a tiny feel for the mind of an Alzheimer’s sufferer, a mind bereft of hardly any ability to analyse and respond appropriately. Dorothy’s mind seems to encounter blind corners, unexpected curves, rough roads, stops and detours, no roadmap, and not much fuel – what a journey! Now I’m not sure whether I was thinking of Dorothy, or me!