Monday, August 30, 2004
What if I told you...
=> ...that when making decisions as caregiver to an Ancient One, any kind of decisions, your most important factor should be your Ancient One's spirit and your least important factor should be your Ancient One's age?
- Your Ancient One's will, character, personality and desire should follow, as factors, close behind her spirit. All other determinants, such as physical health and strength, mental acuity and turn, should be sorted according to their states at the time of the need for a decision.
=> ...that your most important act as caregiver to an Ancient One is to enjoy your Ancient One's companionship?
- If you do not enjoy, in some binding way, the companionship of your Ancient One, whether that enjoyment be as simple as liking your Ancient One for who she is, enjoying disputes with your Ancient One (provided she enjoys disputing you, as well, and the disputes do not become continually abusive from either side) or the mutual appreciation of a belief system, personal history or some other fundamental aspect of life, you probably have no business attempting to care for your Ancient One, and your Ancient One would probably be better off with someone else caring for her.
=> ...that no one, not even you, has any really valuable advice to offer an Ancient One?
- No one gets through Ancienthood alive, thus, mentoring an Ancient One is impossible for anyone.
- Taking care of an Ancient One is not at all like an adult taking care of a child. It is, truly, a child taking care of an adult. If you remember this you will experience less frustration when your Ancient One is determined to live her life her way, despite your "better" judgment and best advice.
- The only decent counsel available to an Ancient One is peer counseling. It must, though, be kept in mind that Ancient Ones counseling Ancient Ones is akin to teenagers counseling teenagers and all other classes of counsel devolve from this. When you consider your attempts at direction of your Ancient One's life in this light your life will be much easier.
- As I overheard my maternal grandfather (who lived vigorously well into his 90s) say to a relative, "How would you know? You haven't been where I've been and, if you have, you haven't been there nearly as long as me." Regardless of how much "parenting" you think you do with your Ancient One, she knows, absolutely, that, if you are not her peer, you are the child and she is the adult, even if you think role reversal is taking place. She knows better. Respect her knowledge. You have a long way to go before you are able to see relationships, and life, from her perspective.
=> ...that it is better to consider the unalterable changes in your Ancient One's mentality as simply this, changes, rather than declines?
- This will allow you to savor the advantages and gifts of loss of short term memory, the pleasures of the sudden sharp intrusion of long term memory returning as present reality, the curious mysteries contained in hallucinations and the informative statements about yourself and others contained in "mistaken identity".
=> ...that being a companion to an Ancient One requires the ability to live in and savor the moment, far beyond the requirements of caring for anyone in any other stage of life?
- Work hard at not letting the moment slip by you in favor of your desires and plans for or expectations of your Ancient One. While other Ages of Humanity are often highlighted in the glow of who one is to become, and, as well, your Ancient One is still "becoming", try to keep in mind that "becoming", for an Ancient One, is completely different than, say, intending to become a college graduate with a PhD or the most compassionate person alive. While it is true that these goals are sometimes pursued by Ancient Ones, the most important thing about being an Ancient One is that there is, literally, only one other place to go and you know absolutely nothing about that place, or what it is like to be at its door.
- In the immortal words of Alan Watts, "Be Here Now." In the immortal words of Huey Lewis, "This Is It."
=> ...that if you acknowledge your behavior and "own it", your Ancient One is more likely to accept your suggestions, determinations, the stuff of your life separate from hers, even your mistakes, even and especially when your Ancient One disagrees with you?
- Always be yourself, even and especially in your changes. Trust your Ancient One to be able to accept who you are. You don't have to be unusually nice, you don't have to put on an act, you don't have to be an expert. I discovered that my mother is much more likely, now, to accept the peculiarities of my character and my likes and dislikes than she's ever been. This is true to such an extent that I sometimes wonder if I was being unfair, in years past when I didn't live with her and purposely left out certain opinions and circumstances I was experiencing in order to keep from upsetting her. The unadorned face is always less upsetting than the mask. This no less true for Ancient Ones than it is for anyone else. It is, in fact, far less easy to upset an Ancient One than it is to upset anyone in any other stage of life.
- Be forewarned, as well, even if your Ancient One is deep in a mental arena of which you have no experience and that seems remote from "normal", from where you are, she has the acute ability to determine and express her concern when something isn't quite right.
=> ...that you should never underestimate your Ancient One's ability to develop, nor should you overestimate your Ancient One's apparent "decline"?
- This is a hard one. It becomes second nature for caregivers to take up the slack with an Ancient One, so much so that often a caregiver will take up slack when it is neither necessary nor appreciated.
- Surprises are fun but what is surprising to you in your Ancient One's behavior is likely a matter of course to your Ancient One. While she may find your surprise amusing, she will not consider it complimentary and will, in one way or another, fight your ignorance. When she does, pay attention.
=> ...that if you allow yourself to love your Ancient One without reservation, yes, you will be subject to intense grief when she dies but you will also be privy to the peak of taste of the final ripening of her fruit and you will know her completed story, including every phrase, word and punctuation mark of its last sentence?
- This is a gift to be treasured above all others. Don't squander it in fear of how you will feel when you lose your Ancient One. Be assured that, when she dies, you will have her etched into your soul more completely than anyone else. This is the ultimate gift that anyone's life has to offer you. Remember that it is only available to you if you are there, utterly there, to the end of her life.
All material copyright at time of posting by Gail Rae Hudson