It has been almost nine months since I’ve written a blog post. That’s hard to believe. Yes, navigating the Covid-19 pandemic has changed things and kept me busy in new ways, yet I did not think it had been that long. Nine months is enough time to grow and birth a baby. Please don’t expect anything that significant from these few paragraphs. In fact, I recognize that there is not even a compelling story or unique observation that inspired me to begin writing tonight. Honestly, I am not sure why I opened the blank document and started typing.
I did email my friend Martha a little while ago, and I remember thinking how much I enjoy Martha’s blog. So perhaps connecting with her brought this blog to mind for me. But otherwise, it just unfolded like this: Get into a comfortable position. Turn on the laptop. Check and respond to a few emails. Glance at Facebook. Then… then what…? I opened a blank Word document without thinking. Then, as I stared at the blank screen, I thought, “I should write a blog entry.” That’s when I started wondering how long it had been since I last wrote a blog entry. I opened my WordPress.com account to see.
OK… that’s where this gets interesting. I couldn’t remember the name of my blog. I knew it had to do with the nagging sense of something always there that others can’t see. But I couldn’t remember the name of the blog. Yes, I’ve had a long day, and I’m really tired. Yes, I am sipping a glass of wine as I comfortably recline in bed with my laptop. Yes, it’s been nine months since I opened my WordPress account.
But that’s how my life is different than yours, right? If you had forgotten something after enjoying a glass of wine after a long, tiring day, something you hadn’t looked at in nine months, you would shrug your shoulders, right? I didn’t shrug my shoulders. The good news is: I also didn’t panic. A few years ago, I would have panicked. I would have jumped to the conclusion that the end was near, the train had left the station, that all was lost. I’m proud of myself. I just sat here for a moment and focused. I pulled up WordPress.com. Shoot. My web browser updated recently and thus old sites I have visited don’t auto-populate my account/password. I tried a different browser, the one I only occasionally use. As soon as I typed WordPress into the open window, my account, my blog appeared: Thoughts from Below. Yup. That’s it. That’s the title. Problem solved.
So, what’s the point of this blog entry? Why am I recording these words? I’m chuckling. Maybe I am a bit more relaxed than I normally am when I write. Why am I writing this?! But then I think of mom and the other lovely people living where she lives. How much of what mom does is done on “auto pilot?” The part of her brain that can analyze and organize isn’t working so well. But other things still flow quite well. If mom gets into the passenger seat of the car, she buckles her seat belt. I don’t have to ask her. She doesn’t hesitate. That’s just what she does. She brushes her teeth at bedtime. She puts on shoes before she leaves her room. It’s just what she does. A few years ago, mom’s “auto-pilot” actions included caring for her cats, walking the neighborhood, and cooking a few favorite dishes. Hum a song from the 60s and chances are good that she can chime in with the words of the chorus. I remember Bishop Ken Carder sharing about a retired clergyperson in memory care who rarely spoke. But when Bishop Carder would offer Holy Communion, the man with dementia would recite the words of our liturgy and help to offer the bread and the cup to those gathered... all on auto-pilot.
I wonder what my auto-pilot settings will be? What is so normal, so “me” that I will keep doing those things even when I can’t organize my thoughts and intentionally choose what I’m doing? What is so “you” that you will keep doing, continue saying, faithfully performing it if dementia becomes a reality in your own life? For me… writing is likely to be one of those things. (Donations of journals and spiral notebooks will be appreciated in years to come, no doubt.) As a teenager, staying up late at night, sitting at my desk full of angst, I wrote poetry and journal entries. As an adult, I wrote sermons… not because it was my job, but because I wanted and needed to write. Now that I am not preaching on a weekly basis, I started blogging. For you, it may be painting, it may be gaming, it may be jogging, it may be baking, it may be gardening. We all have something. So even if dementia someday robs me of the realization that I’ve written about something before, I have a feeling, I will still be writing.
So… it’s not my most profound or insightful entry, but you know what….? I’m writing again. And that feels right. Covid-19 got me sidetracked. Life got weird and busy. But tonight, I write. Thanks for reading. Since I didn’t offer any wisdom or insight this time, I will end by repeating the question posed above: What is so “you” that you will keep doing, continue saying, faithfully performing it if dementia becomes a reality in your own life? I don’t know why I ask that… we can’t script such things. But perhaps we can notice those things about ourselves. We can appreciate them. We can even cherish them. Yes, we are more than what we do. We are children of God, created in the imagine of God, with the power to love even our enemies. We are far more than what we do, we are valued by God and others for who we are even if we someday can’t do much of anything. So, I celebrate each person’s unique gifts and graces. I cherish the quirks of my friends and family. I smile when I think of the unique habits or behaviors of co-workers. And I pause to look at myself and wonder what’s going to stick with me in years to come. I hope you appreciate your own quirks and uniqueness. God made you and gave you the gifts and graces and quirks you share with the world. Embrace them!