There are so many situations in life that trigger our fears. Those fears can range greatly. Like the fear of being rejected or of physical harm happening to a loved one. We want to make good decisions and love at the same time; at least that’s the story I tell myself.
The past several months have been riddled with situations where I only have partial information. That is true for most of us most of the time. We see life through our own filters and have a tendency to fill in the gaps with our own stories to support our feelings, fears, judgments, hopes and most of all comfort.
I look at most situations like they are Swiss cheese and full of holes. If I am not fully present and aware, my mind will quickly fill in the gaps so I have a complete picture. The challenge with this practice is that when my “Filler” turns out to be wrong I am still left with Swiss cheese. Sometimes the holes are never to be filled in a way that creates comfort. Actually, discomfort is the foundation for growth. For when we are comfortable we can pretty much check out.
One of my current Swiss cheese experiences is with regards to my beloved father and his dementia that is progressively deteriorating. This is a disease process that is heart breaking for all involved. I am in healthcare and have worked with people who have dementia for over 20 years, but as a daughter the experience is quite different. This man has been the patriarch for the family. Now I step up to the plate with the support of my mother and brothers. We are pulling together in ways that make my heart sing loudly.
Our Swiss cheese is all about how Dad is doing with regards to his memory and awareness of life today. There are moments of brilliance where he is very lucid and then moments where he is not. He knows who everyone is, thankfully. He gives the best hugs, holds hands and says he loves me in ways he never has before. It is wonderful to have these moments now. It is also hard, as my heart is heavy when I leave. This is sometimes just so hard to navigate emotionally. I can take care of all the tasks and details, since there is a process for those. They may be tedious, but the emotions are a different game!
I want to fill in the holes of this situation with ideas of comfort. Like he may be clear cognitively on my next visit, or that he knows I am doing the very best I possibly can to honor his wishes, and that he is a peace with this disease. My brothers fill in the holes differently to create comfort for their hearts. My mom has the biggest holes to fill as her husband has changed so very much in their relationship dynamic. Yet at the end of the day it is still Swiss cheese with many unknown holes. His functioning ranges from independent to dependent. That level support needed can vary within hours of the same day.
I seem to have a gift when it comes to emotions. My father and I have become very close over the past five years. We healed from all of the treacherous teen and early adult years. Much of my life I wanted his approval and for his love to show up in a manner that I recognized and in a way that I wanted. That is not how things happen, people show up how they can. After many conversations, I learned that he has always been proud of me and loved me more than I could possibly imagine. I spent endless years believing he did not, I was so wrong! I remember the moment this realization occurred. First I cried and let the weight of craving something I already had go. I think my dad knows at a cellular level that I connect with him emotionally in a very safe way. This means he is fully open emotionally with me. What this looks like is mostly tears when he holds my hand. I do all I can to be present, hold his hand, and love him. I want to fill in the gap with peace not only for myself, but for him. Yet at the end of the day, I can’t. It is a gap where emotions come through and I am the one my dad sees as safe. I am honored to provide that safe loving place for him as he did for me when my heart broke at the end of my relationships. Yet it is not easy.
With this gift I focus on slowing down my life personally. We spend much of our time rushing to the next level only to find the great stuff was along the journey. I no longer rush to find comfort. I try to soak up and enjoy every step along the way while my mind and body work like my dad wishes his did. For it is in the small moments of connecting with others that make life grand!
We all try to navigate the Swiss cheese of life. Patience, breathing, meditation, yoga, running in the woods and tree hugging help me to stay present. The power of friendship and connection with others is truly remarkable! I am forever grateful for all of those who support my dad, mom, brothers and me along this journey.
Deliberately slowing down