Monday, 30 August 2010

worrying about getting old, and losing my mind, and not being useful anymore...

The other night I had a bad dream, in which I had a tiny new-born baby, and I was having trouble focusing on taking care of the baby.  I was laying on the bed with the baby when someone phoned and asked if I wanted to go for a drive.  I said, "Sure," and jumped up, ran out, got in their car with them, and we drove away.  After awhile, I suddenly remembered about the baby, and asked to be taken home.  I rushed into the house, and the baby wasn't on the bed.  But my mom was there, crying really hard, and immediately I thought something bad must have happened to the baby....  and then I woke from the dream.

After I woke up, I was picturing my mom when she had dementia.  She used to pack this doll around, loving it and cuddling it.  But then she'd suddenly lay it down anywhere, or even just drop it and walk away, totally forgetting about it.

And when I was recently at my daughter's place, carrying her new-born baby, there were a couple different times when I had a "flash" (a dream-like picture in my head) of myself just suddenly being distracted by something.  And in this moment I'd see myself "forgetting" that I was carrying the baby in my arms.  In the picture (but not at all in reality) I'd loosen my grip, and the baby would start to fall from my arms.  It was really frightening.  In reality, I would hold the baby extra-carefully.  But I found myself beginning to doubt my ability to take care of the baby.

Maybe these incidents have to do with the fact that, lately, I find myself worrying about, or at least doubting, myself.  In the past few years, as I've aged, I've caught myself occasionally forgetting (temporarily) specific words or names, but usually they surface in my mind within a few seconds, or I can quickly come up with a suitable synonym, or just explain the missing word with a short description.  I know this is common as people age (I'm in my mid-fifties), but it honestly scares me.

I also have a harder time learning new things.  I don't easily "catch onto" new ideas like I used to, and I don't memorize as easily as in the past.  (On the other hand, I do seem to sometimes be able to personally come up with new-to-me ideas, as, I suppose, I have years of experience and ideas to pull together). 

And I find sometimes that I seem to have more difficulty thinking things through as simply or as deeply as I used to; for example, when listening to people arguing a point, I have a harder time deciding whose viewpoint is likely more logical.  I tell myself that it's just because I can see more "logic" or "rightness" in a variety of viewpoints than in the past (because over the years I've gathered a greater amount of knowledge - and hopefully, wisdom - than I once had.  But at the same time I worry that maybe it's really a sign that I am "losing it."

Even my writing ability seems to me to be declining.  I have to think things through more clearly, and edit my work more.    (I'm hoping, of course, that actually I've just grown more humble, and that I now realize my writing is far from perfect and needs more effort than I used to believe).

What concerns me most of all, I think, is that I used to be able (it seems to me), to clearly hear God's voice and write down amazing thoughts I heard from Him, as well as quickly write down flowing poems, and creative articles and stories.  But right now, I feel as though I still have a lot of thoughts, many of them from Father (I no longer am so confident about that. I perhaps see more clearly how "my ideas" get mixed in; at least, that's what I tell myself).  But I can't seem to express them, orally or written, as easily and confidently as I once did.

I am really doubting myself.  I am frequently worried that I am getting some kind of early-onset dementia.  I do realize that this extra level of worry really started to set in when my aunt began to develop the same symptoms of dementia as my mom had.  When mom had dementia, I didn't know of anyone else in my family background who had suffered from dementia, though I have had many long-lived forebearers.  So, although I decided, watching mom, that I would rather have my body disintegrate, rather than "lose my mind," I wasn't really worried about dementia happening to me.  Furthermore, my mom suffered from an advanced, rare form of cirhosis, and the doctors thought that mom's brain problems may have been related to that illness.  So I convinced myself that mom's demntia was an abberation, not a family trait.  But now that her younger sister (though not her older sister, or her brother) has developed dementia, I'm thinking maybe it is hereditary after all - and maybe I'm "catching" it. 

When my mom was in her mid-fifties, my younger sister was only in her mid-teens, and mom was bright and active and energetic.  But lately I've been feeling dull, and I seem to have lost energy and enthusiasm.  My "get-up-and-go" seems to have "got-up-and-went."  I feel like I'm not accomplishing anything.  Of course it doesn't help that I've always been self-conscious about my body image, and lately I seem to be sagging in certain spots, and have developed a little "jelly-belly"!

I've thought of some possible reasons for my dullness:  I've been too house-bound and lacking social interaction as I've tried to get this "writing business" going.  I've been kept from focusing and disciplining myself to get things done, while I've been waiting the past 3 or 4 months for three new grandchildren to put in their appearances (babies aren't great at keeping "due dates!").  Even though I actually have done a lot of things toward my home-based writing business, I haven't "made money" (though amazingly, thanks to Father, I haven't worried about it).  And I feel that I'm not reaching any goals (Father has been teaching me to walk with Him, in the present moment, instead, but that old goal-oriented way of life doesn't easily let go).

Father!  Am I really "losing it?"  What's the matter with me?  What do You want from me?  How can You let Your children "lose it?"  (And will they really "get it back" in heaven?  Are those evil questions to ask? 

Can You please calm my spirit?  Can You forgive me for my recent scatterbrained ways?

Can You still use me?  Am I still useful - of value - to You?

(Sometimes I don't feel useful or of value to almost anyone.  I don't have a "real job" where I see people every day, and they pat me on the back for my little successes.  And my five kids are grown and have kids of their own and I'm not "needed" like I used to be.  And I don't even feel "useful" in "the church" anymore;  in the "institutional" church it seemed I was always busy, teaching Bible studies, leading childrens' and womens' ministries, playing piano, working in the office, making food for potlucks, even doing janitorial stuff.  Now it seems to me like all I'm "good for" is hospitality - which is a "gift" I'm sure, but this new "relational" vs "institutional" focus sometimes makes me feel a bit useless!)

Father?  Can You please help me relax?  And just trust You to know what's best?  Help me walk with You moment by moment and stop worrying?

(And oh, Father.  Here is one more thing:  I am terrified of becoming a burden to my kids.  (And I think I am still feeling guilty of too often resenting and/or dreading to go and visit my mom in the nursing home day after day, for years, before she died).  Father, I don't want my kids to have to look after me.  And maybe I'm afraid they'll remember my big failures as a mother, and won't want me around.  And it will be all my fault.  It seems I am still feeling a failure from back then.  And maybe I'm transferring that past sense of failure to my current circumstances.  And blaming myself for everything.  And fearing I'll be resented if I need help some day.)

(I just now had a flash-memory of myself walking to Red Bridge that grey, cold winter day, standing on the end of the diving board above the fast-flowing, icy river, and wanting to jump off because I felt I was such a failure as a mother).

Father, how can I forgive myself?  I'm pretty sure You've forgiven me.  And rationally, based on what I see, I'm pretty sure my kids have (mostly, at least) forgiven me.  And that they love me.

Oh dear.  Please help me, Papa.

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