I started the New Year out right by attending a Jennifer Yazell presentation. Jennifer, CEO of Golden Egg Communication, is a dynamic speaker capable of motivating a die-hard pessimist.
Jennifer teaches that you get more of whatever you focus on. It is logical that if you focus on the positive, you become more motivated.
One of the tools she used to drive home the point was a film clip called “Red Cars.” As the driver of a red Chevy Malibu, I understood this video perfectly. When I bought a red car, I began to notice other red cars. Every time I drove into a Walmart parking lot, it seemed like everyone was driving a red car. Sometimes I had to push my horn-honking button to figure out which red car was mine.
One day I walked out of Walmart carrying a bag of groceries and pushed the unlock button as I approached my red car. I opened the door and started to put my groceries in the back seat, but a vacuum sweeper was in my way. I immediately realized that either the vacuum fairy had visited my vehicle, or I was trying to put my groceries in the wrong red Malibu. Apparently, I was a little too focused on red cars in general and not my car in particular.
Of course, red cars aren’t the most important focus in my life. I firmly believe focusing on the positive gave me inner peace that became my lifeline when Jim developed dementia.
Some chunks of time are so challenging that even Polly Anna would pop anti-depressants. If your loved one has Alzheimer’s, you may wake up each morning with the sense that something is out of balance and dread facing the day. Alzheimer’s is most assuredly a depressing and sad disease over which you have no control. Either your doctor tells you the prognosis or a few Google searches later, you learn the eventual outcome.
Alzheimer’s takes years or even decades to run its course. It’s hard to retain optimism, but if you become overwhelmed by the negative implications of an Alzheimer’s prognosis, the disease has claimed two victims.
When the doctor diagnosed Jim with dementia of the Alzheimer’s type, it was the most crushing moment in our lives. Once we got past the initial shock, we survived on denial for a while. Eventually, we recognized that the disease was progressively taking over our lives.
As we adjusted to our new reality, the darkness lifted. We began to focus on activities we could still enjoy together and not on the disease. Because of that change in focus, we made the most of the reprieve given to us during the early stages.
I won’t try to convince you that suddenly everything was okay. Dementia is a series of losses and the grieving process is ongoing. The key to survival is to focus on the positive, and find ways to take control of your attitude.
The diagnosis was a turning point in our lives, but it wasn’t all negative. Before Jim was diagnosed, my life consisted of getting up in the mornings, going to work, coming home at night preparing dinner, watching TV or reading a book, going to bed and start all over the next day.
After the diagnosis, I contacted the Alzheimer’s Association. Before I knew it, I joined a support group, coordinated the Memory Walk in our town, became a local and national Alzheimer’s advocate, and gave presentations to civic groups.
My circle of friends grew exponentially. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, volunteering became my “red car.” By focusing on others, I received the gifts of friendship and purpose.
I’m not saying I wake up each day and jump out of bed with enthusiasm. Sometimes I can be a grump until I’ve had my morning coffee. I do normally wake up with a mental list of events, activities, or potential accomplishments for the day. In fact, often my To-Do list cannot be completed in one day, one week, or one month. That doesn’t discourage me. After all, it is a New Year and I predict that every item I focus on will be finished before the end of the year.