Stepping outside or within to exceed one’s comfort zone happens in many ways. However, I have assessed that the steps manifest in “life” and “self” – if one chooses to take the steps.
I couldn’t find her anywhere. Went to all the places where she could be, asked store clerks, drove by frequented bus stops and walking patterns, and went back to her apartment. In her bedroom I found her mobile phone, apartment keys and her ID. Okay, now I am uncomfortable and bit in a panic. How long before I call the police???? LONG ENOUGH – I’m calling now.
The night before she sounded quite distressed, so I went over and found she had barricaded herself in her apartment and demanded that if I was who I said I was that I use my key. I went back to my car, got my key, and pushed the door open. We talked for a while. She kept saying, “Nobody is taking me away and putting me into a hospital.” I assured her that that is not happening, settled her down for the night and went home. First thing the next morning I called to check and called and called. I had this sinking feeling that all was not well.
Having reached the police, I explained that I had not been able to locate my mother for at least four hour and that was unusual. I asked how long before I can file her as a missing person. They said that with the elderly, right away. Great, then I am starting the process now. When I gave the officer her name he said, “Ah yes I have her name here. She is at St. Joe’s. We found her in the street in a state of hyper paranoia.
Off to St. Joe’s I went. I FOUND HER! ? When I showed up, much to my surprise, she looked displeased. I guessed that her leaving her phone and keys must have meant that she didn’t want to be found. Maybe. But, what I knew for sure was that the last thing she or I would have wanted was for her to become a ward of the State.
The doctor told me that she was dehydrated, in a state of hyper anxiety, has vascular dementia, and that she needed rehab. After rehab they would not want to release her – unless – they knew that she was going to have 24/7 care.
ZONING BEYOND MY COMFORT
I had two weeks to convert my apartment and provide a bedroom of her own. We both had lived independently a good portion of our lives and I knew that we both were going to require stepping out of our comfort zone to make this happen. The big step was a result of “life changes” and the daily compromises and changes were “self” decisions.
For me, both are connected to my mind/heart. Both are uncomfortable and both – in this case – are ongoing. The moment I find comfort my mother would have another episode. I call her memory losses episodes. Most times I can tell that she is having an episode, because she spends a lot more time sleeping, and she has been refusing to drink water. Her condition – vascular dementia – is a stair step experience with a bit of recovery each downward slope, but never back to where it started. They seem to be like mini strokes.
I adjusted – like a frog in water that is set at a temperature to eventually boil. Oh… this is warm… not so bad… oh this is getting warmer… oh not so bad – and so on. There were times when the water seemed so hot that I wanted to hop out and run. But there were also many gems that embraced the experience of stepping out of my comfort zone.
STEPPING OUTSIDE MY COMFORT ZONES
Stepping outside of my comfort zones seemed to be ongoing and always involve learning and new horizons.
My mother’s past demons rare their heads as the webs that once held them become frailer. In caring for her, knowing her her-story was a blessing when others would have disregarded her as babbling, lost her marbles, or given her a pill only to roll her into a corner so they could go on about their business.
Once I accept and acknowledged my own humanness and her-stories, I moved forward with more patience, compassion, understanding and went with the flow more easily.
Uncomfortable things I learned along the way:
- It is not easy, at my age, to let go of expectations and respect my mother’s decline.
- Try not to “fix” her and support her on her journey.
- Connect with understanding of her journey when she hears voices from the past and sees things that are not based in my reality.
- Knowing when to help, let her do it on her own, and keeping her safe as we explore her potentials in every moment.
- Finding compassion for her and myself as I try to make peace with expressions of our anger, frustration, and grief.
- Artistic throughout her life, watch how she expresses her creativity NOW without trying to impose.
- Whenever necessary make adjustments for at–home safety.
- Offer stability and know when to release the routine.
- Fiercely independent my mother was never one to join groups to play bingo, hold hands and sing Kumbaya – I have had to remove her from the cookie cutter adult-care and groups suggested by therapists, social works, and health insurance programs. Alternatively, I have delighted and witnessed her dancing with her walker or holding my hands to eclectic styles of music, and hear her spontaneously singing about what she sees, reads, or feels.
- Find ways to help her find peace from the “mean” voices.
- Find home care with people who really care with compassion, understand the common humanity in her experiences and expressions, and are committed.
- Connect and go with the flow of the emotions behind what she cannot put into words.
Did I experience care fatigue? ABSOLUTELY! In those moments I step outside my “independent” comfort zone and talk to family, friends, and a therapist. I got acupuncture, massages, took walks, worked on my arts (Tai Chi, Qigong, Meditation, Mosaics), or got out of town – whenever I could before I reached the boiling point.
I have grown accustomed to stepping out of my comfort zone, with some comfort. And yet, it is still quite uncomfortable, however, I relish in my continued learning – never done, never done.
“Having” a comfort zone is equivalent to thinking that “balance” is a stagnant state of being. Try as much as you want, there is really no such thing. The inertia of movement out of that place is very organic. The challenge is how much do you step outside of your zone without causing disharmony or falling off balance. Maybe there is an area that one can call the “zone” of comfort, however there is always, showering, dishes and laundry to be done. Shake off the dust. These are minor an major inconveniences with rewards that can readjust and/or broaden comfort. Our ability to hear/feel and respond to our emotional intelligence should move us out of momentary comfort into a reflective journey inward. This type of meditation practice can open future horizons of inner balance beyond what we can conceive in a “comfort” zone. We become more authentic, responsive, and open minded. Add a pinch of love and we can help change and set new courses threaded to our divine nature.