I have a 100-year-old father with dementia living with me and I also help parents of teens here at SAS.
What do these two things have in common? The need to stay in relationship.
Three years ago, I heard this simple statement and it hit me like a ton of bricks: “Let go of being right so you can be in relationship.”
When looking back on the way I related to my two sons as they were growing up, my desire to be right often trumped my desire to be in relationship. I’ve already done some work to repair my relationships with my grown sons and am trying to demonstrate this new mindset as I relate to them and their families. You can read more about this in my blogpost, “How to be a Good In-Law”.
As I consider my intentions for 2020, I want to choose a different path in how I relate to my father. First, I’m not going to get derailed before I even get started by beating myself up for past mistakes. Nope…I’ve decided to give myself some grace. Second, I’m allocating thought and energy to creating a new pathway of relating with Dad moving forward. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
- I have realized that my biggest enemy in my relationship with my Dad is my own emotional reactivity. I don’t know who said this, but it rings true—calming down creates its own authority. When I take a pause and breathe before I react, I can ask the more needful question, “How do I want to behave in this situation?” rather than “How do I want my Dad to behave?” And when I am calm, I am also more freed up inside to truly connect with Dad.
- I am seeking recommendations for a podcast/article/book to help me understand more about dementia so that I can interpret Dad’s mindset/actions properly and so I can prepare myself for the challenges ahead. Knowledge is power. Not knowing creates the perfect internal environment for stress and anxiety.
- I recognize I also need new tools in my tool bag. Sometime this year I plan on signing up for a “Powerful Tools for Caregivers” class .
- Finally, I intend to find ways to care for myself. I'm very social and caregiving can be isolating, so I will be scheduling regular opportunities to meet with friends to laugh & cry, to have fun, and to celebrate life. 😊
Bottom line: I'm human. And more times than not I'm going to fall in the trap of trying to be right. Even as I shared the draft of this blogpost for review (omg...trying to get it right), my friend helped me see that I was trying to get it right by coming up with the action steps that would lead to a better outcome. I was still focused on the task rather than the relationship.
When I being most honest with myself, I know there are no guarantees in this journey of dementia. There is no magic formula I can conjure up to make it better. But I can try to open my heart to my Dad and I can forgive myself when I don't.
What are your intentions for 2020?