Watching the movie “A Beautiful Mind” I get a sense of how a person with dementia may experience the world differently than I do.
As I sit for meditation, my everyday way of experiencing the world dissolves and I emerge in an inner realm. It is a peaceful, steady world.
As Carl continues on his journey through life with Alzheimer’s disease, his world changes as if he is moving from room to room in a funhouse at an amusement park: A room of mirrors, then a spongy floor, then walking through a spinning tube, darkness, a moving floor. Each room is its own world with its own perspective and laws of what is possible and what is appropriate.
Sitting with Carl, I look at him. “What world are you in now?”, I wonder. I look in his eyes. He turns his head to gaze out the window. His eyebrows rise, a smile emerges and broadens. Carl chuckles. I follow his gaze to the squirrel clinging on the trunk of the tree, tail twitching. In this moment I enter Carl’s world and I am with him completely. Life is good. We are fully present, together. My heart lifts in joy. I am present to the beauty of the squirrel’s tail, softly filtering the light. I appreciate the curiosity, intensity and focus the squirrel is giving to its world; whatever is in its focus as it scurries up and down the tree. The agility is beautiful. The muscles ripple as the squirrel moves easily, sniffing at the bark. I am with Carl in a new world of beauty and companionship. I hold his hand as I learned to do in Kindergarden. Life is offering beauty and we are receiving it.
Most of our lives are spent in our own inner world, in the solitude of our own perspective. A person can go on in relationships for years in their own worlds, assuming that their friend or partner is sharing the inner experience, awakening one day to find he is the only audience to his soliloquy. I speak from experience.
What world are you in now? What is being offered to you? What is possible for you? Whose world do you dare enter? Who do you invite into yours?
Thanks for the lesson, Carl.
David Lazaroff is author of Live It Up! 10 Ways to Share Joy When Your Friend Has Alzheimer’s. David coaches family and friends of people with Alzheimer’s Disease in creating a fun and joyful life. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
David is the founder of Holistic Community Living, a Colorado nonprofit founded to operate and teach others to operate neighborhood-based assisted living homes where people can complete their lives with those they love.