I hope you and your family are well. I am thinking of you and sending my positive thoughts and prayers. We are missing everyone, and hope to bridge the distance through this electronic connection.
In the Northern hemisphere, Monday, December 21st was the longest, darkest day of the year. After that date, the days have become longer and the nights have become shorter. Therefore, each day we receive additional light into our lives, and the darkest days, literally, recede.
In my heart, I also believe the dark days are metaphorically behind us. With the discovery of a Coronavirus vaccine, December has brought a renewed bright and optimistic outlook. As you know, just days ago, Wisconsin’s front line workers received their first inoculations! While we all have to diligently continue wearing masks, staying home, social distancing and washing our hands, this is the first sign of hope to end the pandemic! Such incredible news overwhelms me with tears of joy, gratitude, and relief. Friends, we made it through the dark tunnel of 2020, and I can now see the sunlight peeking through the other end. Do you see the glimmer too? It is just around the bend. Consequently, this Touch Points is about brightness and positivity.
Throughout my life, I have been blessed with two people whose hopeful outlook has provided strength and support. So, this Touch Points is lovingly dedicated to my beautiful Mother, Arlene, for teaching me how to find a positive outlook even during the most challenging times, and to my supportive husband, Adam, for infusing my life with an optimistic perspective- often when I need it most. I am so grateful to have them in my life.
“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.” (-Les Miserables)
Ways to “Look Toward the Light”:
- Lighten Your Perspective- One of the biggest lessons I have learned during the pandemic is about flexibility and letting things go. Nothing has been perfect during Covid-19. In fact, throughout this ordeal we have needed to be creative, go with the flow and laugh. For example, who would have ever imagined my family would be eating Thanksgiving in my backyard, wearing winter coats and “gatkes” (Yiddish for long underwear)- with my parents seated 10 feet away?! How absurd! Despite the overall weirdness (is that a word?), we were not frustrated. Instead, we embraced this unusual Thanksgiving experience with hats, gloves, blankets and a few outdoor twinkling lights. In the end, we cherished this unforgettable, glimmering, slightly silly evening.
A bit of a Zen philosophy is a very good practice. Letting things go and allowing additional happiness and light into your heart will feel wonderful. Afterall, what is really important?!? -Good health, seeing the people you love, nourishment, safety and warmth. Let’s all lighten our perspective and find additional peace.
In the same manner, flexibility is also vital when caring for someone with memory loss. For example, there will be days that you plan an activity, but your loved one is not interested. When this happens (and it will), take a breath, and say to yourself, “That’s okay.” Allow your loved one to lead, and go with his/her new idea. Who knows, it might be more fun than the original plan!
“Change the things that can be changed, accept those that cannot, and have the wisdom to know the difference.”
(-The Serenity Prayer)
- Find People with a Bright Outlook- We all have difficult days. I encourage you to find people that help you look toward the lighter side, and can fill your heart with a sunny perspective. Who lifts you up and provides your “emotional medicine?” Call a friend that you haven’t talked to for a while. Find out the latest and share details about your own life. It won’t take long until you start laughing; laughing triggers endorphins, which are the “happy chemicals in your brain!” Surrounding yourself with positive people will enhance your quality of life.
“Stay Close to People Who Feel Like Sunlight.” (-author unknown)
- Embrace a Bright Caregiving Perspective- When sharing an activity with a loved-one with memory loss, try to create a space for unconditional acceptance and love. Concentrate on the feelings you both experience during the activity, not the outcome. For example, enjoy the beautiful moment when you licked the cookie dough batter off the spoon and grinned together; but let go of the not-so-perfect baked cookies. In addition, look for ways to compliment your loved one for his/her help and involvement. Admiration can make the interaction even warmer!
“A little bit of light pushes away a lot of darkness.” (-Jewish proverb)
- Shine a Light on Yourself With This Illuminating Exercise– Sometimes the questions we ask ourselves or contemplate awaken an optimistic perspective and attitude. You have many wonderful qualities; I hope these questions nourish your inner joy, sense of accomplishment, and value. Write down your answers or enjoy a lively discussion at dinner. Answer these prompts: What are the things that keep you going? What are you most proud of- big or small? What do you love to be complimented on?
- Watch the Jewish Museum Milwaukee’s “Museum Moment”- Evelyn Peters was raised in Milwaukee but impacted the Jewish world through her work with the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). She was a true “light unto the nations.” In this Museum Moment, Education Director, Ellie Gettinger, explores her life. On a personal note, my brother-in-law, Hyim, and sister-in-law, Sara, worked for Evelyn Peters in 1995. Through the JDC, Hyim was the Rabbi for the Mumbai Jewish community and Sara was a volunteer in the Jewish Service Corps there. Watch this video (14 minutes) about Evelyn Peters’ global work: https://youtu.be/dqLxgS0P_vs
- Put Your Own Light into the World- As we have talked about, it is particularly important to think about helping other folks during the pandemic. If you are in a position to assist, please offer support. The simplest act or the smallest gesture of love can change someone’s day in an immense way. In what ways can you shine your light on other people? If you aren’t sure what to do, then give the gift of time to someone that might need it. Pick up the phone or make a Facetime call and listen. Your genuine kindness and smile will have an impact and provide a precious, needed gift.
“Let your light shine so brightly that others can see their way out of the dark.” (-unknown)
- Get Inspired by Other People’s Example- Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 1995. His life changed. Among many things, he started the Michael J. Fox Foundation, and wrote books. One of his books is called, Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist. Watch this (5 minute) video with talk show host, Ellen Degeneres, and hear Michael J. Fox’s inspirational, uplifting message. Click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8JCzz0tCds
“Bring love wherever you go. Shine light wherever it’s dark. Leave blessings wherever you’ve been. Be kind wherever you are.”
I am thinking of you and wishing you all a wonderful, bright December; I hope each day brings additional light into your lives. Let’s also raise our glasses and toast to 2021. May the new year bring peace and good health to those that are hurting or ailing, and a renewed sense optimism and light to the entire world.
As always, I am here for you, and would love to assist or answer questions with issues related to aging, memory loss or to offer caregiver support. Please do not hesitate to contact me at DRubin-Winkelman@ovation.org
Thinking of you and sending all my positive energy and love,