Being able to LIKE my mother was buried under many layers of criticism, confusion and resentment those first few years in caring for her. In the Blog, “Blue Plate Special,” I talk about how I did judge both my mother and Alzheimer’s; however, when I knew more about this disease, my behaviors and responses became much better.
Frankly, I could not see through this caregiving maze enough to NOT judge my mother, much less even try to practice what Mother Teresa says in today’s quote. I was exhausted, in panic mode, and resentful of what my life had become because of this disease. I guess my brain, as well as mom’s, was not working properly for either of us at that time.
Today, however, I have a deep reverence for Mom as a courageous, beautiful, human being. Don’t get me wrong, I am far from Thich Naht Hanh who never seems to lose it. I have as quick a knee-jerk reaction as Lionel Messi does in professional soccer. However, part of learning how not to judge is silencing that critical voice we all seem to have. It’s the one that is never satisfied with anything I do, either when I do it, or how I do it – and then there’s my finger-wagging at all the people who do things (on purpose of course) that derail my day.
Half the time I’m not even aware that the judgmental voice is there, much less that I am listening to it. But when I am aware of it, it’s like this obnoxious T H I N G with fire-engine red lipstick, thick pancake make-up and painted eyebrows. She is sitting in the passenger seat of my car, smoking an opera length Lucky Strike with as many hand gestures has her loud, out-loud voice of 722 words per minute can deliver. All I want to do is pull over and boot her out of my car – or maybe not even pull over, just unlock the door, lean over, give her a nudge and out she goes.
Turning off that critical voice is…well — critical. If I’m aware enough to lean away from both that voice and the horrible reality this disease dishes out daily, as well as my opinion of it, I can do better in my response to it. Over the years this has been a very difficult daily practice to practice for me.
Mom invited me to sit on the porch with her one morning at the cabin to watch a Mama Woodpecker furiously go back and forth to her nest with food to feed her babies. Mama Woodpecker just did her job. It didn’t appear to me she was tired or upset that she had no help, or that her little ones peeped continuously when she came and went. I didn’t see her squawk back at them in complaint, throw pine nuts at them, and yell, “…bills bills bills” (my attempt at a joke). Nope. Mama Woodpecker lacked a critical voice. Mother Teresa would have used her as an example for today’s quote.
Then there is the moment I realized that Alzheimer’s has eliminated my mother’s critical voice. It’s a cheap pun for me to say she lives in the moment, but she really does. Her mind is quiet and non-judgmental. Throughout a recent weekend with her, I watched her watch the pine trees rock and sway. I watched her knit and do her crossword puzzle. She would listen to the different bird-songs. She would watch as the shadows and light changed late in the day. Mom sat quietly and contentedly with the dogs, (who are geniuses at knowing where to plant themselves for pets), appreciative and vocal about all of it. Mother Teresa would have used mom as an example for today’s quote as well.
What a wink from the Universe to realize the metaphor in Mama Woodpecker, and the irony that my mother is still teaching me: teaching me To Be Still.
WHAT IS TRUE FOR ME: Judgment changes only me and my experiences – it never has anything to do with love, the present moment, or the ability to see the good in anyone or anything.