“The Doctor who treats himself has a fool for a patient.” Not only do some who read my posts show love and concern and words of compassion and support, some of you are also worried about how I am doing.  You may very well suspect that I am trying to treat myself spiritually and mentally, against which the above aphorism warns.

You may not change your mind after I have described what leads me to feel secure and healthy in the midst of dealing with so much over which I have no control.  I hope you catch sight of some of what keeps me grounded spiritually and mentally.  I will also share with you some things to watch for that might be symptomatic of losing my bearings.  What I will share is not just about me but anyone who is in a role like mine, or struggling in any way with things over which they have no control.

Last nights post was a window into the specifics of one of our challenges.  I have chosen to write in great detail what we are going through and my feelings about it.  I do so for a number of reasons.  One is that I think it is more interesting, and brings to life what we are experiencing in a way that is accessible to someone who doesn’t have direct experience with whatever it is.

I write in such detail the struggles we are going through and my feelings about them so that readers who are in this kind of role will be reassured that they are not alone in their frustrations.  Somehow it is a little easier to endure seemingly impossible situations when it is clear that there are others doing so.

I write in such detail, including feelings of helplessness as options seem to narrow and the boundary of the ability to cope comes into view. so that those who happen not have been there can catch sight of that place.  That goal is to encourage all of us to look each other with a level of compassion, realizing that the people we know, many of them, may be in the throes of some sort of personal battle, suffering in silence.

I am not silent.  One of the purposes of sharing all the gory details of our journey is that it helps me not to be silent.  I have been using all of you who read these purposes as a collective therapist.  You listen.  No one can go through another’s pain and experience it for them.  Each of us has to survive our own pain.  Many of us like doing so in a community.  You are my community.  The Volunteers are my community.  Friends and family are my community.  I am also part of your community.  One of the greatest joys in the ministry has been listening to and talking with others, maybe some of you, when you have been dealing with things over which you had no control.  I can only hope that the time we spent together helped.

When I write, I seek to be straight with you.  I have chosen, wisely or unwisely, to forgo any pretense that because I am a Pastor I am always pure and holy and strong and capable and wise and completely in control mentally and spiritually.  The tradition of which I am a part is about the Grace of God.  That means I believe that I am loved and forgiven just the way I come, ugliness and all.  I am not saddled with the hopeless task of becoming so wonderful and loving that I measure up to God’s expectations.  I need to be able to fail God and know that God will not fail me — even though it would be only fair for God to do so.  I don’t want a God that treats me with fairness.  I want a God who treats me with mercy.

Here is my assessment of how I am doing.  I think I am doing well.  I feel whole and full of life.  I hide very little from you as I write.  By doing so, it helps me see the reality of what we are going through here. It feels healthy to me to be able now to cry, to grieve, to express frustration, as well as describe the natural beauty that nurtures my spirit. I am free to feel the pain deeply because while it is very real, it does not have within it the power to destroy me.

Here is where the faith tradition of which I am a part frames my world view in specific terms.  I affirm that the One whose actions consummated the deal that has resulted in the Grace of God sustaining me and any who happen to recognize a need for it, has shown me how to live.  He loved people deeply, he knew how to party, he had compassion, he cried, he got angry, he got frustrated with others, he went off by himself to pray, he went to church, he felt pain, he felt overwhelmed, he cried out in desperation from the means of his execution, he faced death without pretense, went into it, through it all, and came out on the other side with life past any power to destroy it.

I feel utterly and completely secure in the love that surrounds me from the One who creates life in me every day, who has put his life on the line for me, whose Spirit nurtures my spirit.

In human terms, I have children and their spouses who listen to and support Mary Ann and me.  They will do anything in their power to be there for us.  I have Brothers and Sisters who care about us.  Every Wednesday morning four of us spend a couple of hours with Scripture and the reflections of others who have gone before us in the faith.  We talk about God’s participation in our lives moment by moment, day by day.  While not often enough, the interactions with friend John from Oklahoma have been exceedingly nurturing Spiritually.  At the moment he is leading a group on a mission trip to Guatemala.  Please keep him and his group in your prayers.  The times I spend in reading and meditation and solitude (deck time, listening to music, appreciating the beauty of nature) are pivotal in maintaining Spiritual and mental equilibrium.  The retreats to St. Francis of the Woods in Oklahoma are powerfully healing.

The online community of those caring for spouses with a form of Lewy Body Dementia has provided a place where complete understanding can be found.  There are many things that I would not say here in these posts that can be said openly in that group with utter and unconditional acceptance.  That group demystifies things that could have more power than they deserve. Reading those posts daily helps put our struggles in perspective.

Words are an important way for me to process what we are experiencing.  Using them in writing and in interaction with anyone unfortunate enough to ask how we are doing, provides a wonderful release.

Here is when to worry: when I stop writing and talking.  It will be time to worry when I no longer shower and wash my hair in the morning, get Mary Ann dressed and fed, make the beds and clean the commode, clean the kitchen counters, drink PT’s coffee and eat Baskin & Robbins ice cream (actually I should stop that last one, it would be healthier), feed the birds.  If I start telling everyone how perfectly I am doing, never sad or frustrated or out of control or grumpy or angry, always sweet and nice and wonderful, then it will be time to call 911 and have me institutionalized.

All of that being said, “The Doctor who treats himself has a fool for a patient.” I appreciate people asking the hard questions of me since I could be deluding myself into thinking I am doing better than I am.  When the Hospice Social Worker came, she asked very many pointed questions of both Mary Ann and me.  I felt I was being absolutely honest with her when I answered each question.  I recognize that there are still more difficult times coming.  I feel healthy spiritually and mentally now, and I expect to deal with what comes as it comes in ways that express fully what I am going through. I am on the pay as you go plan.  When I hurt, I will hurt and when I am wounded, I will feel the pain.  With that Grace of God as the power, healing will come.

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