I think I hit rock bottom last week, but really, who can remember? It seems more often than would be possible for someone without a dementia diagnosis, I forget things.
Actually, it’s more that I am distracted than forgetful.
I can’t always remember if I washed my face in the shower and fear that I am often repeating this task. Or, I inadvertently put shower gel instead of face wash on my Clarisonic which results in a vibrating, floral-scented, foamy mess.
The week before, when I was cutting Brussels sprouts off its stalk I was half way finished before I realized that I had thrown the tiny cabbage-like balls into the trash can instead of the bowl that conspicuously sat on the counter. I also opened a box of granola bars to throw into our snack bin and tossed them in the trash instead.
Frustrating, but relatively harmless, I spend a lot of time digging things out of the trash and re-washing body parts. But sometimes the consequences are a little less benign– like when I accidently donated my husband’s suits to charity instead of taking them to the drycleaner. That was costly.
My real wake-up call came the other day when I went through the Wendy’s drive-thru and was corrected by the cashier because apparently I was repeating myself. “Ma’am, you already said you wanted an unsweet tea to go with your #1,” she reprimanded. Geez, cut me some slack I thought. I stammered along with the rest of my order and then fearing I had repeated something else, I fully disclosed that I couldn’t remember anything and wanted an unsweet tea.
I am terribly distracted much of the time. And I worry that as I age my husband will not be able to tell what is merely my normal distracted-ness and what is really dementia.
We are all told to live in the moment, but which one? I know I am not the only one doing a minimum of three different things at any given moment. And often those three things don’t have much to do with God as they should.
One of the things that really motivated me to focus (ha! that’s a funny word!) on doing Works of Mercy is that they can and should be integrated into daily life. You don’t have to have time. You can be dizzying busy and still manage to do Works of Mercy. It’s the intention that you assign an act that makes it so powerful to others and to God.
By simply making dinner for your family at night without complaining you are doing a corporal Work of Mercy – feed the hungry.
That example really spoke to me when I first started this endeavor because I often dreaded cooking dinner. This simple act is transformed into a Work of Mercy when it is done with joy and generosity and not lament and loathing. That is a recipe which is far more appealing than anything likely to come out of my oven. It changed my attitude about cooking dinner — even on days when it involves me pilfering through the trash for the fresh produce I inadvertently threw away.
But how do we live with intention, when we are so distracted by life?
When my first son was born it seemed like daily, complete strangers encouraged me to enjoy my baby. Inevitably they would follow this statement by an all-knowing prophetic warning “they grow up quickly.” I vowed to them and myself that I would indeed enjoy every moment.
But of course I haven’t. Not because I lost sight of this promise and not because I lost for one second my love or devotion to them, but because there are simply a lot of moments in parenting that are close to heinous.
I didn’t like getting pooped on while wearing my bridesmaid dress at my friend’s wedding – before pictures no less. Nor did I like getting a bloody nose when my child whacked me in the face while he was sleeping. I didn’t like riding in an ambulance with my sick baby or going to the hospital and watching them stick needles in him. I didn’t like when I had to coerce my child into swallowing bubble-gum pink antibiotics that he clearly thought was a sort of putrid poison.
No, random prophetic people, I have not enjoyed every moment no matter how quickly they have passed.
Nor have I kept my daily tasks filled with God’s presence. I want to –just like I want to love every moment of motherhood. But I think ultimately my humanness dooms me. I fail because I let things of this world, however ordinary, take precedence. I fail because I am by my very nature fallible.
Still, I look back at those harder days of parenting and I see that I was doing Works of Mercy. I was comforting the sick when I found innovative ways to get my children to take their medicine. I was forgiving injuries when I experienced the prolific nose bleed that came from getting hit in the face for the first time in my life. And, when I got pooped on in my pretty purple dress I learned to bear wrongs patiently – and yes, I learned a little humility too.
I realize that as much as I want to be devoted to God, I often fail to make the connection between my day-to-day activities and my Deity. This doesn’t negate the importance of my deeds; it just doesn’t make them as meaningful as they could be.
There is comfort in knowing that despite my inequities and distractions, He doesn’t fail me. I don’t get tossed out with the Brussels sprouts. He is always with me. When I am doing three things at any given moment and not aware of any of it, He is aware of all of it.
All the sweeter then, when I get it right. When I make the connection between my act of kindness and my God, when for a moment intention aligns with action and I not only did the right thing but for the right reason. These moments are blissful.
So when I look back at being shamed by the cashier at Wendy’s, I remember why I was really there – to buy a Frosty for my son. He had an injury that required yet another trip to the emergency room and was on a liquid diet. I was there for him, not for me. He was okay because of God’s good grace. It wasn’t about remembering the order, but the proper order of things.
Thankfully, God kept it simple for us though, “Love the Lord your God above all things and your neighbor as yourself.”
Now, that’s an order even I can remember. I think the cashier at Wendy’s would be pleased.