Alzheimer's blog

Caregiving highlights the impermanence of life's journey

By Angela Lunde May 15, 2014

On this Mother's Day morning, I looked in the mirror noting the changes in my face that reveal the passing of time. Intellectually, I know that nothing in this life stays the same or is permanent, and yet emotionally there are times when I have an inherent aversion to it.

Impermanence is the recognition that nothing lasts for long durations — things change. This isn't a concept I would have dwelled on a decade ago — perhaps because until recent years change for me has been marked mostly by new opportunities, growing children and the anticipated milestones one experiences in the first few decades of adulthood.

But the truth is that change is occurring daily for each of us; in our bodies, our relationships, our responsibilities, our experiences, what we do, how we do it, our sense of security, identity, love, purpose, self-worth and control.

Priorities shift, people grow older, flowers bloom and wilt, a pleasant day quickly becomes an unpleasant day. Impermanence is the name of the game.

Ask most caregivers who have walked this path and they can tell you of the transient nature of their emotional highs and lows. Calm one moment, anxious the next, discouraged one day, encouraged the next.

That's because a particular thought, emotion or physical sensation doesn't last forever. When you're in a certain frame of mind though, it can feel like things will never change. But if we can learn to embrace that all mental states and all experiences are temporary and impermanent, it may provide us the fuel to face what life is throwing our way.

The unpleasant will change and so will those things in our life that bring us pleasure and that we often cling to. When we accept this, it becomes possible to nurture patience and ease when things aren't going so well.  And during of pleasurable moments, we know to fully enjoy them with intense gratefulness, aware that they too will fade.

I know the face I saw in the mirror this morning is not the exact face I'll see in a few years. Inevitably, it will include more age spots, lines and wrinkles, perhaps eyes that look heavy and tired.

At times I feel as I've been abducted into an unwelcome phase of life. But those thoughts come and go, and on this Mother's Day, not only do I shed a few tears, I optimistically embrace my ever-evolving self and life.

"It is not impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent when they are not." — Thich Nhat Hanh

May 15, 2014