My initial post for my alphabetical trek through dementia land was about ALZ, inflammation, and the immune system. There’s quite a bit of chatter about how these three are interrelated. The Alzheimer’s Project has a short video about it if you are interested in learning more.
But, after seeing my mom on Mother’s Day, I decided against finishing that post. Something began stirring inside me that day and I haven’t been able to piece it together until recently.
One of my mom’s favorite sayings used to be “This too shall pass.”
“Mom, I’m getting divorced.”
“Well, that’s sad, but this too shall pass.”
“Mom, I just got into an accident.”
“Sounds like you’re okay and this too shall pass”
I used to think this expression was an extension of her eternal optimism. Her way of saying things will get better. But, as I step into the age she once was as I am now, I am wondering if this expression was just an easy denial about a difficult situation. I’m wondering if it was more of a stick your head in the sand type of phrase rather than a call for action.
Was this how her generation expressed the cliché of today: “It is what it is”?
I think I heard that saying a few dozen times in the past month.
I hate it.
It’s like a resignation. Like when we used to shrug our shoulders and mutter “whatever.”
It’s a mantra of defeatism. It’s a way to shut down a discussion or dismiss a person. There’s nothing you can do about it so you might as well just weasel yourself into a closet and pout.
Or so I thought.
This Psychology Today article suggests that the phrase actually has two meanings–ambiguity and potentiality.
The first implies that there’s an air of neutrality about IT. IT has no emotional connection. IT just is.
IT is a pair of socks.
It is a phone.
IT is a drunk banana.
It is just IT.
The second meaning suggests that IT could also contain also a trace of potential. In other words, the issue is the way it is and that’s that. You now have to view the situation in a truthful manner and then do something about it.
This view is empowering.
Deal with It
My intention on Mother’s Day was to give my father a break. He’s mom’s main caretaker and stressed beyond belief. That afternoon, my husband and I and three of our kids brought the obligatory bouquet of flowers. Plan A was to take mom out for frozen yogurt. But, we weren’t sure if she was even going to be dressed (many days she doesn’t even bother dressing) so I decided if she isn’t, she isn’t. We’ll just join her. We’ll bring our pajama’s and we’ll all go to her favorite drive-in for milkshakes wearing our pajamas.
It is what it is. Right? Deal with it.
As it was, she was just slipping on her shoes when we arrived at 2:30 p.m. so to my husband’s relief, we canned Plan B and went with Plan A.
Off to Yogurt Land we went.
Last year she was able to manipulate the yogurt machines and fill her cup with her chosen flavors and toppings. This year I had to do it for her. Just another indication of how slowly this disease is progressing with her. Next year I imagine I’ll be spoon feeding her.
It is what it is, right? Deal with it.
The Urban Dictionary has another definition for this phrase that is more in line with how I interpret this phrase and I’ll let you click the link to read that since this is a family-oriented blog.
According to them, It is what it is is an expression of who really cares? Why bother? Live and let die.
This is what we used to call a BA-Bad attitude. Interestingly, BA has two heads. One that runs from the issue and one that defies the issue or circumstance and fights against it.
To run from Alzheimer’s is impossible unless you abandon your loved one. On the other hand, how do you defy and fight a monster?
A New Thought
After considering the Psychology Today article, my thinking has shifted. It’s more Clintonian now.
I do think it matters what IT we’re talking about.
Contrary to the Psychology Today article, this IT that we are dealing with (ALZ) is not neutral. I cannot distance myself from the emotion of this IT because this IT is an uncontrollable, unmanageable, unbenign murderer.
To say IT (ALZ) is what it is would be inhumane and uncompassionate.
I think it is what it is, (or this too shall pass) has infiltrated and perpetuated a generation (or two or three) to believe that nothing can change. Why bother? This is a victim mentality.
“I can’t find a job.”
“Tough luck. It is what it is.” (Insert Urban Dictionary’s definition)
“My husband is having an affair.”
“That sucks. But, it is what it is.” (Insert Urban Dictionary’s definition)
These issues drain emotion from us. We are not neutral about them as we are a sock. We have opinions. Strong opinions that should spur us to some sort of action not resignation.
A certain young person has recently enlightened me about what she means by the phrase. She says it is what it is is something we say when we don’t know what to say to acknowledge what someone has said to us.
And to this I say, you’re really not acknowledging that you understand what they said. It’s not a comforting statement. It’s not helpful. It’s not empathetic. It’s a “whatever” statement. It’s advising them that resigning is the correct answer.
I suggest that they (we) have completely misinterpreted what the phrase means and are using it to condone a pattern of lazy thinking. And because we don’t know how to skillfully enter into a situation or conflict, we turn and run to our own personal island of delight (or unsavory hovel) instead of learning new patterns.
They (we) use this phrase when we refuse to acknowledge that we have a few things to learn: a new vocabulary, a new communication skill, a life lesson, healthy emotional skills, a few lessons on healthier ways to deal with issues and difficult people. (We all have a few chips to knock off our shoulders. Humility is not the same as false martyrdom.)
Giving up is easy. Running from the problem is easy.
Pressing on is hard.
I’m preaching to the choir. That’s for certain.
But, there are also times when giving up and giving in is the right answer. As a lay person I give in to the inevitability of a diagnosis of ALZ. But I fight against the disruptive and destructive parasites of the disease-incontinence, hallucinations, loss of reasoning and memory. And I do that by giving in.
It’s all in how you interpret the giving in or the warring against.
Then how do you fight this beast?
You make alliances with it.
You study your enemy.
You sit beside it and learn as much as you can about its strategies, then design therapeutic ways to manipulate it until the doctors and researchers devise a way win the war.
You wear your pajama’s when you go out for frozen yogurt on Mother’s Day if Plan A doesn’t work out. You don’t slap them with harsh reality when they cannot reason. You relinquish your naive control but you plan for the attacks. You suit up, choose your weapons of dementia warfare like finding ways to keep their home safe and calm, like entering into their world and conceding a few untruths to keep the peace, and anticipating potential Alzheimer’s behaviors. Pick your battles carefully. Manipulate and tell fiblets only to serve your loved ones, to keep them safe, to assist them in living instead of muddling and faltering. Fill your arsenal with the proper tools, medications, doctors, resources, phone numbers, and then spread awareness.
I admit, this post has been a long rant about a little phrase that packs a punch and maybe has nothing to do with dementia and everything to do with attitude.
Go ahead, Defy me. Show some BA. Tell me I’m wrong.