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reaching for a higher possibility

by Judy
June 1, 2013

I recently re-read “Fireweed” a political autobiography by the late Dr. Gerda Lerner, who was a pioneer in women’s history. She was also a courageous woman, a refugee from Nazi Austria who in her life and writings “fought” discrimination and fascism in all its forms. At the end of the book, she writes; “We know we must die; we know the world is bad; we know we are corruptible, and yet we act as if it were not so. And as we act, we actually are in the process of changing ourselves and those around us. We are making a future.”

I was very struck by this quote. It doesn’t deny the “bad” in the world; it doesn’t deny our own imperfection but at the same time it says we can act “as if” and change ourselves and those around us. We can make a difference by how we are. It’s a perennial message in many ways. And it speaks to that part in us that has a vision of what could be and reaches for it.

I thought of this quote in relationship to a caregiver I wrote about awhile ago named Albert who is an occupational therapist and is one of those rare individuals who loves his work, loves people and really cares. He was able to get my mom to walk, after she had a stroke, when no other therapist had been able to. Well, that was over six months ago and since that time, my mom who had begun to take more and more steps, stopped. The final straw was when she was sick for over a month, became too weak and didn’t want to do it anymore. Now it seemed she was just too weak to even attempt to walk.

Recently because my mother was finding it so uncomfortable to sit in her wheelchair, I decided to have an occupational therapist come and see if they could help. To our great surprise and delight, Albert came. It was like seeing an old friend. The first day, he spent almost an hour and a half working on my mom’s wheelchair to give it a higher back.

 The next evening he came by so that we could sign Medicare papers but in the process of being here, he told my mom he had envisioned her standing and taking two steps. Then he asked my mom, was she up for that and she said “Yes.” Only Albert could have induced my mom to stand and walk. And so my mom not only stood but she walked about five steps. Knowing how much resistance there has been in my mom to stand or walk, that was a small miracle. He then set up a plan for my mom to stand and take steps every day with the goal of eventually walking into the bathroom.

What strikes me about this is not only Albert’s warmth and care, but also his vision of possibility…and reaching for it with his patients. And my mom responded to that vision. Now I don’t know in reality whether my mom will follow through on his vision and succeed. My mother may not be motivated enough at this point in her life. But nonetheless, just by Albert’s positivity and reaching upward, it does have an impact. One might say it adds to a collective momentum to go for the highest and best in us as human beings; it brings more light into our hearts. We affect each other so much more than we realize.

 I know in my “role” as caregiver and more than that, in my role in life, I feel how important it is to keep reaching for a higher possibility. In the case with my mom, I do many things like reading to her even when I know she will quickly fall asleep, joke and laugh with her and just hang out with her with nothing in particular to say. I try to make her life as comfortable as possible. But I think the biggest way is for me to keep spirited, not letting myself get pulled down by my mom when she is going through so many changes – at times suffering, withdrawn and even grumpy. She needs the space to be all that and more and at the same time I need to keep my own well being intact. This is for my own sake and for the sake of everyone else, including my mom. When I asked her the other day, how can I help her, she said, “Just be yourself and don’t get stressed out.” I was touched when she said that.

I find it a never ending source of inspiration to contemplate the power each one of us has to make a difference. By reaching for the highest and best in ourselves as human beings and what’s possible, it really does create a “new world.”

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