What does ‘Everything has a gift in it’ mean for me?
I read the above words wise words several years ago, in a blog post written by Katrina Love Senn. At the time, I was struggling with a health issue, and my initial reaction was, ‘Yeah right!’ However, as time went on, I came to appreciate the truth of these words, as the gifts revealed themselves. Since then I have done my best to look for the gift in all difficult situations, big or small.
Three years ago, I paused my business to care for my mother who has Alzheimer’s. It has been a challenging and sad time, but also a rewarding one, which has led to profound and ongoing spiritual growth.
If we go out somewhere for the day, my mother is unable to remember what we have done afterwards, but as a family friend said to me, “Well, I’m sure she enjoys it at the time.” These words encouraged me to focus on being present in each moment, rather than fretting because we can’t reminisce together afterwards.
My mother now experiences anxiety as part of her condition; something I have struggled with my whole life, which means I can empathise and help her to feel safe. Caring for her has also brought up a lot of my old fears, and I’m working on releasing these fears and learning to be less of a control freak! My next book will be about overcoming fear too; something that so many of us struggle with.
Being a full-time carer is pretty exhausting at times, and it has made me raise my game with my own self-care (such as addressing my digestive issues, making sure I get enough sleep and ensuring I do regular meditation), so that I can take care of her.
My mother’s personality has altered somewhat since developing Alzheimer’s, and it feels like certain aspects of her that I once knew are now gone, and I miss them. At the same time, I’ve discovered new aspects of myself, such as an inner strength I never knew I had, but which has been there all along. It feels like my authentic self is being revealed to me.
A while ago someone said to me, “You are dealing with a lot; be kind to yourself.” I have never forgotten that, and try to be extra kind to myself even when I get frustrated, impatient, grouchy or even shouty with everything that is going on, recognising that these are parts of me that are in pain, feeling fearful or just plain tired. It has made me realise that being kind to ourselves leads to self-acceptance and ultimately unconditional love. Whilst this is still a work in progress for me, the fact is that that we can’t truly love anyone else from a place of authenticity if we don’t love ourselves first. And frankly, we are all deserving of self-love, just as we are NOW.
Having Alzheimer’s means that gradually my mother’s communication skills have diminished and it has been a long time since we have had a proper conversation. She used to be very talkative and I miss that, but am learning to appreciate those times where we may simply smile at each other or just sit in silence, doing my best to focus on a loving connection that goes beyond words.
Pausing my business has also been a blessing, as I had become rather burnt out with it all and was not heading in the right direction. Having time to reflect on it has allowed me to rethink where I want to take it in the future and to ensure that I focus only on those things that I love to do and outsource the rest. As a result new services that feel very authentic to me are incubating, and I realised, ‘I am my tribe,’ so if I pay attention to what I love, then my tribe will love it too.
The last three years have been a roller coaster ride and a steep learning curve, and I’ve learnt to intuitively connect in to the Universe even more for guidance and support, trusting that a loving force so much greater than me has got all of this. It’s helped me to trust myself so much more too, (something I’ve struggled with for years), and this has enriched my life on many levels.
If you or someone you know is caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s, then I highly recommend the following book written by my friend Nick Williams:
Mum, Me, White Lies and Tea: Ten lessons from my journey into the heart of dementia.
In it he shares his experiences in a way that is honest, sensitive and moving, and it also includes a very helpful section of tips and suggestions that he co-wrote with a professional care worker.
You can find out more and purchase it from his website
As always, books are a constant for me, and so many wonderful books have opened their pages and held me during this time providing a welcome respite, guidance, a doorway into other worlds and new experiences and even a lifeline into the abyss.
Here are just some of those I’ve enjoyed:
Becoming by Michelle Obama is an exquisitely written and deeply compelling memoir relating her journey from Michelle Robinson growing up in Chicago, to Michelle Obama, her experiences as First Lady and beyond to the causes she believes in.
Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella is a funny, insightful and realistic portrayal of a teenager struggling with anxiety, and how a boy called Linus helps her come out of the darkness and back into the light.
Heidi by Joanna Spyri is a classic and re-reading it now after many years was a delight. However, this time around, I was struck by the spiritual wisdom in it that I hadn’t noticed as a child, as well as the healing power of nature; the mountains are a character in themselves.
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson is the first graphic novel I have ever read, and it was a real treat. Dynamic artwork and a cracking story about a school girl who leaves her comfort zone to try out a new hobby. As a result she makes new friends, gains confidence in herself and realises it’s ok to show others who you really are.
I highly recommend the above, and if you are looking to discover any other inspirational books, then please feel free to listen to my archive of author podcast interviews below.
Finally, I have recently put my head above the parapet and started tweeting again which is a joy. You are very welcome to connect with or follow me @LedaSammarco where I share what other books I’m reading, raw chocolate I’m eating (!), bookshops I love, quotes and other musings.
I hope you can find comfort in the words ‘Everything has a gift in it’ whatever you are going through. In the meantime, I wish you “Happy Reading” that inspires, uplifts, enlightens and brings you joy.
“We are made whole by books, as by great spaces and the stars.”
Mary Carolyn Davies, poet