Nothing is ever going to make it all okay.
When you deal with dementia or mental illness it becomes obvious that reality is as shifty as sand and perception is an oasis beyond the next rise. What appears, changes, and apparent solutions dissolve without notice.
My mind is logical. Reason is a heavy cloak, and I pull it around myself to feel its comfort and weight. Gentleness and patience and an eager kind of hope are threaded in, and it is deeply hued with emotion, but I always come back to reason. Even in the face of something patently beyond mapping, I am constantly planting flags and describing the topography to myself, because I can’t let go of the hope that things will make sense later, and effects will be traceable to causes, and epiphanies will happen, and I will understand.
I should know better. I am a curious choice as a companion to people with dementia, because I have a history of mental illness. If there is anyone who should not be able to stand up under the stress of a job like this, it is myself. I am weak; my mind is fragile; I am acutely aware of my own limitations; and yet I can do more than a person with a stronger constitution might. I know what it feels like to watch my mind crumble. I know what it is to stare into the dark and feel the last tendril of sanity fray. To know I am losing myself, and that there is no guarantee I will surface again.
I see that fight in my companions. Beneath the contempt and the striving for self-sufficiency is a suffocating panic that they are going blindly where we cannot follow.
This specter of loss–of self, of autonomy, of memory, of perspective, of safety–incites a need for control. In my companions, it manifests as hoarding and hiding belongings; refusing food, care, and medicine; and demanding that everything be predictable and routine.
As for me, I keep gathering all the pieces to all the puzzles, and I am constantly seeking higher ground from which to get a better view of how all the pieces fit together. I keep thinking that if I know more, if I do more, if I work harder, and if I have better tools, I will someday understand.
But it isn’t going to work out that way. I will never unlock the mysteries; I will never arrive.
And the beauty lies inside the dilemma. God has placed eternity in the hearts of men, but we cannot reach it ourselves. We all long for the pieces to fit, for that one perfect thing that will make it okay. Our hearts are tuned to perfection, and they long for it so keenly that it hurts.
But we can’t reach it. We try, we try so long and so hard to do what is right, to arrive, to be what we should, and no matter how hard we try, we just can’t! We fail. We fall.
Some of us are gifted, and some are naturally happy. We convince ourselves we are basically good and that doing our best is enough. We manufacture happiness and brainwash away guilt. We call the emptiness peace. We take credit for our blessings and blame our pain on others. Our lives are good enough, and we stifle the feeling that something is missing. We strive for personal growth, self-sufficiency, and success, and some of us seem to find it.
But not me. In a way, it is a blessing to know that I am capable of nothing. I am so weak that any illusions I have of achievement on my own merit are quickly dashed. I am a foundling, a rescue, an infant, completely dependent on my adopter for every need.
I am drowning, pulled by the riptide of my own evil heart.
But when I stop thrashing, I am held up, and I rise. I find that the waters have washed me clean. Air is a gift, and I forget I wanted more. My heartbeat fills my ears and I remember I am alive.
My soul is quiet.
Soon my ears will fill with the chatter of the world and I will plunge forward into the climb and the mess, but here, baptized by surrender, I am still. I remember that the perfection I strive for is not my own. Life on this side of the veil will never make sense. I will never arrive. But there is a place, and my Rescuer is preparing it for me. And there I will have rest, and my race will be won, and I will know fully.
For now, it is not knowledge or control or discipline or mastery that will bring the peace I seek, nor will it help my companions. We are all walking blindly into the dark facing giants we cannot best on our own. Our nature compels us to open our eyes and lean forward into the fight, but it is only when we allow our Savior to carry us that peace comes, and the tyrant Fear falls