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March 19, 2011 / ilegirl

Forging new neuropathways

A maniacally busy week at work, and a couple of personal-life emotional situations, sucked the life out of my brain. Last night I was pretty well incoherent.

One of the sad occasions confronted this week was the almost-unexpected death of my father-in-law’s wife.  She suffered from dementia believed by her doctors to have been precipitated by a lung disorder, and her deterioration was both inexorable and torturously gradual.  I say her death was almost unexpected because the downward spiral toward incoherence was so slow, it seemed she might remain with us for even another 20 years; this expectation particularly heightened by the fact that her own mother is still alive and active, and well past describing as octogenerian.  But this was not to be; she slipped into a coma without apparent discomfort (blessedly), her brain activity wound down, and when it ceased a few hours later she died.

Life/death events such as this understandably trigger thoughts, fears and – in some cases – resolutions amongst the survivors.  During the week, when the basic activities of work and survival required every ounce of energy, there was time only for the most minute reflection and moments of self-pity over the lack of time to grieve properly.  And now that hours spread before me, after a good night of sleep, and with the prospect of a steady, cold rain encouraging leisure, I find myself thinking with a bit more clarity.  Almost instinctively, I follow the pattern:  thoughts, fears, resolutions.

First thoughts and fears have to do with my husband, and the wish that I suppose we all have when we’ve made that life-partner decision to hold on for better and worse.  Because we were not particularly close to the woman, this may not be classified exactly as ‘worse’ but it certainly doesn’t fall into the ‘better’ category either.  Thoughts here are complicated, disordered, and find expression mostly in the form of questions:  what might happen?  how might we prepare for such a situation ourselves?  These are pretty well unsatisfying questions, to be honest.  They’re bordering on irrational, as how can one truly prepare emotionally?

It’s the resolutions which are the most reactive.  We’ll start taking better care of ourselves.  We’ll spend more time together.  We will exercise every day.  These are darkly comedic; it’s not as if we can ward off every ill in life, and we can’t predict every possible outcome.  But really, it’s so interesting to me that the mind attempts to solve for x; we certainly can’t control every variable and yet we comfort ourselves against the unknown by jumping into this routine.


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