During my first months as as a full-time caregiver I was incredibly sad. Instead of seeing my mom enjoy her well-deserved retirement, I watched her struggle to do simple things like write her own name. My endless tears could have cleaned the slopes of the Rockies. I longed for some sort of flotation device to keep me from drowning in despair. That’s when I started searching for “Ideas to Float On” — creative actions I could take to help Mom and I survive our sad times.
One idea that caregivers can float on is called the “Miracle Angle”, a concept I learned while studying the yoga philosophies of Rod Stryker. The Miracle Angle, as described in Stryker’s book The Four Desires, is a way of identifying the helpful elements built into bad situations. If you can identify the Miracle Angle of a problem, it will help you shift your focus to the positive consequences of a situation instead of dwelling in the land of sadness.
On many occasions, adopting the Miracle Angle has kept me from sliding into depression. For example, instead of crying when Mom couldn’t recall loved ones by name, I took smiling photos of her with friends and family then stuck them on the refrigerator. If their names came up in conversation, I pointed to the pictures to remind her who they were. Later, when Mom began losing her sight, I invented activities that engaged her other senses. To buoy our spirits, I made up silly songs to sing to her while I cooked. Each tune had a simple refrain she could sing along with me. It made us both feel better.
Doing these things, helped me treasure the happy elements at the core of our relationship. The pictures gave us opportunities to remember friends in joyful situations and helped me reflect on the many ways they enriched our lives. Though I can’t remember my improvised songs, I can never forget the sound of her laughing at them.
Over time, the Miracle Angle has become a flotation device for me. Rod Stryker says, “Don’t sleep on your resentments, pain and suffering. Before going to bed each night, clear your mind and find the Miracle Angle from which to look at any circumstance that is troubling you. You may not instantly be uplifted by the change in perspective, but it will provide you with the understanding and acceptance from which you can move forward with a clearer sense of purpose.” As caregivers, taking the optimistic perspective can help us float above the waves of sadness and appreciate the fleeting, happy moments we encounter during the dementia marathon.