There are many religions and belief systems that will tell you how to live your life. Many wars have been fought, simply because people believed different things. Belief is just that, no matter how true you hold your beliefs to be, or how historical you claim their foundation to be to prove your belief. It continually amazes me that the most powerful force on the planet is thought. You cannot see it, touch it, draw a picture of it, carve it in stone or make an engineered model of it, yet thought alone can cause death, life and everything in between.
Given that thought is one of the major motive forces on the planet effective among the human population, it should be incredibly easy to be happy. Happiness is thought, is it not?
If what I have been doing for the past fourteen years is write my thoughts down here, it should be simple to show you how to be happy. It is, after all, just a thought.
Perhaps it is.
Yesterday morning for the first time in a week I managed to speak to SMIL. She has been getting up, having breakfast and going back to bed and back to sleep, she gets up for lunch and then sleeps in a chair in the afternoon. I never ask anyone to wake her; she either needs the sleep because of her dementia, or she is choosing not to be in the care home but in a different place in her dreams. Sometimes, if they take a while to connect me to the part of the care home where the severely affected residents live, one of whom SMIL is, I hear the cries, arguments, endless radio music, bright brittle cheering along of the staff and I think I would choose to be somewhere else too. Moreover there is not going to be any escape. The chances of SMIL recovering from Alzheimer’s disease and being able to live an independent life again, are slim and none. Besides, her daughter has either let or sold her house. A person with dementia does not qualify for free assistance while they still have savings of £23,250. That amount saved alone would not produce enough income to run a house, once any pension and savings have been used up, your local council has a duty to care for you, until then you will have to pay for help, if your doctor has told you that you have dementia and are not safe to be left alone.
While SMIL was sleeping all the time I rang at different times in the day without success. Seeing the lie of the land midweek, I sent a card and some little bars of chocolate. Yesterday morning I talked to SMIL who was surprisingly lucid. I asked if she needed anything, she said ‘no’ with an effort, I asked if she was in pain but she did not reply (she is prescribed permanent painkillers, but I like to check from time to time) and at the end of me chatting on she managed a ‘bye’. She was obviously present during the conversation and understanding.
Would it be worse to be in a care home, with dementia, understanding where you are, or in a care home, with dementia not understanding where you are?
After I had talked to SMIL I put the lockdown library out on the drive. I had been a bit late doing so; I was trying to make up my mind whether the forecast thunder would eventuate. So I was out with the books to see a young and very dirty man arrive. He was wheeling a red bicycle and carrying an originally white bag across his body. He read the sign on the side of the cart, asking: What’s all this about?
I amended the sign a little while ago, removing all the Covid precautions. The notice now says that the books, jigsaws, crafting items and sweets are for anyone to take, that you do not have to bring anything back if you forget or do not want to and that donations are welcomed.
I explained that the book lending had started in the pandemic as an attempt to make people happy when they were very unhappy. The young man said he was homeless and very unhappy. He was obviously a reader. I reiterated that he could take as many books as he liked and didn’t have to bring them back, he could leave them with charities somewhere else. We exchanged smiles, he asked my name and told me his. He said he was known for playing his guitar under a bridge in a nearby town. We talked of books, he said he liked reading, I said I thought books were a good way of putting your head in an other place if you were not where you wanted to be. I fetched a huge fantasy saga book from the garage, that I thought might be to his taste. I think he was probably only in his thirties. He asked if he could take sweets, took one little packet and tried to give me a coin. I refused, giving him a handful of sweets and he began crying, at the same time peeling the wrapper off a chew and putting it in his mouth whole.
He showed me the line on the side of his neck where he had tried to cut his own throat. I said I had tried to commit suicide several times as a teenager and had some understanding of despair but that I hoped this was the turn round in his luck and that things would get better.
He wiped his tears on the back of his hand and shook my hand twice. His hand was very dirty but I noticed he was sober and present, fully aware of his circumstances, polite, communicative and a keen reader.
Here is a thought and two questions. By which circumstance do you develop dementia? We know the mechanism but not what sets it in motion. The life path of the demented person, who can no longer think for themselves is entirely dependant on the good will and resourcefulness of their relatives, if they have some.
By which set of circumstances do you end up living on the street? How does that happen if you are polite, young, strong, literate? Do you have no family who would help, when people who are rude, aggressive and unpleasant enjoy life in the bosom of their families, well-paid jobs and entertain no expectation of life being otherwise?
One of the ways I make myself happy is to count my blessings at the end of every day. After I close my eyes and before I go to sleep I literally enumerate the good things that happened in the day and remind myself why I am lucky. Sometimes if I am in pain or in fear I have ended up just being thankful that there are doctors and that I have access to them and that is one blessing and all I can manage.
Sometimes, such as yesterday the blessings fall thick and fast.
I have a roof over my head and a bed to sleep in which are mine and do not belong to a care home. As this may not always be the case I am extra grateful right now.
I was able a little bit to bring sanity and cheerful news to my Step-mother-in-law. I was able to give some books and some sweets to someone who needed them.
I have some common sense acquired in living to know that it is my lot to help others as much as I can within my means and that I am not currently called upon to do so in a way that makes me ill or depletes me, as I have been in the past.
There was a longer list but I fell asleep happily.
I recommend a detailing of your attitude of gratitude as a way of being happy. It takes practice to perfect. It is not a belief system. It will fail in extreme circumstances but work again if you start doing it again when circumstances permit.
If you were happy every day of your life you might never know it. But if you are a sundial and mark the happy days, you will know when you are happy. That in itself is a life skill. It is a way to train your brain to be happy, anyone who can think can do it.
Clouds underline the sunshine.