Friday, March 7, 2008
Alzheimer's: A New Earth
Let me try to explain.
Following a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, you are no longer an engineer, a teacher, an accountant. You are no longer a tennis player, a chess player, a piano player. You are no longer good at math. You are no longer good in the kitchen.
You ask yourself, “Who am I now?”
You ask yourself, “Has my real self died?”
You are no longer the YOU you used to be. You are having trouble even remembering the YOU you used to be. Your FORMER Self is gone. Alzheimer’s has greedily taken hold of your former Self, is clenching it with both hands, and won’t give it back. The loss of this former Self is experienced like a death. You grieve the death of your former Self.
But once the grief has passed, you may be able to see what is left, no longer obscured by the former Self. What remains is the REAL self.
Here’s an excerpt from my next book, LIVING ALZHEIMER’S which speaks to this discovery and includes a quote from Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth:
I'm nothing short of awed by Jay's transformation. Here's a man who has been diagnosed with a disease synonymous with death, but the man before me, in this present moment, is not a dying man. He is not angry, depressed, resentful, blaming, jealous, fearful, or in denial. How is this possible? How can he not be angry about the loss of his successful career, his identity, as an architect? How can he not be resentful about the fatigue and the loss of cognitive capabilities that interfere with his days? How can he not be consumed with fear about his future? Why doesn't he feel lost?
Some time after our conversation, I read every one of the books Jay recommended. I will forever be grateful to him for introducing me to this knowledge that has changed the way I look at the world and inhabit my own life. Thinking of Jay's transformation, I'm struck still while reading Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth. And I get it.
"Whatever they had identified with, whatever gave them their sense of self, is taken away. Then suddenly and inexplicably, the anguish or intense fear initially felt gave way to a sacred sense of Presence, a deep peace, serenity, and complete freedom from fear....When forms that you had identified with, that gave you your sense of self, collapse or are taken away, it can lead to a collapse of the ego, since ego is identification with form. When there is nothing to identify with anymore, who are you? When forms around you die or death approaches, your sense of Beingness, of I Am, is freed from its entanglement with form: Spirit is released from its imprisonment in matter...You realize your true identity as consciousness itself, rather than what consciousness had identified with. That's the peace of God. The ultimate truth of who you are is not I am this or I am that, but I Am."
Lisa Genova, Ph.D., author of STILL ALICE, www.StillAlice.com