The Book, and Other Things That Get Me Through

In my recent posts I’ve tried to chronicle this difficult passage with my husband’s Parkinson’s and a teenage grandchild. After “Hard” and “Harder,” I figure “Hardest” is yet to come, so rather than spell out in detail all the stresses and sorrows of the past week, I’m going to share the things that keep me from totally losing it.

First, a quick update on the health situation in our household: Gary has compression fractures in two discs, and we’re waiting for a procedure to fix it, while wrangling with insurance about requirements for coverage. (I will only add that I hate the health care financing system in this country.) The granddaughter is up and down, as usual. I need to see a spine surgeon next week about my back issues! But they’re nothing like Gary’s and I’m functioning pretty well with pain that’s mostly annoying. The dog is doing well, but since his neutering he doesn’t want the long, long walks we used to take, which is actually better for me, too. (But I miss the long walks.)

OK, that out of the way, how I get through. A friend recommended a book, “How to Want What You Have.” I got it and thought, OK, I’ve read Eckhart Tolle, Brené Brown, Byron Katie, Matt Kahn–I’m up on the self-help guides, right? This book is older, published in 1995. The friend who recommended it had a husband with Parkinson’s, which is one reason I trust her advice.

It is one of those books that’s life-changing, that gets highlighted, re-read, and it will sit on my nightstand to pick up and open when I need it. It distills the ideas I’ve gleaned from the aforementioned writers into a brief, cogent directive in three words: compassion, attention, gratitude.

I won’t do an exhaustive summary of the book, but briefly, “compassion” means understanding that everyone pretty much wants the same things, and I am not better or worse than other people. (I tend to be judgmental, so this isn’t always easy for me.)

“Attention” is that old, and difficult, trick, mindfulness. He quotes Thich Nhat Hanh’s instruction about washing dishes: notice everything about washing dishes rather than letting your mind wander to what’s next. This one is easier for me because I’ve been practicing it for some time. It’s not just stopping to smell the roses, but also about noticing where your feet step and being acutely aware of every sensation.

Finally, gratitude. You can see your life as a struggle or a challenge. You can acknowledge that it’s both, and then be grateful for being able to face the challenge, that you have resources to help do that. When I consider the state of the world today I am incredibly grateful to live in a nice home in a quiet, peaceful town.

I highly recommend buying, reading, highlighting and re-reading this book.

Other gifts that help keep me sane are my Thursday morning art group, where I am loved and supported by some of the most amazing women I’ve ever known (plus actually making art!); knitting; reading; and taking those ever-shorter walks with our sweet Junior.

Who couldn’t love that face?

5 responses to “The Book, and Other Things That Get Me Through”

  1. Laurie Graves says :

    Sounds like an excellent book! I will add it to my TBR list. That doggy face is indeed adorable.

  2. wigginswordsandimages says :

    So glad we can share important books. Junior says “woof” (thanks).

  3. Anna Caesar says :

    I definitely need to read it. Wes has been in and out of hospitals and nursing facilities since January 25th.More than just parkinson’s going on. Had bone biopsy Tuesday so waiting on results. Had feeding tube put in today since he pulled out the two that were put down his throat earlier. He has not been able to communicate for over two weeks. Doesn’t even open his eyes. Vitals are all good except white cell count. Has had asymptomatic covid twice since this all started while he was in nursing facility both times. I need some Bailey’s too.

    • wigginswordsandimages says :

      Anna, order the book on Amazon, go get yourself some Bailey’s. Get a mani/pedi, talk to a counselor–whatever helps get you through. As my therapist constantly repeats: “self-care, baby.”

      • Lindy Le Coq says :

        I definitely love Junior’s face, and feel so much compassion for the journey you are in the middle of, Jill. I’m glad you have a support group of women and a dog that is there for you – unconditionally! Sending loving thoughts and prayers, Lindy, Max & Daisy 🐾

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