I have a friend who is a well-respected Life and Leadership Coach, and I will often hear her refer to someone’s “essence.” It’s a beautiful concept.
Someone’s “essence” is who they really are as a person, in their highest and purest version of himself or herself. Because people are not the circumstances of their life. They are not their neuroses, their habits, their shortcomings, their “faults.” They are, in short, their essence.
As humans, it’s hard for us to see past the faults and shortcomings and habits of others. We too often get stopped there, rather than looking through those and instead choosing to see their goodness, their potential, their virtues. (See also: their true essence.)
It would be hard to overstate how often this happens to families walking along the challenging dementia journey. Each and every dementia caregiver has limits in their abilities, their patience, and their endurance. For other family members who aren’t on the frontlines of providing care to the loved one, sometimes it’s too easy to focus on what the caregiver isn’t doing right. But if they were to try focusing on the caregiver’s essence, they might instead see their bravery, selflessness, and fortitude.
The same thing is true of individuals who are living with memory loss. How often do we catch ourselves relating to them, in some way, as their disease? How often do our frustrations with the scenario eclipse our gratitude for the person’s sheer existence in our lives, and for the joy they can still bring to us if we are open to it? A loved one living with dementia, even if rendered seemingly uncommunicative, is still his or her “essence.” All of the things that made (make) that person so great – everything that made (makes) him or her so worthy of enduring love – it is all still there, alive and well inside.
We just need to choose to see it.
And for that matter, do you relate to yourself as your essence? That’s a choice, too.
(Got a comment? I love ’em! Email them here and I’ll read and reply.)