In my last post I wrote about the good news that’s been coming during the last five months: no evidence of Alzheimer’s disease; stability of my symptoms during the past year and even perhaps some improvement; cognitive decline but, for practical purposes, no impairment; the reasonable possibility of a stable future; and general happiness with my current situation. The “elevator version” goes something like this: “I’m doing pretty well. We discovered that I don’t in fact have Alzheimer’s. I’m still a bit slower than I was, but it’s not worsening and I’m fine with it.” A couple of days ago, such a summary still seemed a little scary—a more complete letting go than perhaps I was ready for—but it seemed to be the next right step. In that post I ended with: “The only bad news is my attachment to a self that no longer exists; with a little time I think I can let that one go, too.”
Miraculously, it seems, the letting go has already happened. I’m no longer attached to the person-with-Alzheimer’s identity. At first, I didn’t notice the attachment fading, but, in our conversation Wednesday, my spiritual director recognized the difference immediately. I’ve changed at a deep level, and I’m ready to move on.
So, now what?
So now nothing! I feel no hurry to rush off somewhere and find something else. One of the great gifts of this 16-month experience has been a significant freedom from the trap set for me by my intellectual gifts and my sense of duty and responsibility. In these past months, I’ve continued to respond to the pain of this world (mostly, but not entirely, through this blog), but, with that freedom, my work has for the first time felt mostly joyful. It’s been really wonderful for me, and I don’t want to give it away.
I can trust myself, my deeper self (and not just the intellectual self that has been so long trapped by “should”). I don’t feel my usual need to search desperately for the “right” vocation, for a work that should be fulfilling.
I can wait.
So I’ll continue the blog as long as I have something to say, and I’ll keep an eye out for what may come my way. But a new vocation can’t be just the thing-that-needs-to-be-done or the thing-that-I’m-good-it. That new vocation also needs to be something that brings me joy.
Will this freedom be permanent? Of course not! It never is. We always bind ourselves again, and I’m sure I’ll find something. Nevertheless, I’ve been changed and won’t ever be the same.
Where will that lead me? I don’t know. Right now I’m not very concerned. As long as the path seems firm and right under my feet, I’ll just follow it out and allow most of the worry to remain at rest.