And what I’m about to share has been one of those things I’ve been holding close.
Seven years ago, my dad, Steve — a 65-year-old Green Bay Packer loving attorney with a knack for cribbage, who was devoted to the happiness of his wife and two kids, who had built his entire life in a marvelous small town in central Wisconsin — was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. One of the brightest minds we knew had decided to make its excruciatingly slow exit from this reality. The diagnosis left my mom, my brother and I scratching our heads. Why him? Why now? It’s one of those life changes you can do nothing to prepare for... and you can do nothing to change.
It just... is.
My teenage fascination with the movie, “The Notebook” has been constantly on my mind as I’ve watched my mom navigate what I can only imagine is a prolonged traumatic love story. An unraveling. A re-writing of a future she never imagined she’d be living when she married my father over 35 years ago. And although I can watch that play out, a love story isn’t mine to write.
So why bring up Dad’s story at all?
I guess I feel like there have been enough silver linings, love-filled moments, and learning lessons that dad would approve of other folks learning from our experience now... or specifically from his experience — his world, and all of us living in it.
His condition is not a secret anymore like we initially felt it needed to be. We moved Dad into a local nursing home last week, so now there’s no turning back. Even though it’s been that way from the start... today feels more concrete. More certain.
And as hard as it is to adjust to my own perception of the situation, Dad is seemingly settling in with ease. And I’ll tell you: When he laughs? He laughs SO HARD. That’s the biggest thing I’ve noticed about his manifestation of this disease, especially over the past few years. Emotions cannot be hidden. Forgotten, sure. But in the moment, his emotions ride his face like a wave in the ocean — unmistakable.
Like any disease, every person and every body handles it differently... and even though there are less emotions and far less words for Dad overall, when he does feel, he feels big. In contrast to his relative silence, his emotional moments, hugs, and laughter fill the space more than usual.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I reflect on my own ability to cloak my feelings... to cushion my own vision or soften my opinion so that others won’t feel uncomfortable. (Even though, as I teach others frequently, I have exactly 0% control over everyone’s reactions to my actions!) What good does this habit do? Sure it might make a whole crew of folks feel good in the moment... but the more comfort and insulation I build for others, the more raw I feel inside of myself.
And then as my brain fog settled in, pondering how to end this story for today, I paused to open up my dad’s old binder of sermons and notes to a page titled, “My Conversation with God.” Dad wrote a series of reflections in the early 90s after picking up a newly minted copy of what became his favorite book, “Conversations with God,” by Neale Donald Walsch. And right there in one of the first paragraphs, I realized that 20+ years ago, Dad wrote a perfect conclusion to my story today. His story.
“Feelings... these are considered the language of the soul. [God] says that if you want to know what is true for you about something, you must ask yourself how you feel about it. Hidden in your deepest feelings is your highest truth... and these are the defining characteristics of who we are.”
So today— for the sake of getting in touch with your Highest Self, the Universe, Consciousness, Earth Mother, God... whatever word(s) feel good to you... please don’t feel sorry for me, or my dad, or my family. He wouldn’t want you to feel for him. Rather, do as he does and FEEL FULLY for yourself, through yourself. And know that even if it’s uncomfortable, it’s your highest truth coming out. And that interplay of noticing your feelings without judgement? That is the greatest conversation with God we can have.
In light, love and big feelings,
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Originally hailing from Wisconsin, Mollie is a cheesehead transplant to Northwest Montana, with degrees in Retail and Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Today, she lives off the grid, half the year in a Tiny House & half the year in a yurt — both of which she and her husband, Sean, built by hand. Nonprofit Executive Director by day, Mollie also owns and teaches at Yoga Hive — a chain of community yoga studios in the valley.