Friday, October 28, 2011

Feeling Not Bright

When something happens that makes me feel not very bright, I don't handle it well. When I have to depend on the greater skills and understanding of others it makes me feel incompetent, and I lapse to self-condemnation.  

Today I was mapping my route to Abilene, Kansas where I will attend an authors' gathering at the community center from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m, October 29.  Come if you live nearby; it sounds like a neat event; a gathering of about 20 Kansas authors.  John and I will be sitting behind a basket of mini-Snickers, offering signed copies of my caregiving book for sale for just $9.25 plus tax--a bargain! You can read more about the event here:  Abilene Author Roundup

Preparing for this event required me to figure sales tax and map a route, and let's just say that math skills and directionality are not my areas of expertise.  I knew I wanted to charge $10 including tax for my book, and that the sales tax in Abilene is 8.15%.   

I tried algebra.  I was not terrible at high school algebra, a fact that occasionally leads me to bursts of over confidence. 

On the first post-it note I wrote:  .0815x + x = $10.00. 

On the second post-it, I divided both sides of the equation by x.  

I wadded up both post-its and started over.  I thought maybe I had two variables. Maybe it should have been .0815x + y = $10.00.  I realized I did not know how to solve for two variables.  I had a vague notion of what you already know; I was being dense. I wadded up that post-it. 

I decided to use words.  I am good with words.  .0815 times what I want to charge for the book is the sales tax I'll charge and to that I'll add the cost of the book and that will equal ten dollars.  So the variable is the pre-tax cost of the book.  One variable after all. 

I swallowed my pride and texted my daughter, who more quickly than I can finish word processing this sentence, texted me back with the answer (charge $9.25 for your book, Mom, .75 sales tax).  Before she became a stay at home mom she was a junior high math teacher.  Any one of her former students could have undoubtedly helped me out. 

"How did you do that?" I texted back.  

"10 divided by 1.0185,"  she replied.  

"Oh. Thanks."  

There's the ever present fear I might be getting Alzheimer's but then I decided, no, I've always been dense at math. 

So then I began to plot my course to Abilene.  We live only a couple hours away, it shouldn't have been difficult.  I went to Google maps.  I poured over the directions.  Not hard.  But I became suffused with a familiar, helpless sense of directionality confusion as I tried to think my way through east and west and right and left, and even though I own a Tom Tom (a GPS device that plugs into my cigarette lighter and gives me directions in a calming, British accented voice) I felt that sense of apprehension that always attacks when I have to navigate to an unfamiliar place.  

My husband came home for lunch and said, "Guess what! I can go with you tomorrow, so don't worry about finding your way."  I should have felt happy and relieved.  Instead I had to swallow irritation.  I wanted to be able to manage by myself.  I will be glad, very glad for his company and the day will be so much more pleasant because he is along, but I felt incompetent.  

Awhile later I went in to my mom's apartment to help her shower.  I was feeling stung over my incompetence at math and maps, and as we went through the preliminary steps to the bathing ritual I suddenly realized how often Mom must have to endure these same kinds of emotions.  How soul crushing to feel that you are being treated as though you aren't even bright enough to know which body part has been washed and which hasn't!  Mom doesn't remember that she doesn't remember, and so when I give her directions she must feel that I'm being patronizing. When we were new to the roles of caregiver and patient she would often say, "You must think I'm really stupid."  We've come to a more comfortable place now, and Mom seldom protests my sometimes thoughtlessly phrased commands.  With true humility she follows my directions even when I am preoccupied or taciturn. 

It was good for me to be reminded today of how it feels to have difficulty understanding concepts that others around me comprehend easily. Dementia patients have to cope with this kind of confusion often.  It is not surprising that depression can be a side effect of dementia.  It is very sad to feel "not bright." 

I found myself chatting comfortingly to Mom, thinking hard of ways I could make her feel good about herself.  I complimented everything from the condition of her skin to how well she puts up with me.  And you know what she said?"  

"Well, my daughter takes good care of me and most of all, God is with me." 

Well, I'm a slow study, but God is with me and has provided me people to take good care of me when I can't handle things myself.  I feel humility and gratitude today, and that's lots better than pride.  

Thank You, Lord. 

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