Monday, January 18, 2016

Work in Progress

We writers often refer to our “work in progress” or WIP for short. When we speak these words, often in a self-depreciating way, we are referring to our current project. I’ve often said my attention span is too short to write a novel. Oh, I’ve started a few all right, even completed a draft of a mystery novel, but according to writing experts my WIP has a major flaw—the heroine turns out to be a villain.

I don’t believe a story should be predictable. I watched a movie this afternoon and within the first ten minutes I knew how the story was going to end. Of course, it took two hours before it got there, but it ended just as I knew it would. After all, it was a Hallmark movie and people have expectations. They want the movie to end with a sigh of contentment, not with a “I sure didn’t see that coming” response.

Real life isn’t anything like the movies with the predictable happy ending. It isn’t even like a well-written book that ties up all the loose ends. Life is unpredictable and more like looking into a kaleidoscope with ever-changing patterns.

When we’re young, we all have expectations as to what we want to be when we grow up. It was hard for me to accept that being a princess wasn’t going to happen.

After the reality of adulthood sets in, we still have things we want to do, places we want to see, and goals we want to reach. Some of us have a bucket list. It may not be written down. It may reside merely as a niggling sense of incompleteness in our lives. Unfinished business.

Life happens and plans change. Then change again. As we age, things either come together or they fall apart. Or both. Everything might be perking along without a single issue, and then life slaps us in the face or bonks us on the head.

The defining moment of change in my life was when Jim developed dementia. We had plans that didn’t include life as we knew it coming to a screeching halt. We had retirement dreams that involved travel flush with mountain time, southwest desert time, and, knowing Jim, long drives revisiting his childhood places. I never had a chance to see the bridge they lived under in Texas where Lyndon Johnson visited them, lending a helping hand.

Our dreams were sabotaged by a rare type of younger onset dementia. Jim changed from the decisive, intelligent, jokester, master musician, and loving, warm man he had been into a person dependent on others for his most basic care.

Being a primary caregiver is on-the-job training for a job no one wants. It isn’t that we don’t want to take care of our loved ones, it’s that we would give anything if the circumstances did not exist. We wish we could rewrite life’s story. Edit out the hurt and pain. Replace hard times with good times. Create that happy ending.

Dementia brings a life fraught with adversity: sadness, unfathomable challenges, and sometimes full blown anger at a disease that is robbing us of a person we love. Adversity is a two-sided mirror. If we look at life’s challenges one way, we see defeat. If we look at adversity another way, we see strength. Most of us will dig deep and find strength we never even suspected we had.

Odd as it may seem, adversity determines what we become. It is what gives us the passion to adopt a mission in life. Alzheimer’s wasn’t even on my radar, but taking up the purple banner has defined who I am. It has made me the person I am today—an advocate, Alzheimer’s volunteer, and blogger.

Writing has always been as important to me as breathing. The first time I put pen to paper was to write a story about a pet pig in elementary school. No one would want me to suffocate beneath the weight of an unfinished novel, my work without progress. I should have written it until “The End” was at the bottom of the last page, but I didn’t.

On the other hand, a blog is an endless work in progress, just like I am. A match made in blog heaven.

Copyright © January 2016 by L.S. Fisher

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