I’m posting this essay on both of my blogs; here at virginialaken.com which deals with MCI and at intimacyandaging.com on which I write about aging and intimacy. I’m doing so because emotions and love are integral components of both areas—at least in my experience.
While I try to be generally optimistic, stoic and hopeful—(certainly, I prefer to be this way)—I’m not without my bad days and can at times be a real Grinch and a pain to live with.
I often describe my journey of living with MCI as experiencing waves of good days and not so good days. It reminds me of the ebb and flow of the ocean; the waves each day vary from calm to stormy, still to turbulent. At times I feel calm, accepting and tranquil, my mood barely rippled by the currents of the day’s events. At other times my mind is in turmoil, like a seashore being pummeled by the forces of nature, eroding my memory and changing ‘me’ into someone different and unfamiliar.
This past week was a week of erosion. I was in a funk. I felt no joy. I found myself tallying misses and mistakes in my mind like a harsh teacher keeping score. I was sad and cried easily, and no matter what Keith tried to do or say to divert me from my gloom, I resisted with sharp retorts.
Generally when these waves of woe wash in, they don’t last long and I can repel them by busying myself with a diversion or focusing on the positive, but this past week nothing seemed to work. The dour mood persisted. I didn’t want to see anyone, go anywhere, or allow myself to be distracted from my melancholy…and nothing Keith could do was right.
I was frustrated with myself—my lapses and misses—and I took it out on Keith. Even while I was doing so, I was angry with myself, because I knew Keith didn’t deserve my wrath, even as I unleashed on him. I don’t like being such a grouch, but such was the case. I bitched and complained, whined and wept, shouted and sulked.
And then, when Keith must have sensed I got it all out of me, he turned to me, put his arms around me, held me tight and said softly, “We need to make love…”
Keith’s timing, his gentle demeanor and tenderness calmed the storm. It was time. I needed his touch. I needed to be held, to feel secure, and safe.
As my body responded with ease and pleasure. I felt normal, with no memory loss whatsoever. The act of giving and receiving love made me feel whole again. Centered.
It has now been three days since that hour of bliss. Still the memory is clear and the emotion of being loved and cherished, and my body’s response, fills me with optimism that I will be able to experience love and pleasure, just like normal—for a long time to come.
I suspect if Keith had not made that loving statement, “We need to make love…” I would have continued down the spiral of self-pity for who knows how long, but his gentle reminder, soft touch and urging to connect, touch, and release endorphins—make love—has restored calm.
I’m writing this very personal entry because I think aging and memory loss, as well as physical illness, often cause us to underestimate our body’s ability to respond physically. We mistake our body’s feelings of frailty and inadequacy and assume we are incapable of love making. A friendly reminder, if you haven’t been around here for long—I’m not talking intercourse here, but rather, loving touch. Physical touch has the ability to excite, of course, but also the power to calm, to relax, to assure, to relieve pain—and to convey love.
If we are fortunate enough to have a loving partner with us as we experience pain and decline, their touch is what we long for. Making love means physically providing reassurance of one’s devotion, steadfastness, and even healing to the one you love who is suffering, physically or otherwise. This love we hunger for can be conveyed in many sensual ways, even through the simple act of holding of your dear one’s hand.