Let's Talk Dementia

A friend of mine’s son of 14 made the remark that if we were to be immortal, our brains would eventually have to start deleting files from storage in order to make space for new files. I like the analogy, and think he has a point. We have some files that take up lots of space – our childhood trauma, the death of a loved one, the long divorce. Often, when we do not deal with these files, they actually stay open on our desktop and take up a lot of space. Maybe we are not ready to delete them, but leaving them open on our desktop means that they are literally in our face. Every time we start the computer, this file is opened on the desktop, and search around in the background for updates, churning away through other files to see if there are relevant information for it to add. These files slow down our system.

Often it is very difficult to clean up a file. The death of a child, the betrayal of a friend or lover often stays in our conscious minds and affect everything that we do. How do we delete this file? I don’t think it is possible. Yet, over the years this file will eat more and more, take up more and more disc space and prevent us from opening new files, reminding us of its presence every single time we start up.

I think it is important to clean up our computers from time to time. Mayne not necessarily delete what is on the desktop all at once, but maybe store it somewhere else. Start with a folder somewhere that it is not visible on the desktop. Then maybe on a cloud somewhere, or an external hard drive. As we get older, we need to create space.  We need to clear our desktop to be able to have a clearer, cleaner visual image of who we really are. We need to start looking deeper and deeper inside, past the desktop, to find our operating system. What is it that really defines us? What is our essence reality – that deep knowing of what we feel is our Truth? How do we tell our story? What is the narrative we use?

This young man’s analogy made me think that perhaps for many older people who lived a long life this is exactly what happens. Some of the files get dropped, perhaps accidentally deleted, perhaps corrupted. A corrupted file does however not necessarily affect the motherboard of the computer. (Interesting that it should be called a motherboard…). I do believe that a shift in consciousness is what happens when people’s minds start changing. The loss or shift of files is essential. We need to clean up the desktop, make space. This could result in an altered reality that seems strange, out of the ordinary, even weird. And herein lies the challenge – what do we do with this change, this different reality, this altered state? Let us consider it not to be something that we should diagnose as a syndrome…

This has been said many times. The shift in mind, the so-called ‘memory loss’ or dementia – what if we framed it differently? What if we see the brain pathology in terms of more than just the physiology? What if we start paying very close attention to that which lies beyond the pathology – the Soul, or the Mind? I want to propose that we will be pleasantly surprised. I want to quote Dr. Al Power again: “WE must change our minds about people whose minds have changed”. If we change our medical gaze and the narrative of deficit and decline, if we construct a habitus that is inclusive, embracing, honouring, people whose minds have changed will no longer be ‘demented’.

Also, I think the sooner we decide which files no longer serve a purpose and start to put them in the cloud or on an external hard drive, the less we will be affected by a corruption of these files. We need to clean up our minds, we need to let some stories be filed away, out of sight. We will never forget the death of a child. It is not a file that can be deleted. But we can encrypt it, store it. The more desktop space and storage space we clean up, the less change there will be of a scrambling.

At age 54 I have become acutely aware of my maintenance plan running out. High mileage (emotional, physical) will affect longevity. This is now my apprenticeship years for my Eldership. I am practicing the skills of letting go, yes even deleting some files. Creating new files and folders, re-arranging some of the files that we just haphazardly left on the desktop. I want to create space – clean, open, airy space. I want to not let files hang around too long if they do not serve a very definite purpose. Some files I want to turn into screensavers because they are so precious and meaningful. And going into Elderhood, I want to have mega open space for new experiences to carry me through into these wonderful years of wisdom.

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