The Joy Far Outweighed the Pain!!

What a week this has been!! Some people really struggle with Mondays so I recently began posting a Motivation Monday LEGO build on my social media accounts to get the week started for people in a positive way. But this past Monday I was the one who needed motivation because the day started with some pain! I learned last week I needed to have some dental surgery to replace some bone that had disintegrated. They worked me in on Monday morning to do the surgery and it was a lot more involved than I thought it would be! I ended up with a mouth full of stitches and some pain too, which was concerning because it was also going to be a VERY busy week for me!

After the surgery I rested most of Monday and then on Tuesday afternoon was a guest on a podcast called Will Gather hosted by the amazingly compassionate Nicole Will! It was soooo much fun, and thankfully I took some pain meds before the interview so I could bring my smile and joy to Nicole’s audience!! I could really feel those stitches after the interview!

On Wednesday I gathered with my favorite partners Johns Hopkins and facilitated a session of LEGO Serious Play for Caregivers where we Built Hope! It was another powerful session where people left with renewed Hope! One woman arrived in the session feeling overwhelmed by her never ending caregiving responsibilities and sent me an email after the session to say that I was a gift to everyone and that she would be keeping her LEGO model in her home to cheer her on each day! Her email is the best possible validation for what LEGO Serious Play does for individuals!! It’s not just notes you may take during a support group meeting, the LEGO models we build can serve as inspiration that people can see and touch to keep them going on tough days. They can also change the model whenever they like to reflect how their caregiving role changes over time. I could really feel the stitches during the session but the relief and the JOY of the folks participating outweighed any pain I was in.

I was most concerned about Thursday because I had a Zoom presentation for Olney Senior Living at 12:30pm and then I needed to drive for 50 minutes to a live event that was to start at 4:30. I wasn’t sure how back to back presentations would go with the stitches and talking that much, but I couldn’t have asked for a better day! The online event was so much fun!! People had great questions about some of the tools they could get to lighten their caregiver loads and it was a very lively session!! As soon as I disconnected from that session I jumped in my car and listened to Spa music on the drive down 95 South, which can be very challenging some days! Storms were also forecast for the exact time of the event but I try to never worry about things I can’t control. The storms definitely impacted attendance, BUT everyone who needed to be there was present.

I was giving my Building Joyful Caregiver Experiences with Humility, Hope and Humor presentation and in that session I talk about the Book of Joy by His Holiness The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu that has had a huge impact on my life. In that book the Spiritual Leaders share that the way to make Joy a lasting way of being is to heal our own pain by turning to the pain of others. It’s called the Virtuous Cycle: and works as follows The more we turn to the pain of others, the more joy we experience, and the more joy we experience, the more joy we can bring to others. I created a Really cool animated slide to reflect that cycle and the crowd absolutely embraced it.

The session was amazing and included both Harbor Chase residents (even some with mild cognitive impairment) and families of those living at the gorgeous facility. My mouth was really bothering me as the session came to an end, BUT when it was over I immediately went over to one of the participants who had been very emotional during the entire presentation. She pulled herself up from the chair using her walker and gave me a big hug. She was at Harbor Chase taking a respite from her husband who has dementia, and it is likely she will place him there soon. She was in a lot of emotional pain and told me how much the session had changed her life. Thankfully the chef had made soup and sandwiches with no crust for the event so I was able to carefully eat as I sat with my friend. Quite a few others joined us and also shared their stories of the family members they were caring for. There was no way I was going to leave them until they were ready to leave. I forgot about my pain to listen to theirs. Even before the session started I met the coolest guy named Bob and we too became friends. He is one of 6 people in his family to have been diagnosed with dementia, but he followed my presentation well and even answered questions that I asked of the group during the session!! As I sat chatting with others, he put a note in my hand before he left the room. The note read “I need to control how I respond to others and tonight you gave me hope I can do that”! I simply fell in love with those folks, and thankfully I get to see them again because the presentation was the first in a three part series I’ll be doing there. Even a friend Monica I met 12 years ago as we walked the MS Marathon together came to the event with her husband and took quite a few photos of me during the event, which was always Tim’s favorite thing to do. They started a home health care company during the pandemic and we reconnected in person last month and will be partnering on a few upcoming events! It’s been so Joyful to be reconnected with her after 12 years! I left Harbor Chase exhausted but full of JOY!!!

After resting on Friday, yesterday I had the opportunity yesterday to do something I’ve never done before!! One of my friends / partners from Johns Hopkins LOVED the LEGO Serious Play sessions I’ve done for them so much that she asked me to facilitate a LEGO event for her Birthday party at her home in Baltimore. If you know me well you know I’m always ready for a challenge, and this event was going to be challenging. With Covid in our midst there were going people in the Living Room, the Dining Room and on Zoom and my job as facilitator was to ensure that everyone could fully participate and feel included. I had mailed the LEGO bricks to the five people who would be attending on Zoom several weeks ago. After a delicious dinner and solving an audio issue for those on Zoom the party was by far the most successful LEGO Serious Play event I’ve ever facilitated! We had asked folks to bring their own tablets or phones so they could see the Zoom folks from wherever they were seated and that worked tremendously well. The questions participants built LEGO models about were their favorite memories with the birthday girl and what they loved most about her!! She also wanted a question about her guests so I asked them to build their Superpower! To say that the evening of building and sharing was Powerful just doesn’t do it justice. These folks are all incredibly faithful people and they took me to church with some of their loving builds.

The dining room group included the birthday girl, two couples and two friends.
The four people standing with their LEGO models were the living room group who only came into the dining room to share their models so those on Zoom and in the dining room could see and hear them They include the birthday girl’s spouse, daughter, granddaughter and the granddaughter’s boyfriend.
The Zoom group included the birthday girl’s daughter, son, daughter-in-law and grandson and a friend.

There were some issues with our virtual church this morning, but I was ok with skipping church because I believe that I went to church every day this week as I interacted with people who were in pain, and also with those who were feeling great joy! Church for me isn’t about the place we are in, it’s what we do and how we interact with people no matter where we are! My stitches finally seem to be starting to dissolve and I’m grateful for that. I’m resting today and glad this busy week is over, but without a doubt all the Joy I experienced with others far outweighed my pain!! May we all embrace all the joy in our lives in spite of all of the pain in our world!

10 thoughts on “The Joy Far Outweighed the Pain!!

  1. Dear Loretta,

    I so enjoyed your post about your incredible week. I’m so sorry about your mouth, and I hope that you are on the road to complete healing. I had some similar oral surgery about a year ago. It takes a while to heal, but I hope all is well with you before long.

    You never cease to inspire me with your energy and your never-ending supply of optimism, but most of all because of the depth of joy you get from offering joy and hope to others. Your animated slide says it all.

    Years ago, the Reverend Desmond Tutu spoke at a Town Hall at my church in downtown Minneapolis. I will never, ever forget the joy that man’s face and entire body exuded. It was impossible to be in the same room with him and not feel lifted up to some higher experience of the privilege of just being alive. I kept a photo of him on my refrigerator for years because it made me feel better just to see his smile. I think you share something of that same spirit!

    Thank you for sharing both the pain and the great joy of your week, my dear Loretta. I can imagine how many people were blessed by their encounter with you. Thank you for “keeping on” in the wake of your oral surgery! Thank you for all that you give to the world!

    With lots of love and virtual hugs,

    Karen

    • Sister Karen,

      Thank you for sharing your story of The Rev Desmond Tutu!! I saw him once years ago at the National Cathedral where my daughter was providing sign language interpreting for him. At the end of his remarks he hugged both interpreters! I too felt a profound sense of Joy listening to him! It was amazing!!

      I get so much energy from the joy I exchange with all of the incredible people I meet!! The one thing about caregiving is that it is a uniting responsibility – a “we are all in this together” type of thing…. No matter a person’s ethnicity, religion, age or sexual orientation, we all face the same challenges!

      I figured the healing will take a while!! Thanks for the heads up!! Only one more day of antibiotics!! YAY!!

      Sending you love & virtual hugs back!!

      Loretta

  2. I had to respond now, just to say this ‘You Are Rockin Your Hair!’ 😱 I keep telling you, ‘when I grow up I want to be like You ❤️Belinda >

  3. Loretta, So sorry about your mouth, praying for your healing and pain.
    I am like a child playing with toys whenever I get pictures of all your Leggo events, wishing I could be there. I regret we haven’t heard back from AARP. Please take care, pray MOM is well.
    Blessings and Love, Belinda

    • Thank you my friend!!! No worries at all about AARP!! I’m learning that sometimes you hear from people when you least expect it!! You now love LEGO bricks as much as me!!! LOL!! Have an awesome day!!

  4. Loretta, this series of your experiences, particularly when viewed through the lens of your own physical pain, is a demonstration, indeed, an incarnation of the wisdom of the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. Brava!

    One additional, immediate comment… Something I’ve noticed (although without consciously aware of it until this post) in many of your previous writings. You meet and greet someone, even, until that moment, a stranger, and, because of the shared circumstance of need and your living witness to and of hoe and joy, within a breath, you call that person “my friend.” I love that!

    Love

    • Thank you Paul!!! YES indeed I never meet a stranger is how some people introduce me. I so appreciate you recognizing that!! I am still bad at names, but when I meet a person they are mine for life if they want to be, especially those I meet along this journey with dementia. Bob said something very interesting which reminded me a little of you. He spoke of “his people”, meaning his “dementia people” in his brain for often getting him into trouble for the things he said. Isn’t it amazing that he is aware that’s happening, that he may curse at someone trying to help him even if he knows he shouldn’t?? The brain works in such mysterious ways. The next day he even sent me an email asking for the handout of the slides… He’s really amazing and I’m proud to add him to my list of friends….

      Much love!!

  5. Loretta, what an incredible series of highs and lows, of moving through pain to bring joy to others, of being the incredible person you are!

    • Julie you’re so awesome!! Thank you!! I absolutely had to write about that week!! I hope I never forget some of these incredible connections I’ve made!! Thankfully most of the stitches came out yesterday and I’m thrilled!!

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