I hurt myself getting ready for mom’s last birthday party. And I don’t mean my feet and my knees. Yes, they suffered, but what suffered most was my heart because I couldn’t stop comparing myself.

  • Mom wouldn’t be belly-aching.
  • What’s wrong with you? Mom would stand hours to do things for us!

We can’t completely stop comparing, because it’s human nature. And comparisons aren’t categorically bad. We use comparisons to understand ourselves and the world we live in, to catalogue, distinguish, set goals. But comparisons can easily be misused and harmful.

I was beating myself up (I’m not as much as mom). Maybe because I was pretty darn sure this was mom’s last hurrah, and it was. Maybe because I wasn’t sure if she would even enjoy a party. She did, by the way.

In caring for Alzheimer’s patients, family caregivers can get sucked into negative comparison cycles, even in support groups. Use comparisons constructively, not as blunt weapons to bludgeon your confidence and heart. Someone might handle a similar situation differently, maybe even better, than you did. Congratulate them. And remind yourself, you are doing the best you can with the emotional, financial, and physical resources you have in this moment.

I’m glad I wrote about how I beat myself up, because it’s a reminder to be kinder to myself and to stop comparing with a heart of impatience, fear, and disappointment.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2023.

Wholly Broken

We’re breaking.

—You’ve been on us for hours! What are you doing?

—Nothing. Just getting ready.

—Nothing!? You’re breaking us for nothing?

—Not nothing. Mom’s birthday.

—Ohhh, our aching bones. And those knees… before long, they’ll collapse on us!

—Just a little longer. I’m almost done … mom’s feet would never have complained…

—What was that?

—I said “Just a little longer.”

—No, after that. And don’t say not nothing. We heard something.

—Mom would never have complained! Do you know how many hours she stood in her kitchen rolling cookies, creaming corn, whipping divinity, stirring pralines and beans and oatmeal and pudding… And don’t tell me Plantar Fasciitis and bad knees! She had those, too!

—All right, all right… Not a competition, but we’re aching for a break. This is hard.

—Soon, later tonight. When I’m done… And you’re not wrong. This is hard. She did a lot of hard things for us.

We’re all broken.

—Who are all these people?

—Friends, some family. Her community.

—And they all showed up for her? Even though she’s broken, can’t talk, can’t walk? She can’t even stand up.

—Sure. Of course they showed up. Even though…

—… she’s broken.

—We’re all broken. Walker there, grieving mother, that one, literally broke his back. Broken, but when we show up for each other, when we come together, we feel less so, more whole.

—So all the broken pieces together feel whole? Almost?

—Yeah. Look at her. She’s smiling. She knows.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserves. 2022