I have always identified my “self” with my intellect. And now it appears that this self is going to change radically. Buddhists suggest that suffering arises just here in this identification with “self.” My identity is as an intellectual and I’m going lose it.
I can’t tolerate the prospect of a declining intellect. What am I then if I’m not the brightest one in the room? How will I respond to people with that embarrassed look in their eyes as I say something stupid? What do I do if I can’t have “meaningful” conversations or exchange emails on the topics of the day?
On the other hand, much as I hate to acknowledge any positive side to this illness, I suppose it will intensify my spiritual journey. I have never really been aware of needing another person or needing God, for that matter. I’m sure that’s an exaggeration, but one part of that identity will surely disappear is the “independent one.” Can I allow myself to need, to be really vulnerable, to depend on others? Can I allow others to help me? If I can’t, the future is going to be painful. I will now have to learn to live one way or another without my analytic mind.
I remember a documentary of a daughter caring for her demented mother. She said that her mother used to be so stiff and judgmental, always obsessed with the past or the future, and they’d never had a close relationship. But now, she said, they were fully in the present together, laughing a lot and playing a lot. I can’t imagine myself letting go like that. Can I learn to?