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Carol Bradley Bursack, Published December 24 2011

Minding our elders: Staying in the moment

Dear Readers: As you read this column, you may be starting your Christmas day, ending it, or catching up on newspapers the day after your celebration. Whenever you do get around to reading this column, chances are Christmas will still be on your mind.

A few thoughts: if there is ever a time to live in the present moment, it’s now. If your brother and you have an ongoing disagreement about how to care for your parents, try to forget the past and not think about the future. This is your sibling. Today is a day to celebrate an event much larger than family squabbles.

If last year Uncle Harvey made a comment you’ve resented all year, it’s time to let it go. Maybe he was in pain and just ornery that day. Start fresh with forgiveness and move on.

If this looks like the last Christmas your parent is likely to be with you, then it’s even more important to just live in this day. Good memories of past holidays are welcome, and memories shared can be a blessing. Pleasant reminiscing is an exception to the “stay in the present” rule. However, if your childhood was marred by traumatic holidays, do your best to not drag those times into this celebration. Also, refuse to let thoughts of a future without this parent spoil the present day you are sharing with him or her.

Centering on the moment at hand doesn’t come naturally to most of us. It’s true that often the moment at hand is difficult. However, sometimes we contribute to the difficulties of the present moment by dragging negative thoughts from the past, or worries about the future, into the mix. By doing so, we can render ourselves incapable of fully enjoying a day that could, in itself, be very nice.

We can’t change the past. We don’t know the future. We do know what is happening today. Expectations of perfection need to be dropped, as there are few perfect moments in life. Resentments over past events can destroy your chances of having a better day, today.

Will this day be perfect? Not likely. Will you be exhausted from trying to make a celebration happen for multiple generations? Probably. But surely there are moments when you can look around and find something positive to enjoy.

What you are doing daily for your loved ones is part of any Christmas celebration. Love. Forgiveness. A heart at peace, at least for this one day. As a caregiver, you are likely working today to give others a nice holiday. You deserve one, too. So stay emotionally in the present for a more joyful day.

Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at carol@mindingourelders.com.