I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. –Romans 8:18
Is there a truly such a thing as taking the “long way home”?
I am not exclusively asking this through a philosophical, an ontological, or a geographical filter, but these disciplines may help me/you understand the merit of the question.
Endulge me for a few minutes, or print this out and make birdcage lining of it, but I think I have some answers I can present in unique WAYs…but first some definitions:
Long– The older I get. the harder it is for me to fully grasp what LONGness entails. When I am at Wal-Mart and there is a LONG line in the human checkout and an unLONG line in the self-employment checkout line, I can see the relativity of LONGness because even the LONG line, even at Christmas, isn’t THAT LONG. I mean, 3 minutes in the doctor’s office waiting room with sneezing human Covid-19 Supersoakers surrounding me sure seems like a much LONGer time than a Wal-Mart line or even LONGer than a whole weekend out with my bride at our little AirBNB in the woods that we are wont to visit. Maybe these examples highlight the important fact that we inherently want goodness to last LONG and badness to be unLONG? But what of good things we want to be short? I love a good scary movie, but I want the jump scare to be short and get over with quickly… I don’t want the Ch Ch Ch Ha Ha Ha sound to have to play too LONG before the demise if the person who really should have considered more sensible shoes for the woods. In fact, I tend to cover my eyes wanting said event to be done. Therefore LONG time frames aren’t alWAYs to the desired outcome.
Consider, instead, lifespan. It has been said that Betty White has lived a LONG life. Indeed, she has exceeded the average life by a generation. However, compared to, say, the Immortal Jellyfish (a.k.a. Turritopsis Dohrnii) she is a spring chicken. Watch this unLONG video about him/her/it (sorry I am unsure of pronouns here…) and we will pick up where we left off unLONGly:
I think this Jellyfish’s superpower is the key to many, many things in life including our pursuit of what LONGness means in my weird little context here. Transdifferentiation isn’t merely great Scrabble word, it may just be a key to our happiness sometimes as well. This jellyfish’s cell can change types as needed. It ages, then actually gets younger once it reaches a certain point instead of atrophying. (This is an amazing marvel of the truly Immortal’s One’s mind.) You think Betty While has had a LONG life? The Turritopsis Dohrnii’s life would last the penultimate amount of LONGness…unless it is eaten or killed or caught by a fisherman’s net, a disease hits it, or something else… Regardless, the population of these critters is booming because they have a LONG life caused by reverting back to their youthfulness when they need to. Can we revert back to our younger selves? At least our younger cells? How about brain bandit victims? Is the secret to curing our disease just regrowing brain cells or converting one type to another (umbilical cord stem cells?)? Who knows??? BUT I can tell you one thing…prevention, in some WAYs, involves similar. Here is how a few potentially preventitive measures remind me of going back to our youth:
- Exercise– While not all exercise is fun, if you will, isn’t it interesting how many exercises relate to things we rally found groovy as kids? Running (on a playground), hiking, riding a bike, swimming, and cardio like skipping rope are all things many, many of us loved LONG ago. Remember this: What makes the heart do well for a LONG time makes the brain do well for a LONG time too.
- Diet– OK…this one, I grant you, is something of a stretch…but think of baby food. Why did we slow or stop eating the items found in most baby foods? Sweet potatoes, peas. carrots, and the like are typically GREAT for us….but we opt, as we age, for McDrivel instead of healthy food. We get a short-term energy boost and relief of our salt addiction cravings when we eat fast food, but is it REALLY that comforting? I think we teach ourselves that, culturally. We do start eating fish sticks and chicken when we are young, but by the time the health benefit fights through the breading, it is rendered unhealthy. Does fast food and junk food taste good? Sure….but so do healthy foods in many cases. We cease to play the LONG game and opt instead for the unLONG pleasures of someties better tasting junk quite early in life, then we scramble later. Then we scoff at the Mediterranean or MIND diets as unthinkable because they lack some. specific, junk food X that we must have.
- Managing stress– Were we stressed as little kids? Yes. However, were weren’t nearly as stressed as we should have been, especially at a young age. I mean, we didn’t have a good grasp on the language, we coundn’t get from point A to B easily, nor did we have cash to make it through the day, needless to say to buy our Chick Fil A. Why? I submit to you that we were less stressed because we trusted more and better. Did it bite us in the proverbial rear sometimes? Yup, but we learned. So how do we trust more? How do we have the faith of a child? Is it something we can just mustard up, if you will? I think kids are resilient because they have a good outlook, they avoid CNN/FoxNews/NBC etc…, they do well at what they can do…and they trust blindly and lovingly.
- Sleep enough– Did we get a good night’s sleep as little kids? Yup. It wasn’t until our early teens, in most cases, that we discovered the merits of staying up late. (Note, in case you forgot, dementia prevention greatly appreicates a solid 3 sleep cycles, typically between 7-9 hours at minimum.)
- Playing and learning– Kiddoes love to play and love to learn (even if they don’t say they love school). They are great at playing…they really don’t have to be explicitly taught how to play. While often their early play is mimicing their parent’s lives, they figure out how to make it fun…and turn their parent’s stressful lives into a game. Give a child a stick and a rock and they can find a game to be had. (Do they REALLY need a $600 iPad?) And learning is natural. They learn and learn and learn. Want to teach them a new language? Easy peasy, limau squeezy. How about a new instrument? Well, my daughter teaches K-6 music and she will verify that they can learn like little sponges if you can keep them corralled. The outside things of life, in most cases, are powerless to keep them from learning what us older folks struggle with? Part of it is the neuroplasticity of their little noggins, but I am convinced part of this is because they want to and the outside stresses of life haven’t changed that yet.
Way– OK…so I went a little LONG in my discussion of LONGness and dementia prevention. Waaaaay LONG. Go figure?!?! What about WAY in the LONG WAY HOME phrase? A WAY is a path or a set of twists and turns to get you from Point A to Point B. Is there one WAY or multiple? Yes. More often than not, though, there are multiple. Is there a right WAYand a wrong WAY? Despite what a Post-modern society says, there is often right and wrong with nothing in between.
Finding the WAY somewhere, therefore, is complicated. Do you want a scenic WAY, a LONG WAY (so that you can stall before getting to the destination, perhaps), a shortcut, or the best WAY? It tries to sound exclusive…and succeeds oftentimes.
But what about the WAY to cure dementia?
- There is NO WAY TO CURE DEMENTIA as of 8/18/21- I have been told by a dozen dozen folks “the WAY to cure dementia” is X (X= take this supplement, get hooked to that machine, do this activity). The fact is, there are no cures. None. Zippo. Nada. You can take all of the cures for dementia in the world and subtract them and that is how many work.
- There will likely never be A WAY to cure dementia. Sorry for the play on words here, but suffice it to say that there are a bunch of types of dementia under this umbrella of conditions (Alzheimer’s being the mosy common type with around/over 2/3 of the cases). Each type of dementia has its own little features, all of which will have to be addressed. Vascular (blood vessel-centric) dementia will undoutedly require a different “cure” than one caused by alcoholism or Lewy Bodies. There may, some sweet day, be a cure for one type that may help other types…or not help them. However, I personally don’t see a magic pill that fixes all things dementia. The idea itself is illogical.
- We still don’t know the WAY(s) a person gets the disease…but we know more every day. Is dementia caused by Beta Amyloid plaque? Tau Tangles? Something in the gut biome? Trump? Biden? Covid? Space aliens? Something else? Are some things we see in the brain a result of the disease and not a cause? It sure is hard to find a difinitive WAY if we don’t have a difinitive WHY.
- All of the questions leave us wondering WHY bother trying (?)…but, we already know soooooo much more now than just 20 years go. PET/MRI/BIOMARKER research and investigation is teaching us sooooo much. So WHY bother trying? We are advancing AND millions of lives hang in the balance.
Home– “There is no place like HOME.” “HOME is where the heart is.” “HOME Sweet HOME.” Enter your favorite cliche here. We love HOME. When someone has a bad HOME life, it almost seems worse than merely saying they have a bad life. We know HOME is the refuge, the happy place, and the place of peace. Even as wonderful as a vacation is, isn’t it wonderful to find yourself back at HOME, on your own couch, petting your own 4-toed cat, and relaxing after a vacation? It is a vacation from your vacation. Oh, how I do love home! And, more importantly: Believers will have an eternal place of peace like this some sweet day. Oh for that sweet day to be sooner than later…
So, as odd a WAY to discuss our topic is this is, suffice it for me to say this journey is taking the LONG WAY HOME for mom. She is exhausted from the trip. She struggles, she improves, she worsens, she struggles, she improves…and every time we ask, like a sad version of kids sitting in the back seat beckoning “Mom…are we there yet?” as if her struggle wasn’t the center of attention. Then, as fast as we say it or think it, we feel as though a brick has been thrown into our glass souls, and guilt returns. It seems so counterintuitive to be hoping mom passes aWAY for her own good as if the many promises of heaven for her and for us aren’t enough to make it worth being without her. Regardless, this sure is a LONG WAY HOME. 🙁