“You don’t have to be happy to enjoy your life.”

These are the words of Ione Marchand, mother of my good friend Michele.

Ione lives with Alzheimer’s and, as it happens, is also something of a poet philosopher.

I can’t get her words out of my mind.  I’ve shared them with several people and their reactions have been puzzled—from skeptical, Doesn’t enjoying your life mean you are happy? to dismissive, That just makes no sense.

I asked my neighbor Lekshay, a Buddhist monk.  He smiled delightedly (but then he always smiles delightedly).   What is happiness? he pondered. To Buddhists, it’s the absence of suffering.

Me?  I find her words profound.

Am I happy?  Sometimes…sometimes not so much.  Enjoying myself is much more manageable.

I can identify lots of things I enjoy and that are important to me—my friends, my family, my work with Alzheimer’s, visiting all the wonderful and (I think largely happy) people in Supported Living, my dog Betty, reading, baking, writing.

Now my mother Jean was happy.  Perhaps she always was but as her Alzheimer’s advanced, so did her joy in living.  She found everything to be just delightful.  Her kid sister Louise (who just turned 97) once said, “There is a lot to be said for losing your memory.  Your mother really is the happiest woman I know.”

But rather than wait for dementia, I’ll try calm my mind, embrace the moment, and focus on all the things I enjoy

And have fun! adds Lekshay.

Who knows?  Maybe with practice, I’ll be happy too.

Mom’s painting of pears and flowers on a blue cloth. 

This will be my last post for a while.  The website is being redesigned and it will be back up soon with a whole new look.  The blog will take a bit more time – with posts returning in mid-May.  Till then.