rant: don’t assume your passionate health advice is helpful

recently i was gifted a body work session. lucky me. the session was great, and I’m super appreciative of the gift, but i won’t be going back or recommending this person to my friends, and here’s why: he (I’ll call him body worker, bw for short) assumed i was interested in his passionate opinions and aggressive advice about everything. when i first got there we had a chat about my life & stress levels, i was expecting this, and mentioned an old neck injury. when he asked about my work i mentioned homeschoolers. he asked me if i was planning to homeschool, and i said “probably.” that’s when our conversation changed directions “how are you going to deal with those vaccination nazis?” at first i didn’t know who was being referred to as nazis, families who don’t vaccinate? lawmakers? drug companies? it actually doesn’t matter to me who bw thinks are nazis. just the fact that he used that analogy to make his argument was irritating to me. take note, world, when you compare people you disagree with to nazis, i just assume you don’t have a real argument. he continued to spout anti-vaccine propaganda for a while while i sat there wondering what it had to do with my bodywork session. he used the word nazi a few more times, then settled down and we got to my session. i just assumed bw had a personal soap box about vaccinations, and let it go. as i said, the actual body work was great. after the session i felt soft and open. i thanked him and told him i especially appreciate the attention during this phase of life when I’m doing a lot of caring for others. that’s when i made the mistake of mentioning my dad having alzheimer’s. “how old is he? what drugs is he on?! you’ve got to get him away from those doctors, they’ll kill him! they’ll make him pee on himself! you can reverse alzheimer’s with the right supplements. this low-fat, high carb bullshit…” i was pretty stunned. bw hadn’t asked me who my dad’s doctors are or what his diet is like or what supplements he is taking. bw just assumed that my dad’s doctors were misguided and that it had never occurred to me or my family that supplements could be useful? the negative language and images like my dad peeing on himself felt particularly jarring right after i just said i appreciated the moment focusing on myself, as in, me, the person who came for a massage, not for advice in taking care of her dad.
the whole thing reminded me of when i was trying to get pregnant and the whole world had an opinion about what i should do. i know it was well meaning, but it mostly just upset me. but actually, i’d probably be upset if bw was spouting off advice for me personally too. for this very reason i’ve grown to be very careful about what i say to a new chiropractor, massage therapist, whatever. i’ve had too many people tell me really dumb shit that was not at all helpful (to get pregnant bury a vanilla bean with an egg in the back yard. also you have problem gonads, arthritis, parasites, and you resent your mother.) if i’m going to a massage therapist. i pretty much just want a massage. if i want advice, i promise i’ll ask.
lets try to be more mindful of people on their journeys. i think it’s generally pretty safe to assume that unless someone says, “do you have any advice for dealing with___?” that our well meaning advice and opinions are not helpful.


names are not important

[I wrote this a couple months ago, not thinking of it as a blog post, but since I now have my dad’s blessing to write about my experience with his Alzheimer’s, I thought I’d publish it as part of my new series]

“Names are not important

So if someone forgets your name

They’re forgetting something intangible

That has nothing to do with you

So it’s stupid to feel bad”

–Dan Bern, One Dance

My dad forgot my name today. It’s one of those things I knew was coming. I tried to brush it off. Make it light. I laughed and reminded him I’m Maya, his one and only daughter. It was my dad who named me Maya Verena. He liked Verena Katarina but my mom wasn’t so into it, so they settled on Maya Verena. When I was little, he called me Mayalein, the German diminutive form of my name. I remember him rocking me in the rocking chair singing, “Mayalein, Mayakind, Mayachen…”   but today, just for a moment, he couldn’t remember any of that.

The symptoms of Alzheimer’s are creeping in more and more. Sometimes I can cling to denial and dismiss the small events that add up. When he forgets the names of places or his phone number, could happen to anyone, right? Other times I can’t be in denial. Last summer we were walking home and I asked him what time it was. He looked at his watch but couldn’t answer my question. The minute hand, hour hand and symbols suddenly couldn’t be organized to mean anything. Like today, I tried to be light, but it sent a rock to the pit of my stomach. He really does have Alzheimer’s. He’s probably not going to get better.

I’m trying to hold that and let myself be sad and grieve, while also noticing the beauty of who he is now. There is a softness, an innocence there that I’ve never seen in him before. He is achieving what all my friends and I are working so hard at; he’s living in the moment. It’s a beautiful thing, really. When he took his grandson to Queen Elizabeth Park to show him the fountain, The joy on his face was so pure. I want to just love and appreciate that. And I do. It’s just, I really don’t want him to forget me, or who I am.