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Yin and yang of two separate selves

Kim Marting

Yin-Yang is the ancient Chinese philosophical concept that describes opposite but interconnected forces. The yin is represented by the black; the yang by the white. The yin represents the negative, passive, cold natures of the universe, while the yang represents the opposite.

I have lived the last many months fighting back the yin, which is working very diligently, and too successfully, to overtake my light, sunny, active nature.

My good friend gave me a card created by Susan Mrosek of Pondering Pool greeting cards with the painting of a woman who looks significantly worried, sad and confused. It reads, “I exhaust myself trying to be me.”

I laughed so hard when I saw the card because I recognize the face and the sentiment in the painting as myself. Then, I almost cried because I felt loved by my friend who understands me so intimately that she found a way to share the clear understanding with me. The card speaks my truth and she knows it.

There are two of me now because of the Alzheimer’s disease – my Kim self and my self taken by disease. I’ve spent so much anguished time trying to remove the shroud of this disease so tenaciously trying to hide me. Sometimes I lose sight of who I truly am.

My Kim/yang self is ferociously curious, energetic, interested and unperturbed. My diseased self is inward, frightened, lacking in confidence, full of anxiety and slow. I’m fortunate to have grown up liking myself, but my current state of being leaves me anguished and exhausted. I have to fight to keep from being engulfed by the yin shroud.

I am writing these columns because I’m fairly certain this battle to hold onto one’s true self is common among many suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. The disease is powerful, creating that black shroud trying to cover the host’s personality.

There are numerous people among us in La Plata County, who suffer from some form of dementia. As you encounter folks like me who are battling the negative effects of dementia and Alzheimer’s, please try to distinguish which self you have encountered. The diseased/yin self is sometimes angry, sometimes moody and always frustrated. You will be encountering a person trying to find her true self. Don’t judge us on the days we’re losing the battle.

In my case, I want you to still encounter Kim, not diseased Kim, when we run into each other. I work hard to make that happen, but I fail often. This is both caused by and leads to my exhaustion.

Buddhist monk Pema Chondron advises us to “develop a passion to learn about the groundless, unpredictable, and fanciful nature of the mind that will enable us to face our death with more curiosity than fear.”

I’m trying very hard to live with joy, love and light. I want to be curious, not exhausted by the journey through to the eventual end.

This is my mission for the upcoming months, and years that I have on this earth, to pull back that shroud, and be the me Kim.

I continue to fight back the yin.

Finally, realizing that this last part of my life is too important to be sacrificed by the dark side of my nature, I’ve taken steps to bring yang back into my outlook on life.

Kim Martin splits her time between Hesperus and Durango, and is a former instructor of Asian history, writing and comparative cultures at Fort Lewis College.