This morning I led a training entitled "Approaching end of life expectations with individuals with cognitive disabilities and their families". The title alone sounds scary, and I may have run the other way if I was a prospective attendee. It is tough subject matter, and so hard to keep simple and clear. In preparing for the training, I became overwhelmed with the "task" of putting together handouts. Ultimately, (as is too often the case!), I exhausted my super human expectations and became fearful that I couldn't put forth the information in a way that would be helpful. Only when I was thoroughly spent, did I shrug my shoulders and do what should have been done at the start. I decided to relinquish control over the outcome. I asked for clarity, divine guidance and peace. I asked "What is important?", and realized that the same question is important to each of us, healthy or ill, wealthy or impoverished, gifted or challenged.
The acronym LIFE jumped onto the page.
L is for love. What and who do you love? Are you passionate about animals? sports? music? Who are the people and things that make life worth living?
I is for individuality. What makes the you unique? What makes others think of you? What phrases/gestures/expressions are your "one of a kind"? If you had to define yourself in three words, what would they be?
F is for family. Who comprises your family? Is there a biological family, a friend family? A faith family? Who do you want to surround yourself with? Who makes life meaningful? Who contributes to your sense of belonging to something bigger than yourself?
E is for emotional wellness. How are being supported emotionally? Is there space to share emotions that can be uncomfortable for others to witness? Are there people available for you to share with? Are there objects that increase your comfort or make you feel more emotionally stable? (A cross or other religious symbol, a blanket, a stuffed animal)
It seems simple. Almost too simple to share. Yet, I'm learning that messages need to be digestible to be of benefit. In the training, I asked each participant to fill out a "hello, my name is ___ " badge. On the badge, they had to include their name, something that makes them unique, a connection to family of some kind, and an emotional state. We then proceeded to introduce ourselves not as the trainer/instructor, social workers, staff, advocates and service coordinators. We became a representation of who we really are, who and what we love, how we feel, and what makes us unique. It was a beautiful way to meet each other and to open ourselves up to the idea of treating each tough situation and each person we meet with the question What is important?, and the answer, LIFE.