I’ve Been Thinking
What do speaking up, showing up, standing up for what you believe in, and giving hugs all have in common?
Turns out a lot.
This past week, I joined thousands of other Alzheimer’s advocates in Washington D.C. for the Alzheimer’s Association’s annual Advocacy Forum. These men and women came from all over the country to knock on the doors of their elected officials and let their voices be heard.
They advocated, as I did, against proposed cuts to NIH funding. They advocated, as I did, for increasing federal support for the millions of Americans working 24/7 as caregivers. They came to tell their stories of love, of pain, of anguish, and of financial ruin. They came to plead with their representatives to do more for their families and for the millions of others suffering from Alzheimer’s (two-thirds of whom are women) and other forms of dementia. I was blown away by their stories, their courage, their determination, and their willingness to go the extra mile to make a difference.
My fellow instigators, agitators and Architects of Change, this is a moment to use your voice. This is a moment to get into the arena and make your opinion heard.
Why? Because there is so much on the line. There is so much at stake. And if you don’t make yourself heard now, the things you care about could disappear.
Now is the time. Our leaders in Washington are aware of the deep unrest, the deep anger, and the deep divide in our nation. They are looking for something that will show us — the voters and the citizens of this country — that they can work together. Standing up against cuts to find cures for Alzheimer’s and other diseases would be a good place to start.
Now you may be wondering, what does going to Washington and lobbying your elected officials have to do with hugs?
Well, this past Tuesday I was honored with the Alzheimer’s Association’s first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award. As I walked through the crowded ballroom the night of the ceremony, person after person stopped me to share their family’s story. Several asked if they could give me a hug to thank me for my work.
My brother Timmy, who was there with me and my two daughters, Katherine and Christina, will tell you that I’m not much of a hugger. But something in me shifted that night as I embraced the hugs of total strangers. I felt myself softening. I felt myself feeling the gratitude of others. I felt safe. I felt a connection that moved my heart. I felt it so much that when I stood up to accept the award and thank my family, I cried. (OMG.)
I cried because, in that moment, I felt so much love. It just took me aback.
I took a deep breath and looked out at a room of people whose lives were hard, but who stepped forward to let me know that my work and my efforts mattered.
I felt their love and I realized that I needed their care and their validation. Because no matter who we are, or what family we were born into, we are all human beings who need love. We’re all people who need care, who need a hug, and who want to know that what we are doing matters.
I didn’t go to Washington D.C. thinking I needed a hug. I went there to testify about the Alzheimer’s epidemic and its disproportionate impact on women. I went there to make my voice heard. I went there to stand up and stand in.
When I got something I needed to carry me forward, it reminded me of the Gandhi quote: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service of others.” I might amend that just a bit. I think that the best way to find yourself — and to find the care and the love we all need — is to show up, speak up, serve, and give someone next to you a word of “you go girl” and a hug.
I hope that the courage, determination and love that I felt from the advocates in D.C. will inspire you to get out there and do something as well. They, like the voices of the individuals we share with you in today’s Sunday Paper, are people who believe that having the courage to speak up and care for others is what will Move Humanity Forward.
So, go out and get in the arena. You may find something you weren’t looking for, but trust me, it’ll be exactly what you need.
P.S. Since I’m using my voice, I’d like to ask you to join me at Move For Minds on June 4. Held in eight cities all in one day, it will be a one-of-a-kind event featuring the nation’s leading voices on brain and body health. If you don’t live in one the eight cities, please support someone who does. All of the money we raise online goes directly to women-based Alzheimer’s research. Sending a virtual hug to all of you who stand up and join us.
“I know we can do better for families whose loved ones require around-the-clock care.” — Eleanor Alvarez
We build homes tailored to our individual needs, so why should care facilities be treated any differently? That’s Eleanor Alvarez’s philosophy. Eleanor developed an innovative memory care center that is tailor-made for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. The unique design is a brilliant model — one that more should follow.
POWERFUL, PURPOSE-DRIVEN VOICES
TO GIVE US PERSPECTIVE
“The Kinds of Choices that You Make Have a Huge Effect on the Wiring of the Brain. You’re Not Just the Architect. You’re the Electrician.”
— Lisa Feldman Barrett
Lisa Feldman Barrett isn’t just an expert in super-agers; she’s a neuroscientist who’s done extensive research on emotions. She says that when we’re in control of how we think, how we feel, and what we do, we can be the architect of our own experiences. Watch our conversation below, and also be sure to check out my TODAY segment on super-agers.
“What If Changing How You Move Can Change How You Feel, No Matter Your Age?” — Katy Bowman
Katy Bowman is on a mission to prove that losing mobility does not have to be a natural part of aging. In fact, Katie actually studied the lives of people over 50 who have bucked this trend. Her insights are invaluable for people of all ages.
“There’s a Silent Epidemic That’s Not Being Talked About.” — Marita Golden
Author Marita Golden wants African Americans to wake up to the Alzheimer’s crisis within their community. African Americans are twice as likely to get Alzheimer’s as others, but few know anything about the disease. “We’re not at all prepared for the oncoming tsunami,” she said.
“We’re Still Together. And We’ll Fight Together.”
— the DeMoe Family
The DeMoe family’s story is one of aging with courage and honesty. Five of the six siblings have tested positive for early-onset Alzheimer’s, which is caused by a rare gene and which struck their father in his 40s. Most people choose to not get tested, but the DeMoes did so that they could face their reality head-on. They are now coping with their oncoming condition together and are united in their determination to find a cure.
READERS’ VOICE: WHAT YOU’VE BEEN THINKING
We received so many thoughtful responses last week to Maria’s essay about going “into the woods.” Thanks to all of you for courageously sharing your stories with us. One story came from Wendy Bond, who was one of those 1,300 advocates that attended the Alzheimer’s Association’s Advocacy Forum in D.C. last week. Enjoy her reflection, then be sure to share your own with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SUNDAY REFLECTION: A POWERFUL POEM
April marks the start of National Poetry Month, and in honor of that, we’re partnering with our friends at the youth organization Get Lit to share excerpts from their new series, Get Lit Now. Each week, young poets take the news of the day and then use their voices to compose a powerful and poignant response to what’s going on in our world. This week’s topic? Climate change.
A THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK AHEAD
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