Grouchy friend or relative? This might soften them up

“I told her,” Barbara spat, in her thick, Polish accent. “‘You leave your underwear here? Get out of my house!’”

She stuck her chin out in defiance, while I pressed my lips together and tried to look concerned. This was the third time I’d heard this story today. I wasn’t even sure it was true.

It was a Wednesday afternoon, and I was volunteering at the day centre for seniors with dementia. When I’m there, I help with the mechanics, but mostly I come so I can sit and keep the clients company. The range of dementia they suffer from is pretty broad; some can barely string a sentence together. Others seem mostly to be all there – like Barbara.

But she did love to repeat stories about her family.

As well as the niece who got thrown out, we’d hear about her sister – who she’d only refer to as “The Beetch”. As in,

“The Beetch called me today. She thinks she can come and stay with me. Ha! I don’t want you here! Get a hotel!”

I am famously a wildly positive person. I have the word ‘yes’ tattooed onto my finger. My business is called Yes Yes Marsha. I usually have no truck with cynics.

But Barbara?…

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I met my hero. My hair looked like a wig. It did not start well.

“You don’t. Understand.”

I was using that gritted-teeth, quiet but solid tone of voice. The kind you use when you really, really want to scream your words out, but know that you can’t. In this case, I couldn’t because:

(1) I understood that she was just being nice and trying to help, and
(2) on some level, deep below the surface, I knew I was being wildly unreasonable.

It was Saturday night, and I was getting ready to meet my hero…

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What happened when I – a skeptic – did Horse Therapy

Sometimes, you’re in so much pain that you seem to push right through to the other side. It’s like your pain went 360 degrees around, and the wholeness feels almost as satisfying as it does wretched.

It was March and the coldest day of the year so far. The sun was shining fiercely, one of these perfect, crisp, Winter days we get in Ontario. My friend Jenn and I were driving through the countryside to her farm.

She’s a business buddy, a former therapist who now does Equine Therapy – therapy for people, using horses. I’d been curious about it ever since I read (one of my heroes) Martha Beck talk about it. But also, I was secretly a bit skeptical. I mean, it’s a horse. What can it do for me?

A few weeks before, I’d been telling Jenn that i…

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