To Be, or Not To Be – by Mary Lou Stark

As caregivers we get caught up in the what if’s, and the what comes next. We almost envy our loved ones’ ability to truly live in the now at times.
begins his famous soliloquy with the following:

To be, or not to be, — that is the question: —

And then proceeds to offer a series of equally unattractive options.

Partway through he seems to come to the conclusion that

… makes us rather bear those ills we have

Than fly to others that we know naught of?

He would rather stick with the known situation, no matter how bad it is, than risk ‘flying’ into the unknown.

For most of us, I suspect the question has been less “What am I being” and more “What will I become?” “ What will my child become?” “What will my legacy become?”

Remember being asked the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

It comes up as a child, as a teenager, and as an adult. It doesn’t seem to matter how old you are, family, friends, and you, yourself, ask the question again and again.

It is so easy to get caught up in the future. Learning about different lifestyles and careers and using our imagination to try them on for fit.

  • Do I belong behind a desk?
  • What about being a famous athlete or author?
  • Would I be happier in a condo in the city or on a mountaintop?

Yet, for most of us, being mindfully aware of our surroundings and our lives is a part of our spiritual practice. It can be as simple as conscious breathing. It means focusing on the present, not trying to change the past or worrying about the future.

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 In my dementia caregivers support group recently the comment was made that it is our loved ones who are truly living in the now. They are being, not becoming.

How does this happen? My experience with my husband’s Alzheimer’s has taught me a few things about this.

He frequently forgets what he was doing a minute or two ago. He can generally mask this well when talking with others. And then he will ask a question as if the topic is brand new rather than a continuation of a previous conversation. And it is obvious his short-term memory has been affected.

He can talk about simple, straightforward things with no problem. Ask him to do any complex thinking and he looks at you with a blank expression on his face.

When he brings up losses, then there is a sadness about him that I know will be repeated again and again. However, when in the midst of an exercise class or art project in his day program, he is experiencing such pleasure and joy, in the moment, that it is a relief for me to know that he will be repeating these feelings in the future as if they were brand new.

As caregivers we get caught up in the what if’s, and the what comes next. We almost envy our loved ones’ ability to truly live in the now at times.

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 What has your experience been with mindfulness? Does it come to you easily? Have you tried doing that which Hamlet advised against … fly[ing] to others [ills] that we know naught of?

Share your experiences in the comments below.

You can learn more about me and what I do at

About author

This article was written by Mary Lou Stark

Welcome! Is writing a book on your bucket list or part of your business plan? Are you ready to venture forth on that adventure? Most people find the journey to be easier and more successful with a guide. As your Book Enchantress I will help you gain clarity about your topic and audience. Then we will set about writing your book – the one that shares your message in the manner that draws in your reader. Be it fiction or non-fiction. Retired from the US Library of Congress I have been writing and evaluating the writing of others for over 30 years. Find out more at and


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