I Want to Be A Maxine

I Want to Be A Maxine

Learning from a Woman With Dementia

Recently my grandmother was moved into an assisted-living facility, and even more recently she was moved into the memory care section of the center. It’s a great place for her to be; the memory care section has fewer people and the scheduling is strict and consistent, relieving her of the burden of decision-making.

The first time I visited her in the facility, she was sitting on a couch with another woman watching Sunday afternoon football. My grandmother was happy to see us, but anxious and questioning as usual. However, the woman next to her was the exact opposite—and quite the inspiration.

I learned her name was Maxine. She was wearing a purple shirt about which I complemented her. She nodded and lifted up her arms, saying, “It has kind of floppy sleeves.” We both laughed at that. “Hey, it’s comfortable,” I said. “It’s comfortable,” she nodded, and I agreed that comfort is the most important thing.

She made jokes about the football players on TV and certain plays, many of which were quite funny. My mom had humorously mentioned something to my grandmother about being good when she was a kid, and my grandmother had said of course she was a good kid. Maxine said, “Well, there’s not much you can do about it now, is there?”

In other ways she was even more laid back. When she commented that my mom’s name was pretty and said to me, “My name’s just Maxine,” I said, “Well, I think Maxine’s a pretty name.” She shrugged, smiled and said, “It works.”

I cracked up. What a great lady.

Later I asked her if she liked football. “Oh,” she shrugged, “I like watching it. I watch it when it’s on.”

I asked her if she liked any other sports. “Oh, football, baseball, whatever’s on,” she said.

My grandmother was into repeating a fictional story about a British corporation (poor Brits!) tearing down her house. (Rest assured this has not happened.) She was very sad and upset about it, and Maxine asked her a few questions before finally saying, “Well, there’s nothing you can do about it now.” I could have hugged her. I’m not sure my grandmother really processed what Maxine said, but the fact that someone similar to her in age and situation was telling her essentially to relax was fantastic.

She was really the most laid back person I’d ever encountered. It was wonderful. Like my grandmother, she didn’t believe anyone brought her to breakfast in the mornings (not true), but unlike my grandmother, she didn’t stress about it. She didn’t seem to care. What would happen would happen, seemed to be her philosophy; you can’t control the future.

Of course I don’t know if Maxine is just this way from dementia and/or medication, but people with dementia are still in some ways themselves—they still have personalities. And personality is a big factor in how someone deals with situations in life. My grandmother has always been a very organized, efficient person; she was always on top of everything, from money to food to current events to sports. I wonder if her personality hasn’t in some ways contributed to her anxiety now. Of course she’s anxious because she’s not in her home; that’s natural. But it would make sense that her personality has influenced how she’s handled this situation, too.

Similarly, perhaps Maxine has always been a laid-back person. It makes sense. Now because of dementia (and, perhaps, meds) that laid-back-ness has seemingly increased.

Regardless of whether personality plays a significant role or not in these woman’s cases, I know one thing for sure: I want to be a Maxine when I grow older. Or, even now. I doubt I’ll ever become as relaxed as she is—I’m much more like my grandmother in personality—but I can take conscious steps to relax and not worry so much about the future. “Well, you can’t do anything about it now,” I can say to myself. I can make jokes about what I see on TV and live in the present. Indeed, Maxine has perfected the art of living in the present, and isn’t that something many of us can work on.

Go Maxine.

Cover Image Credit: The Mindful Tech Lab

Popular Right Now

To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.

Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black-and-white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble, and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling, whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die?" or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255

Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Your Health Journey Is A Marathon, Not A Sprint

Perfection takes time.


When you first start to do something, you have all of the motivation in the world to accomplish that goal set out in front of you, especially when it comes to being healthier. The problem is as you continue through this journey and food and laziness kick in, motivation slips. It's human, and it happens to everyone no matter how physically strong they are.

Trying to be healthier doesn't always mean losing weight. It can be so your knees don't ache as much, so you don't feel as out of breath climbing stairs, or any goal you have set for yourself. Being healthier is personal and different from person to person.

I will be the first to admit that there are plenty of changes I would love to make about myself. From my weight to my body type and many other things about myself inside and out. I am by no means the most confident person about how I look, but I have worked hard for the past year to be an overall healthier person.

Becoming healthier isn't about looking thinner or fitting into a specific size of clothes. It is about taking care of yourself from eating better to working out more. There comes a feeling of confidence in what your body can do if you put a little love in it.

Perfection takes time, and I know firsthand how frustrating trying to be healthier can be.

Pizza tastes so much better than salad. It is so easy to fall into a rhythm of something that seems never to change whether that is your weight or your mile time. Sadly, you can't build a city, or become healthier overnight.

We see people who are thinner, curvier, smarter, faster, and so much more than us. We all waste time comparing ourselves to people around us and on our timelines, but some of our biggest strengths are our individuality and the gift of getting back up after falling down.

All I can say is, please don't give up on your goal of being healthier because this is solely for you. We can have a great support system in the world and have everyone in our corner, but that isn't enough.

You need yourself. You need to know that if you don't entirely put yourself in this journey, then you won't fully succeed. Your commitment to bettering yourself can keep you going even if you want to give up.

Your motivation may not be at its peak level right now, and you may have every cell in your body screaming at you to quit. Don't do it. Prove to yourself that you can keep going no matter what. Not giving up will be worth it. The results and taking the hard way will make you a stronger person inside and out.

You can do this. You can do anything you want to accomplish if you just believe in yourself. You need to understand that becoming healthier takes endurance. There will be periods where you slow down and may not be going at your fastest pace. The difference is that you are not giving up and you are still trying and moving.

Don't treat becoming healthier as a sprint: short term and quick. That mentality will only leave you feeling deflated and defeated. It is a life-long marathon of pacing yourself and pushing yourself further than ever before.

Related Content

Facebook Comments