We’re all like Ethel

Charles Leadbeater writes very vividly about the later years of his wife’s grandmother and how she coped with her everyday life and how she didn’t. As you read the quote below I would like you to think about the similarities between yourself and Ethel, rather than the obvious differences. I certainly found the exercise very instructive.
“My wife’s grandmother, Ethel, was born and bred in London’s East End. She lived into her 90s, in a tiny council flat in run-down Stepney. As Ethel got older, she got smaller and frailer. By the time she died her brain was incapable of any bouts of new learning. She lived in a dream-world, in which she and her doctor were about to elope to Southend. Despite these eccentricities, Ethel was able to live a reasonably ordered life by distributing her intelligence around her. She cooked, cleaned, washed, ironed, listened to the radio, by knowing where to find all the tools she needed to do these jobs. Ethel’s flat was encrusted with little landmarks and rules of thumb that she had laid down over many years to help get by. By picking up these markers and putting them back in the same place – the washing powder here, the ironing board there, the radio next to the toaster – she could get a lot done. Ethel’s brain was addled, but she could appear mentally robust because so much of her intelligence had been sub-contracted to her environment. That was also her weakness. As soon as Ethel was taken out of her flat into a nursing home, she could not do a thing. All her rules of thumb and landmarks disappeared. Her worn-out brain was incapable of putting other landmarks in place in her new surroundings. She became utterly vulnerable….”