Learning what love REALLY is

After a full night of dreams I woke up with the well-known song ‘I want to know what love is’ by Foreigner playing in my mind (lyrics after text). As is often the case when this happens, I can’t think of more apt words to describe my situation right now.

I went to see my son yesterday. As much as I tried to tell myself not to push anything on him, not even in my attempt to connect with him, I did just that: I tried to show him a photo on my phone and asked him who it was. He refused to look and chucked any name back at me. I insisted that he looked properly and he flipped out and punched me on the arm.

It’s a familiar story: I try to connect with him in any possible way, he doesn’t want to, he gets upset, I retreat. It’s been this way for as long as I can remember. The difference is that now I’m really trying to put him first and not force on him my desire to connect with him. I’m trying to stay in a place of unconditional love and think of his needs, not my own.

It was never going to be easy. I look at him and long to reach him in some way. Maybe I do, just not in the way I wanted. Life has brought me to a place where I have to set aside my own grief, abandonment, unmet expectations, and think about what is right for him. Some parents seem to do this automatically but I never have; it’s something I have to learn, over and over again. And I admit, I don’t really know how.

That’s where the song comes in: I want to know what love is. Yes, I truly want to know. How do I love my son in the way HE needs, not in the way I want to love him? How do I let go of everything I wished for – all the unfulfilled pain of my upbringing and need for a family – and be in the moment with my son, having no expectations?

It’s a sacred journey. It really is. It’s a stripping bare of everything I thought I was, wanted to be, longed to have. I don’t know how to do it. Maybe the love is surrendering to not knowing. For all my spiritual knowledge, my son is my greatest teacher.

In a dream last night I was saying ‘I’m sorry’ over and over again like a mantra. I can’t remember the context but it felt deeply spiritual. I think it was coming from the part of me who knows as a human being I’ll never get it exactly right. Psychoanalyst Winnicott described the ‘good enough mother’ and that is important for me to remember. Love and compassion starts with myself. I’m not perfect and I’m doing my best. Maybe the willingness to love my son unconditionally despite the difficulties is enough.

I want to know what love is by Foreigner

I’ve gotta take a little time
A little time to think things over
I better read between the lines
In case I need it when I’m older

This mountain, I must climb
Feels like a world upon my shoulders
Through the clouds, I see love shine
Keeps me warm as life grows colder

In my life, there’s been heartache and pain
I don’t know if I can face it again
Can’t stop now, I’ve traveled so far
To change this lonely life

I wanna know what love is
I want you to show me
I wanna feel what love is
I know you can show me (hey)

Gotta take a little time
Little time to look around me
I’ve got nowhere left to hide
Looks like love has finally found me

In my life, there’s been heartache and pain
I don’t know if I can face it again
Can’t stop now, I’ve traveled so far
To change this lonely life

I wanna know what love is
I want you to show me
I wanna feel what love is
I know you can show me

I wanna know what love is (I wanna know)
I want you to show me (I wanna feel)
I wanna feel what love is (I know, I know, and I know)
I know you can show me
Let’s talk about love

I wanna know what love is
(Love that you feel inside)
I want you to show me
(I’m feeling so much love)
I wanna feel what love is
(And you know, you just can’t hide)
I know you can show me

Oh, I wanna know what love is
(Let’s talk about love)
I know you can show me
(I wanna feel)
I wanna feel what love is
(And you know you just can’t hide)
I know you can show me
I wanna feel what love is (oh, I wanna know)
I want you to show me

Songwriters: Jones Lesly, Jones Michael Leslie
For non-commercial use only.
Data From: Musixmatch

A dream of Minerva; wisdom, intellect and creativity

The Roman goddess Minerva appeared in my dream last night in the form of a theatre within which I was watching a play. First I was looking at an onscreen layout of the theatre and trying to choose my seat. They were initially situated in a circle around the stage but then that seemed to change and it was more haphazard. Then I was in a room walking towards a large seating area. Somehow I knew my seat was number 109. I could see people around a table and knew my seat was nearby. I sat in front of them and could see the stage in front of me. However, my view was partially obscured by people’s heads. Then I realised the others were watching a smaller version of the stage on a TV screen behind me. I turned around and could see the play, whatever it was, high up on a small ceiling TV set. I was aware that others were staying overnight in this building and needed keys but I was leaving that evening, sometime after 10pm. When I woke from this dream the time was 8.17 which is interesting as I’d woken up exactly an hour earlier, at 7.17, before going back to sleep and dreaming the dream…

On researching Minerva I realised she is the god of wisdom and intellect, the arts, music, strategy, defence and victory. She is strongly associated with the owl. Immediately I linked this to my focus on developing my online business yesterday, as well as picking out ‘The World’ oracle card before going to sleep last night. There is something in all of this about broadening my horizons, trusting my inner wisdom, and unblocking my creativity; harnessing my thoughts and skills to change my outer world going forward.

When numbers appear in a dream and/or in synch on waking, I know they need closer analysis. I found that 109 ‘symbolises any leap and any achievement’ according to Abellio, which reinforces Minerva as a positive symbol for creativity and strategy. I then looked up ’17’ since this combination came to my attention twice; this has a variety of meanings including balance between spirit and matter, the son of Man, harmony after the fight of existence, the Holy Spirit, and karmic liberation after evolution.

Looking at my dream as a whole, which I can only do after studying the details (the autism in me perhaps!) it seems highly significant. I was trying to choose my seat which is symbolic for choosing where I wish to focus my attention; which particular perspective I want to invest in. Initially the seating was arranged in a circle, symbolising the Oneness of life, but then became haphazard, symbolising the play of form within it and our thoughts and emotions. Life is a stage as they say, the story of my life. My view was partially blocked, suggesting that I’m not seeing clearly as there’s too many conflicting opinions/ideas/perspectives in my way. Then I realised I was facing the wrong way and in fact if I turned and looked higher up I could see, but the play was smaller, there was space around it. I wasn’t planning to stay in the theatre as I knew I had to go; the number 10 (for 10pm) is the symbol of individual within the One. There needs to be balance between the intellect and creativity, matter and spirit.

What an amazing dream! It is multifaced and unusual, common for my dreams at least, and accurately portrays my frame of mind currently in wanting to focus on my online business and unleash my creativity as a way of moving forward. In doing so I am aware of all the conflicting states of mind wanting to pull me back down, draw me away from spirit, block my view. I feel more confident that I am on the right track and I can continue on this path even when I am temporarily blinded by painful thoughts and emotions.

A journey through raw grief to a kind of acceptance

Today was exceptionally painful for me. I wondered whether to even write about it but then I thought, well, it’s real life. Maybe someone will relate directly or even indirectly on some level because fundamentally we are all struggling with similar things – life’s choices, painful emotions, finding peace and acceptance in the muddiest and some of the least talked about issues to grapple with.

My adult son has severe autism and learning difficulties and has recently moved into an assisted living unit where he has support from carers 24/7. I visited him today and it did not go well. He hasn’t lived with me for a few years due to my own declining health and lack of ability to manage him but I have always visited even when it has been hard. He had lived with his father and stepmother but due to various issues they felt he was better placed in a structured environment where he could be given the support he needs. And indeed, he seems to be happy and thriving so far.

My pain is, and has always been, personal. When I got there my son smiled and seemed happy to see me, but soon became very stressed, and I was faced with the familiar challenge of feeling unable to connect with him. I forgot to bring his ipod for him to watch Thomas Tank videos on, and while I said he could use my phone, he was upset by this. He spent most of my visit biting his hands in anger, picking hairs off his clothes, not knowing where he wanted to be. I suggested we sit in the summerhouse, and he organised the trains that I’d brought for him, but he was soon bored by this and wanted to go back inside. I tried to talk to him, show him photos and videos, tell him things, connect with him – he just wasn’t interested. This scenario is far from new but today felt much more raw and painful as it was the first time I’d visited him in his new home and I hadn’t seen him for longer than normal. I had expectations of the visit. I felt good about going to see him as I’d heard good reports from the staff and his paternal grandmother. I wanted to feel he was pleased to see me. I wanted him to enjoy my visit. Instead, I felt like I was making him more stressed and unhappy. He didn’t seem to want me there. I left after an hour feeling deeply sad.

I’m recovering from a bad virus (the second in as many weeks) so I went to bed and sobbed. I felt so useless as a parent. I felt like I’d offered nothing of value. I longed for a connection with my only child and felt none. This struggle has been there for so many years. While many parents of autistic people find ways to reach their children, I never have. It’s not through lack of trying although in all honesty I’ve wanted him to enter my world rather than vice versa. The pain of bringing him games or dressing up clothes that he didn’t want has never gone away. As a small child he was happier playing with the bathroom taps or light switches. Not ideal. I tried to reach him but I had so little energy myself dealing with a chronic illness which eventually led to hospitalisation. He eventually lived with his ADHD father and life was easier but there’s always this sorrow that I don’t know will ever leave me.

I talk about acceptance a lot and I know that the ultimate acceptance is love – loving someone for who they are. This means accepting the child he wasn’t and the adult he isn’t and loving him for who he is no matter what. Even when he was a young child I knew this, at least in theory, and tried hard to do so. Of course I have always loved him as he is my child, but putting acceptance into practice has felt a whole different ball game. My son arrived tied up in my hopes and dreams of being the mother I never had and the need to experience a kind of childhood through my son which never materialised. Grief is multi-faceted and complex; it isn’t just one thing, but a whole kaleidoscope of emotions.

My son doesn’t exist to satisfy my need to feel loved or valued or connected. I have had to find those things elsewhere, including within myself. He could never give me the acknowledgement or validation that I craved. He couldn’t show me I was doing okay. In fact, he brought me to my knees many times, believing that I had messed everything up, got it all wrong, failed so utterly and completely. That has been my journey. It continues to be. I have no idea whether this was all meant to happen, was planned in some way, or whether it just randomly happened that evening in 2000 when I took his father back despite my better judgement. Life has a funny way of turning out. All I can do is surrender to it, trust it somehow, and believe in the perfection in this moment. And indeed, love is thinking about what my son needs now in this moment and being present to him, even when it’s different to how I wish it was.

While I was crying earlier the New World Symphony (Largo) theme suddenly started playing in my head, which many will know in the UK as the music from the Hovis bread advert. I have taken comfort in the lyrics which were created to fit the beautiful and haunting melody. My son is now in his new home and this is about me finding my journey home to myself, which ultimately, of course, is all we can ever do.

Going home, going home
I am going home
Quiet like, some still day
I am going home

It's not far, just close by
Through an open door
Work all done, care laid by
Never fear no more

Mother's there expecting me
Father's waiting too
Lots of faces gathered there
All the friends I knew

I'm just going home

No more fear, no more pain
No more stumbling by the way
No more longing for the day
Going to run no more

Morning star light the way
Restless dreams all gone
Shadows gone, break of day
Real life has begun

There's no break, there's no end
Just living on
Wide awake, with a smile
Going on and on, going on and on

Going home, going home
I am going home
Shadows gone, break of day
Real life has begun

I'm just going home

Spiritual home

I often wake up with songs in my head. Sometimes it’s a reverberation of one I’d been listening to recently but more often it contains a message that is very relevant to something I’m feeling or dealing with. Even the name of the singer can hold meaning. I call these synchronicities, a term was first coined by psychologist and analyst Carl Jung, but is now commonly used in spiritual circles. It can be described as a meaningful coincidence and they seem to occur as a sign of being on the right track in one’s spiritual journey, or in the flow rather than resisting life. This has certainly been true of my experience.

This morning’s song was ‘Driving home for Christmas’ by Chris Rea. I HAD heard it recently due to the barrage of Christmas songs playing on the radio and music channels of both households I visited at Christmas, but as nearly a week had passed and now it was suddenly playing with fervour in my head, I looked up the lyrics. Instantly I realised that it is the perfect depiction of my spiritual journey, with all its obstacles and tailbacks – I am quite literally on my way home for Christmas, back to my spiritual home where my true Christ self, which is love, will be born within me as I acknowledge and open to it. Interestingly still, the singer’s name Chris means none other than Christ, and his surname Rea means ‘flowing’ which can be compared to the tao; the eternal river of life.

Here are the lyrics (copyright unintended: I do not own these lyrics):

I’m driving home for Christmas
I can’t wait to see those faces
I’m driving home for Christmas, yeah
Yeah, I’m moving down that line

And it’s been so long
But I will be there
I sing this song
To pass the time away
Driving in my car
Christmas

It’s gonna take some time but I’ll get there

Top to toe in tailbacks
Oh, I got red lights all around
But soon there’ll be the freeway, yeah
Get my feet on holy ground

So I sing for you
Though you can’t hear me
When I get through
And feel you near me

Driving in my car
Driving home for Christmas

With a thousand memories
I take look at the driver next to me
He’s just the same
Just the same

Top to toe in tailbacks
Oh, I got red lights all around
I’m driving home for Christmas, yeah
Get my feet on holy ground

So I sing for you
Though you can’t hear me
When I get through
Oh and feel you near me

Driving in my car
Christmas
Driving in my car
Driving home for Christmas
I take look at the driver next to me
He’s just the same
He’s driving home
He’s driving home for Christmas

Driving home for Christmas, yeah

Many of us, myself included, feel stuck in Earthly traffic dealing with our individual obstacles of life, trying to move forward but sometimes having to detour or even go backwards, not being sure whether we’re on the right route or believing we’ve gone completely wrong. If we’re lucky we enjoy the journey and pass the time in creative and/or meaningful ways – arts, relationships, parenting, spiritual seeking. But one thing is for sure; we are all on holy ground making the same trip, longing to contact with those with love, whether they are on this plane or passed on years ago. And we will all reach home either in this lifetime or beyond the physical.

I believe this song came to me because I am re-connecting with my spiritual self. I am literally coming home to myself and realising that love is what it’s all about. It’s not trying to get somewhere ‘out there’ but to connect to myself ‘in here.’ The spiritual journey has always been an inward one. Even though we want and need to express love to others through relationships and service, it’s healthiest when expressed through the knowledge that each of us is whole and deserving of our own love. I don’t identify as a Christian when I say that the Christ is within all of us; that’s what the image of his crucifixion is all about. We all suffer, we all get lost, but at the same time we all on the path back to our Christ self, our eternal soul which is untarnished by fear or negativity or pain.

Thank you Spirit for sending me that beautiful song this morning, on the last day of 2021, to remind me of my symbolic journey within as I prepare for my outer journey into the new year.

I wish everyone a wonderful New Year’s Eve and a Happy New Year! I will aim to write a New Year’s post within the next few days.