Acceptance in the midst of it all

I was talking to someone about acceptance. She asked how I was doing with accepting my son the way he is.

I replied that maybe I was a little further along, but that in all honesty, I wasn’t sure I’d ever stop wishing things were different.

This was the same day I found out that my son had punched a carer in the ribs, forcing her to go to A+E due to swelling.

On reflection, there are many layers of acceptance. If I can’t accept my son the way he is without sadness and longing for things to be different, THAT is where acceptance lies: in my longing, in my heartbreak, in the sitting with my son feeling helpless that there’s no way to reach him, in the knowing that even as his mother I am so very limited. Acceptance happens through each moment. It might look and feel different on any given day. It’s not somewhere in the illusionary future, but right here, in the midst of it all -the entire diabolical mess.

Fear, love, guilt: Tomorrow’s visit

I’m visiting my son again tomorrow and my anxiety about it is through the roof. I’m not scared of him, I’m scared of his suffering. I’m scared of seeing him hurting because he’s missing his dad, and not understanding the practical issues that his dad has not taken care of. He doesn’t know the details, all his knows is that his dad has not visited and that he is unable to do certain things that he used to. He doesn’t know his dad has failed him. In some ways that feels even more heartbreaking.

I’m no stranger to suffering. I watched my father die of cancer and all I felt was love. I had no fear because in that moment I allowed everything to be as it was. I felt great empathy for his pain but I was not afraid. I knew what was coming and so did he. I sat with him until the very end and surrendered to the love that was guiding his journey home.

My son’s suffering frightens me. I feel a raw, primal instinct to protect him from hurt, but I know that’s impossible. His vulnerability and lack of comprehension increases my desire to keep him safe always. I also know that my fear of his suffering is probably tied up in a large amount of guilt. It’s displaced because I’ve never let him down – I’ve always done my best for him under difficult circumstances – again, always. But somehow the guilt is still there, probably linked to my grief around parenthood in general, that I was sick and unable to be the kind of parent I wanted, and that my son, due to his needs, wasn’t able to be the child I wanted either. My self-image is clouded in guilt and sadness and a sense that I have failed.

Maybe the fear of my son’s suffering is not only because I fear the pain that comes with knowing he is hurt, but fear that it will break me as a mother because I didn’t have the relationship I wanted with him and his pain presses on that wound. His pain will force me to come face to face with myself as his parent without running from those feelings. I will have to sit with them and learn. Relationships are our greatest spiritual teachers after all. They are our mirrors, showing us where love is most needed.

Unconditional love goes beyond images and labels but leaves out nothing. It embraces fear, pain and grief. This isn’t about trying not to feel scared or pretending I don’t feel guilty. It’s allowing all those feelings to be there and giving them to the light. It’s being with the reality of the situation, which is that it is hard, and all sorts of issues are activated, including my own abandonment wounds. I can only do my best in any given moment and leave the rest to the Divine light/the universe to take care of. That’s what I’ve always done for my son and will continue to do, no matter how scared I am.

The problem of suffering

It’s the hardest thing when your child is suffering and there is no real way to help them. I don’t know how anyone can possibly make peace with that. I feel guilty for even wanting to feel at peace when I can’t help my child. Even worse is knowing my child is suffering as a result of the actions of his narcissistic father. I don’t use that word lightly. I’ve spent a good part of my life coming up against my ex husband’s self-absorption, his controlling behaviour, and total lack of empathy, and realised a long time ago that it was pointless getting frustrated and angry – he isn’t going to change because he can’t see the problem. I had to make some terrible sacrifices as a result of the situation I was in. It wasn’t easy but I did the best I could for my son and myself.

Now the staff at my son’s assisted living accommodation are experiencing what I did for years with my ex – a complete lack of responsibility and integrity, even a tendency to outright lie when it suits him. My ex is free to live the life he chooses – and he certainly does – but when it hurts our son and threatens the security of his new home environment, well that’s a whole different thing.

The staff and myself are doing all we can on a practical level to improve the situation. Unfortunately when so much depends on one person’s willingness to communicate and getting nothing, there are real limits to be faced. I have taken some action which I feel terrible about and may not even change things, but I simply could not just sit and face the helplessness.

On a spiritual level, how does one deal with situations like these? Meditate, pray? Surely the real test of any spiritual practice is when we are facing helplessness in our lives. Unfortunately when I’m distressed the very last thing I feel like doing is sitting on a meditation cushion to find peace. I’m sure I’m not the only one. My mind is thrashing around, distressed, heartbroken, angry, clawing for a solution….but there is none. Maybe the only answer is surrender. But that doesn’t help my son either. My ability to accept what IS doesn’t change his suffering. Accepting his suffering feels like the ultimate NO. But what else can be done? Seriously?

Intellectually my mind starts making a story out of this. It has to be happening for a reason. The way life turned out. The way my son is. The way my ex is. I want to create some meaning and purpose out of all of it because it’s so devastating and unbearable and not in the least bit fair. How can I make it okay somehow? The answer is I can’t. It truly is awful….and no spiritual explanation will change that, whether or not there really IS a purpose to it (which I believe there is, on some level).

I really am back to acceptance. It’s all I have. But how does one accept the unacceptable – that my child suffers at the hands of a narcissist father and that life will continue to be painful for all of us? Indeed, how does anyone accept suffering? The Ukrainians are no doubt asking the same thing. People who have lost children through war and murder and suicide. Those who have suffered in other unspeakable ways. How do we find the will to accept and move forward?

It is said that love is the only answer. I don’t love the situation of course. Not at all. But I love my son and I hope on some level that will help him. Even if doesn’t, it may help me connect to the fabric of the Universe and see the reality, which is that the Universe is bigger than all this suffering. The Divine is in the midst of it – in me, in my son, even in my ex – and thus the journey will always return us to love, and none of us are alone in what we face.

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.

Mother’s Day for the unacknowledged

It’s Mother’s Day today in the UK. As many of you know, my son has severe autism and is non-verbal apart from the occasional word. He is now 20 so for many years I have come to terms with the fact he will never say ‘I love you’ or ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ or even have any concept of the latter. Today is all about acknowledging mothers…which makes it incredibly painful when your child does not give much back. It is the ultimate journey towards unconditional love because loving a profoundly learning disabled child is not a two way street in the conventional sense. On rare and brief occasions my son has shown love towards me, such as putting his hands on my face, but not for many years. I have no idea whether I have done right by him but try to trust that like any well intended parent I did the best I could, even though the fruits of those intentions are not obvious in ways they might be for others.

I’m not going to deny that today is very hard. But I know it’s hard for many people for a whole host of reasons. I am thinking of all the mothers who don’t experience the joy of being acknowledged on Mother’s Day….and sometimes any other day. Those whose child/ren are sick, profoundly disabled, mentally unwell, estranged, or have passed away. Mothers who can’t have children. Mothers who might have been. Children who have lost mothers. Mothers who have lost children. There are many ways to feel loss on Mother’s Day in particular. I am holding everyone who struggles in my heart today ❤️

The unconditional love in my grief

I seem to be shedding bucket loads of grief at the moment. I’m in a kind of transition period where I’m integrating my past with my present and acknowledging where I have been stuck and releasing those old energies. That said, I’m not sure the grief will ever fully leave me. I suspect I will reach a point where I can accept my son for the way he is and not feel so sad and angry for how life could have been for both of us. However, I’m not sure I will completely stop looking at other people’s children with envy and disappointment. Maybe I’m selling myself short though. It’s possible I will one day truly take in the knowledge that I was never meant to have a typical child or be a typical parent. And my child was never meant to be anyone other than who he is. I thought I’d accepted those things years ago but although I understood them logically and thought okay Universe, this is my lot, I never took them in and felt them in my heart. That’s not unusual for me because I was very dissociated from my emotions as a child. I’m also highly likely on the autistic spectrum myself, a fact that seems even more likely the more I think about how I was back then and how I am now.

I visited my son at his assisted living accommodation yesterday, not for the first time, but the visit went badly again. He didn’t want me there. He started off very calm and I felt massively relieved, but very quickly he started telling me to go with the word ‘bye’. He repeated it over and over while I tried to tell him I wasn’t going yet, that I was there to spend time with him. He became so distressed that in the end I had to leave, even though it was half an hour before I was due to be picked up, since I don’t drive. I realised that although it was difficult for me practically and emotionally, this was about my son and he clearly didn’t want me to visit. I had to accept that. It’s probably one of the most painful things I’ve ever had to do. The staff at the home gave me a card and some flowers for Mother’s Day from my son, which was incredibly kind, and it was hard holding back the tears enough for them to think I was absolutely fine about my son not wanting me there, that I was only thinking of him.

I went to lunch with a friend straight afterwards which with hindsight wasn’t the best idea, either physically or emotionally. I was shattered. I’d spent every bit of energy I had on the half an hour visit with my son. My friend isn’t the the empathetic sort and hasn’t seen my son in many years. He doesn’t even know how severely autistic he is now. I wanted to get home and cry, which I eventually did. I’m not ashamed to say that I wanted to get a bottle of something – maybe for comfort, dissociation, I don’t know – but I didn’t in the end. I kept reminding myself how crap I would feel the following day, how anxious and depressed I’d be, feelings that I’m struggling with anyway, never mind with alcohol in my bloodstream. There is a better way and that is knowing grief is beyond awful, but it doesn’t last forever. The light will come and illuminate my path and understanding that this was meant to be exactly as it is. But in the meantime it’s excruciating.

On a practical level, I’ve decided to keep my son’s visits very short and as much to a regular schedule as possible so he knows when to expect me. I’ll make clear when I arrive that I’m not going to stay long but want to see him to make sure he’s okay, and to let him know that I’m always here for him. Beyond that, if he wants me to go, I will go. The focus has to be on him and his needs. Then in time if he wants me to stay, I will. I have to tap into my unconditional love for him that expects nothing but gives the best I have.

Last night I had a very deep dream that I was climbing along a thin bridge made of rope on my hands and knees. There was only a small barrier on the right side and nothing at all on my left. I was terrified of falling off and disappearing into the abyss, but I kept going. I felt I was travelling upward and it was really tough but I was determined to keep going. At some point the bridge disappeared entirely and I found myself floating in a beautiful blue ocean in complete peace. I had no worries anymore – I was light and free. Such dreams give me hope that I’m heading in the right direction and my struggle doesn’t mean I’ve gone wrong – life was never meant to be easy for anyone. I don’t understand why and never will. But like Matt Kahn once said ‘in a world of questions, love is the only answer.’ So love it is. Love for my son and -I hope- love for me too.

From confusion/judgement to love and compassion

I’ve been feeling quite confused and preoccupied lately following my son’s move into assisted living and my own up and down experience with the emotions of dating. I haven’t reached any real conclusions about the latter, only that I find it hard to trust my emotions, maybe because I’m aware that emotions are temporary and not truly who I am. Even so, I wish they would provide me with some consistency and less like I’m completely insane. I went to bed last night feeling very low and genuinely wondering if there was something wrong with me. Yep – it always seems to boil down to that. Maybe because the root of all this pain is feeling disconnected from my soul and from God/the Universe. I thought my dating experience was a way to share my soul and give love but maybe subconsciously I HAVE been trying to fill a gap that historically I’ve filled with spiritual practices such as meditation. Maybe none of this will ever make sense until I make connecting with my soul a priority again. I haven’t stopped meditating but my energy has been elsewhere, seeking experiences that will never make me whole.

I don’t know how relevant this is but it FEELS so. Last night I had a dream that I was adopting an African child of about five years old. She was absolutely beautiful – very long, wiry, black hair. I was aware she was called Shia. I carried her on my hip. Then I went to see her biological parents who were giving her up for adoption. I referred to them as ‘Mummy’ and ‘Daddy’ for Shia’s benefit. Then I looked at the parents with love and compassion and said ‘I know you don’t want her but there’s no judgement. I completely understand.’ My thoughts turned to my own son and my struggles to raise him, and I truly did.

The dream felt very comforting on my waking and I wanted to explore it further. I feel it relates to my feeling very bad about myself last night, that there’s something inherently wrong with me and my emotions. This may have been projected onto the parents in the dream who felt wrong for giving up their little girl. Maybe I need my own love and compassion and assurance that no one is judging me. My ego feels judged. That is a powerful thought. Judged by whom? Or maybe it is guilt at feeling disconnected from my own light. Interestingly, the little girl may represent my wounded inner child who is looking for safety and love and acceptance – again from my own being. No one else can give that to her, at least, not in a way that assures permanence. The parents rejected her, representing those part of myself that are rejecting my innocence, as well as the literal context of feeling guilty about my autistic son. Finally, I looked up the name Shia and it means ‘God is salvation.’ This reinforces the whole meaning of the dream – and I use the word ‘whole’ with intent – as it’s all about listening to my soul, loving the aspects of myself that are wounded and scared, and bringing it all to the light of awareness and compassion to become whole. This is our salvation.

Someone once said to me – a Jehovah’s Witness no less, but then I don’t discount anyone’s beliefs if they resonate with me on a deeper level – ‘Put God first, then everything else will fall into place.’ I’ve never forgotten it because I recognise the truth in it. Humans have human experiences and there’s nothing wrong with that – it’s what we’re here to do. But losing contact with our soul is a recipe for suffering and leads to a dish of emptiness and misery. I know now that I feel judged when I have lost my connection with my inner being. No one is judging me; I’m doing that to myself, only turning it into guilt and shame. This is as old as time. It’s the fall of Adam and Eve. The way forward is to recognise it and pour our compassion on it. In my dream I even used the words ‘there is no judgement.’ What a relief to hear! We judge ourselves because we know deep down we’re not embracing the perfect, beautiful, holy beings that we truly are.

While I’m not in that place yet, I believe that bringing myself back to a place of deep spiritual connection will bring some clarity to the situations I’m struggling with. I won’t be throwing myself into dating longing for it to bring me answers, or for my emotions to suddenly make some kind of sense. I will know intuitively what I need to do and what is right for us both. And likewise, seeing my son from a place of connection and wholeness will mean not desperately seeking something from him that can never be and feeling upset when he can’t give it. I need to get out of my own way. I need space to find myself again.

When the present moment hurts

All spiritual teachings point to the wisdom of being in the now because, in fact, this is the only place we can ever be; only our minds create the illusion that we could be anywhere else.

However, it is very natural for our minds to want to escape pain and suffering, not realising that there is nowhere we can actually go (short of being in real threat or danger whereby our physical bodies will react accordingly).

Sometimes the present moment hurts. I am in such a moment. It may sound trivial compared to a lot of problems and believe me I know more than most, but I feel very fragile. My back is hurting. I’ve probably strained it through sitting too long in the wrong posture but it’s been the same on and off for a couple of weeks. I went to the hairdressers yesterday and found the half an hour sitting on a chair to wait for my hair colour to take was torturous for my back. I wanted to stand up and walk around and probably should have done, but somehow felt I couldn’t (I can be quite a shy person).

I’m also exhausted and not feeling well generally. My immune system feels inflammatory with lots of aches, pains, stomach spasms, weakness and cold-like symptoms. This isn’t unusual for me at all and I can deal with it. It’s all part of my health conditions which I have had for many years. But the worst is the effect on my mental health because during flare ups I feel very low. I suspect that the inflammation hits my brain and makes me want to be anywhere else but in this body and in this moment. I am prone to depression (which I used to struggle with constantly) but have come to realise that rather than my depression causing my physical problems as is so commonly assumed, my situation is the other way around: my physical state is causing the depression. As soon as the inflammation eases its hold on my system, I can place a large sum of money (if I had some) on my depression easing too. And it always does.

As much as the present moment hurts, resisting it does not help. I know that, yet it can be so difficult to avoid doing so. I don’t want this pain, who would? The way I deal with this is to accept the resistance. I don’t have to like or want what’s happening. I add another layer of awareness and compassion to those struggling, hurting parts of my being. I feel the resistance in my body as a real, tangible sensation. At this point I usually find tears, and I let myself cry. It is powerful to be with that emotion, to accept it with love, and let it go.

I want to share this because it’s natural to have down days and moments, even (and maybe especially?) for those of us on a spiritual path. I can fall into the trap of spiritual perfectionism whereby I think that as I’m aware of my true nature as a spiritual being I shouldn’t feel depressed or sick anymore. Not true! I am living a human life. I’m still at the mercy of this body with its chemical processes and limitations. And sure, maybe one day when I’m further along my path I may experience much better health, physical and/or emotional, but I may not. The future doesn’t exist except as an illusion. This IS my path, right here, right now, pain and all.