Where the light gets in

I had a very profound thought during the night. I know I’ve read it somewhere but I can’t think where.

A couple of days ago I was telling someone how it went with my son on Thursday and I made the very sad but nonetheless true statement that ‘my heart will always be broken.’

Even as I said it, I sensed the truth; the immense power in those six words.

I was reflecting on this during the night and almost immediately another thought came to me, almost from outside myself, carrying the wisdom and grace of a deeper realisation:

‘This is where the light gets in.’

Suddenly the balance shifted from despondency to hope. I had a wonderful visual image of God’s divine grace surrounding the broken pieces of my heart like a pure golden light, filling in all the cracks and making it stronger and more beautiful than ever.

There is always a choice. Closing down to protect a broken heart seems the best option, but it leaves one cut off, alone and in darkness, where healing is impossible.

Jesus healed people. He restored them through their own faith. At least once he asked the person if they wanted to be healed. I don’t believe that he was suggesting they didn’t or stating the obvious; rather, he was inviting them to open their heart and accept what is possible through faith. Literal or metaphoric, the healing he brought upon others was only made possible through an open heart, which is the ultimate gift of love.

It’s all too easy to protect one’s heart from further pain and become hurt and bitter. This is the challenge of being human, especially in regard to deep traumas that laid the entire foundation of a life. Each of us has our own path to walk and obstacles to navigate, as well as the particular tools to help us through. Thankfully for us, there are so many teachers, past and present, who have pointed to the truth that we all carry within.

And what is this truth? In my experience, we exist in Divine love. We are eternal beings, filled with the grace of God/Spirit/The Divine, here living a very limited human life in all its glory and tragedy. The heart is the bridge between the two. When we keep it open, the love and light of God’s grace is always available to love and heal and restore us no matter how broken we feel.

Growing and transcending

I’m aware that each time I write a truly vulnerable account of how I’m feeling about my disabled son I probably lose a few readers – understandably so because not everyone wants to read about someone’s suffering, especially those seeking a more uplifting story – so I’m drawn to say thank you to those who are drawn to read my experiences and feelings, regardless of reason. Sometimes I feel very alone and it helps to write it down and know people are reading my words, even when I am going around in circles with the same feelings and issues, or at least seem to be. I really do appreciate it.

I know in my heart that each of us is on a spiritual journey to realising our true self – our Christ self, Divine indwelling, soul – whichever term you feel most comfortable with -and we can’t drop off the path no matter what we do or feel. Sometimes life can feel completely unbearable and I think it is important to be honest about the suffering because it is the freedom of speaking the truth that ultimately saves us. As Carl Jung (I think) said, ‘suffering can’t always be worked through, only transcended.’ I cannot escape my pain. It just is. It exists in a state of consciousness that is fully human and I love and respect it. It will never leave me for it is part of me. But it is not ALL of me. And therein lies the answer.

I think it was Mother Teresa who said ‘when you know better, do better.’ We experience life in accordance with our level of consciousness, so once we grow spiritually, we experience life, and God/the Divine, from a higher state of awareness. However, growth is not a linear process, as I know all too well. I have meditated and prayed for years and feel I have a healthy relationship with my spirituality and the Divine. I am always growing and evolving and increasing my capacity for unconditional love. The difficulty is when old wounds get activated, or, as Eckhart Tolle says, the pain body, and once again I am lost in the pain of wanting what can never be. The pain body is the emotional element of the conditioned self – who we believe ourselves to be in relation to the outer world. Some people call this the ego, and indeed I have done sometimes, but I dislike the term, maybe because it reduces it to an unpleasant sounding entity rather than being part of my being which evolved to try and help me live in this world, however misguided it has been. It also seems to suggest that my emotions are ‘wrong’ on some level. My emotions over my son and wishing things were different are not ‘wrong’; they simply are. I can’t imagine anyone in my situation not feeling this way; at least, not without a huge and permanent shift in consciousness to the extent that one’s personal history just doesn’t matter any more because one abides purely in a state of love. This ideal was perfectly executed in the story of Jesus.

Regardless of what I, or anyone else, think about the whole mystery of Jesus, whether he was real, a myth, whether he was the only ‘son of God’ or pointing to the potential that exists in all of us, it highlights that Jesus was both fully human AND fully Divine. He often referred to himself as the ‘Son of Man’ i.e son of humanity, rather than God! He fully embraced his emotions, his humanness, his fear, anger, reluctance, sense of abandonment etc. He befriended the hurting, lost and broken people. He must have felt terribly alone in a world that wasn’t ready for him and did not understand him. He suffered unimaginably horribly in the hands of others, feeling betrayed and alone, all the while trusting in God’s plan for his life.

The most important part of the entire story: Jesus was not left to die; he was resurrected into his Christ self which transcended all his pain and suffering and restored him to his Divine identity. His old self had to die for the new self to be born. Whatever one believes about this, there is a lesson in letting go and having faith, that our suffering does not have to define us, even if it is part of us for a time (even a long time; indeed, some of us live with deep hurts our entire lives and only find relief on physical death). The story of Jesus has always brought me comfort because this is a man who went through the worst torture that I imagine is possible to man, all the while feeling abandoned by God, yet loving and forgiving those who inflicted such suffering on him, who then transcended it all; a personal reminder of the renewal of all life and our own eternal nature.

When I feel crucified by my personal circumstances and unable to find relief in any of my life’s blessings due to feeling consumed by wishing things had turned out differently, I remember that fighting against my suffering will not work. My suffering results from a part of me who understandably feels devastated and angry and let down by life. I also know that I carry within me some part of the Christ mystery – my Divine spark – which both encompasses and transcends this human life. It is a daily juggle, holding those aspects of my being, but maybe knowing they are there and perfectly okay, is enough.

Between acceptance and resistance

Acceptance seems like the holy grail of spirituality and I understand why; it’s opposite is resistance, and as we all know, what is the point resisting something we can’t change? It’s only going to make us suffer.

I’m not even sure it has to be one or the other, black or white. Maybe there are shades of grey whereby I’m not accepting or resisting but stuck in some limbo state in between the two.

Only that, too, equals suffering.

Today I had to go down to the local government office to sort out a financial mess on my son’s behalf. I was told my son needed to accompany me so they could see him for themselves and verify that he lacks capacity to handle his own affairs. Due to his level of need, two male carers had to escort him, so we were quite a group heading into the building. I knew my son wouldn’t cope for very long and he didn’t; he became agitated and vocal, catching the attention of everyone else in the room, until the carers took him out for a walk while I spoke to a representative. I’m relieved that he at least didn’t lay on the floor which is what happened elsewhere in public last week, and he didn’t hit anyone, which is always a massive concern when he has a meltdown. No small blessings there.

The stress of the very short visit – in total, it probably took around half an hour, most of it on my own as my son had already been taken out by the carers – left me feeling so weighed down and hopeless. It reminds me of my desperation as a young mother trying to control my son who, as a six year old, ran riot around a restaurant gabbing food off people’s plates. Those times have gone. I don’t have to – and I simply couldn’t – manage him on my own anymore, but the same stress, the same heartbreak, remains.

I wonder if anyone who does not have a severely disabled son can even imagine what it is like. Children play up, especially when they’re young, but in time you can reason with them and loosen that all-consuming hold on them as they start to grow and value their independence. I have never lost that hold on my son. He is all consuming. He is unpredictable. He is terrifying. You never know what he is going to do. The only real way I have learnt to cope is detach myself. Not in the sense I won’t do all I can for him because I will always do that – but emotionally draw back, because otherwise the pain is too much to bear.

Maybe this is what I mean about being in limbo – not quite accepting, not quite resisting. This is my life and I cannot say I accept it. I often think about how it could have been. I grieve for the child I never had and never will have now. I grieve for the child – now adult – that I do have. I can’t imagine a day where that grief stops. I long for simple conversations with my son, Facebook comments, texts – the kind of stuff most parents take for granted. I long to see my son grow up and become independent – drive a car, go to university, get married. He will never do any of those things. He doesn’t have any concept of those things. I’m the one who wants them. I’m the one who feels the loss.

Am I resisting? If so, who wouldn’t? I don’t know, there are much better parents out there than me who devote their lives 24/7 to their disabled kids because they feel that depth of unconditional love and it’s second nature. I’ve never been that person. I’ve been ill all my adult life with chronic illnesses that nearly destroyed me. I simply never had the capacity to give my son that much of myself. I did the best I could. I still don’t know if it was enough but I know it was all I had.

I guess I’m only hurting myself by constantly thinking ‘what if’? But it’s impossible to stop. Maybe my acceptance lies there, in accepting this is where I am and how I feel and that life is so plain hard because I didn’t ask for this. I don’t have to be all saintly and spiritual about it if I don’t want to be. I don’t have to pretend. I can say to God that I wish things were different. I can feel God’s love for me and for my son and remember that Jesus was crucified in the flesh and in our own unique ways so are all of us in living a human life.

Anyone who copes with similar and has found a way to cherish their relationship with their child and their life as it is, I truly admire you. I journey on.

Hamster is sick

As well as everything involving my son lately, I’ve realised my poor hamster Pumpkin is sick. I’m taking him to the vet later but I’m not sure they will be able to do anything for him.

I’m starting to think I won’t get anymore animals as the pain they cause when they die is too much for me to bear.

My dog is 12 and a half and I truly dread the day she goes.

I know it’s the cycle of life and it’s never ending but the attachment one forms to these little creatures is enough to break your heart when you can’t see or hold them anymore.

And it never gets easier. It hurts just as much with one creature as any.

I entrust my beautiful hamster’s spirit back into the comforting arms of God if it is his time. And I entrust my grief as the outpouring of love gifted by his presence.

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.