When I found out that my child had autism, I found myself burning in the fires of trial, tribulation and pain. Slowly, slowly I have been built anew from the ashes. But I will never be the same again.

That’s not a bad thing. I’m reading (now re-reading) a book called Broken Open — Dealing with Life’s Difficulties, by Elizabeth Lesser. And I’ve been observing the people around me, looking at who has been broken open and how they’ve dealt with it.

Some people get broken open — by a death, a divorce, whatever — and they feel the burn. But it seems that, as quickly as they can, they sew up their wounds and get back to life as usual.

Some of us don’t allow ourselves to get broken open all the way. We stay protective, tight, disconnected from ourselves and others.

Reading this book has helped me to break open some more. It’s helped me to let go of the need to have it all together. I feel myself surrendering into the awesome Mystery, into the awful grace of God.

This breaking open has brought some unexpected gifts. When I stopped resisting pain and anxiety, for example, they stopped waking me up at night. After five years (two of Joseph not sleeping, three of diagnosis anxiety), I am sleeping through the night again.

I feel connected. To myself, to God, to others. I feel guided on a deep level. All of a sudden I can’t stop myself from telling my friends how much I love them.

The thing about having an autistic child is that it’s not a one-time break-opener. The challenge continues, day by day. And now I work, day by day, to melt into the Mystery, even in the darkness, and even in the light.

It has brought a deep, nurturing stillness that’s been missing in my meditation practice for years.

I am not running around with a huge smile on my face — I went through that phase a long time ago — but I am more inwardly focused — listening more to others, and listening as well to my heart.

It’s way beyond the intelligence, way beyond the mind. It’s the unconditional love of Mother Mary and the fiery initiation of the Goddess Kali.

Fire ceremonies are common in the Hindu tradition as a way of purifying oneself. What I feel is that I am surrendering myself, my life, and my child into the hot, burning flames of purification. Over and over again.

But these fires don’t feel like the popular image of hell. I am discovering that opening to the pain also opens the door to the joy. Embracing all of this journey, letting everything be welcome here, is absolutely transforming.

God, give me the grace to break open, more and more, every day.

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