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How can love always be present when you can undeniably feel each and every absence of love? The problem is in the perceiver rather than the perceived. Each time you feel a lack of love, it comes from within yourself. — A Course of Love (ACOL) – 25.5

Blue Eyes and I are world travelers. But autism, with its difficulty with transitions and unpredictability, can add an interesting twist to traveling. Although hubby and I would rather travel immersed in different cultures with backpacks on our backs, we have long wondered if a cruise might work for Joseph. We’d always stay in the same room, additional family members (including cousins close to his age) wanted to go, and there would be a swimming pool. Google didn’t have much to say about autism and cruises, so we took a deep breath, and literally jumped on board.

7 days, Seattle to Alaska and back. From the standpoint of day 6, I can say that it’s been pretty good. The kids have had a blast together, and the food has been amazing. Fortunately, Joseph’s cousins are on a non-sugar diet and that has influenced him in a positive manner, yeast being a common problem with autism. We’ve had FUN, real true fun! There have been moments, of course, when it’s not been so fun, but overall it’s been beautiful, spectacular, and awesome.

Today we are on the boat all day, so Joseph’s cousins went to the Kids’ Club for the first time. I pulled the manager aside and explained that, even though he is 13, Joseph has high-functioning autism and will only be comfortable hanging with his younger cousins, ages 6 and 8. I was told that they’d need to contact the manager onshore to get this okay’d, and that they’d be in touch in a couple of hours. So, while the younger boys went happily off to play ball games, Joseph howled about having to leave with me. It was a not-untypical semi-meltdown, but it hadn’t happened before in front of other family members, and I found it humiliating.

Joseph didn’t want to do anything else – just have downtime in our stateroom. I can understand that: There is lots going on in this huge boat full of thousands of people, and downtime can be a balm. But A Course of Love gave me an exercise to do a couple of days ago, which was to watch for feelings of a lack of love. And — wow! — it came up big time through this little episode of explaining the autism situation, being put off (hopefully just temporarily) and then feeling exposed with the meltdown.

As I look more closely at that, I see how much lack of love I have around autism and Joseph behaving like, well, someone with autism. First off, I feel really alone. Then I feel resistant, upset, wishing yet again that I didn’t have this in my life. I feel out of control when I really, really, really want to be in control. I don’t want this uncomfortable life, where my kid can unpredictably bring me to these hugely embarrassing experiences.

Attempting to exert control over learning situations is a reflection of belief that you have nothing to learn. Control opposes openness. – ACOL 23.27

(Insert expletive here.) If my life is indeed a curriculum designed specifically for me, then opening to it is my best chance of learning from it. Yes, Joseph has autism. Yes, sometimes it takes us in different directions from the normies. Yes, I find it difficult and therefore want to make it safer and easier.

Resign as your own teacher. The desire to control is the desire to remain your own teacher and/or to choose your teachers and learning situations. Neither can occur if you would truly choose to change your beliefs and move on to the new or the truth. – ACOL 23.27

I want to resign as my own teacher, really I do. I guess this particular teacher, which we shall call Autism, feels that public humiliation is just right for me – and therefore delivers it on an irregular, but fairly frequent, basis. This will help me out of my need to be in control, and probably in a lot of other ways, as well. I surrender. This time.

There is always an upside to the downside. Joseph can’t stand to be alone in the stateroom. So, while he’s been having some downtime inside the room, I’ve been sitting outside on the balcony writing this. I keep having to put the computer down because pods of dolphins are swimming by and, my heart in my throat, I have to stop everything and marvel at them. I mean, we are way out in the ocean, and there is so much life and beauty here.

The ocean’s gone from glacier-green to sea-blue in the last day. We’ve left the whales, who like to feed in the cold Alaskan waters, and found the dolphins. The sun is at last showing itself, and the endless blue of the sky mirrors the huge blue vastness of the ocean.

It is a big, beautiful world and, as I look out at it, I open to its beauty. The view from our balcony looks like love made manifest — and I am opening to the fact that it all is. Everything, from autism to Joseph to the glory of this moment — comes from love. And love embraces all things, so, in that spirit, I open to allow it. What a beautiful teacher is life.

 

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I have a close friend who is deeply Christian. This is unusual, because generally I steer clear of Christians — for the sole reason that they tend to regard my spiritual outlook as, well, dead wrong. I get the impression that, though they think I’m a nice person, they also think I’m headed straight for hell once this earth journey is over. I don’t mind if they think that, but it doesn’t make for close friendships.

For this reason it took me a long time to mention A Course of Love to my friend Ellen. After all, A Course of Love (ACOL) is said to be Jesus’ words coming through Mari, a woman who is alive and well in this day and age. When I did finally mention that I was co-leading a group on Friday mornings, I hoped we could leave it at that. But she’s seen how this course has shifted me, so she asked for specifics and even indicated an interest in attending. I gathered up my courage and explained how ACOL came about, dreading an anticipated response that the Bible was Jesus’ only true word and the only one we’ll ever need.

Ellen is a surprising person, though, which I guess is why she’s my only Christian friend. She said, God spoke through prophets way before Jesus’ time. Why wouldn’t Jesus continue to speak to us now? Then she attended and felt that the words really spoke to her. I don’t know if the course will stick for her, but I am really, really impressed that she attended.

It is amazing to feel Jeshua (most ACOL people refer to Jesus in this way, which is the Hebrew pronunciation) permeating my heart, mind and soul. I mean, wow, it’s like he’s whispering into my ear sometimes. That’ll change your life. For the first time ever in this life, I have actual experiences of joy.

It’s interesting to feel so fed spiritually on the one hand, and to have an intense 13 year-old autistic kid on the other. I understand why so many families stop having kids after an autistic one shows up – they are a lot of work! Add to that the hormones and turbulence of teenagerdom and, wow, that’ll change your life too.

I am so grateful that Joseph has friends. He invited his two besties over last week to hang out. It was the first visit for one kid, the sweetest Aspie (Aspergers) kid I’ve ever met. Within the first five minutes, he’d pointed out the spider web in my dining room, but never mind. We autism parents overlook that kind of thing. 😉

For the last few months I have taught yoga to Joseph’s 6th grade class in the barely-clandestine hope of getting him interested in it. While it succeeded with most of the girls, it’s been an “Eh” experience for the boys, which I can understand. Most hatha yoga classes are 95% female, after all.

Through the years, Blue Eyes and I have tried to get Joseph interested in yoga and meditation. It would be so good for his anxiety – and everything else too! But Joseph has resisted it at every turn, so we have dropped the subject for the last few years.

However. Tonight I was listening to an amazing guided meditation by a man associated with ACOL, someone Jeshua speaks through. It led me to a very deep place and I experienced the Christ presence pouring through me. I can’t remember the details of the conversation with Joseph, but later on we were talking and I said, “Well yeah, especially when Jesus is speaking to you.”

“WHAT?” Joseph exclaimed. “JESUS?” We talked about Jesus coming through these channels, and he was incredibly interested. I realized that, for him, Jesus was some dude from way back when who’d told people to love each other and who’d been dead for a long time. “How can I talk to these people?” He asked me. “There’s so much I want to know about my future.” I said that the message from Jeshua was to learn to listen within, to get quiet enough to hear that still, small voice in oneself. It’s about a relationship between each one of us and him.

Joseph asked some questions then about meditation, and I guided him through a 5-minute session. It ended very positively, and we agreed that we’d do that every night before bed.

Once again, wow. Not only does Jeshua still speak and write, he also still works miracles. A little meditation practice could go a long way in helping my kiddo through the teen crazies. Thank you, God.

As spring break loomed on the horizon, Joseph began asking about going to Arizona. He’d never been there before and he wanted to see Sedona and the Grand Canyon. He also wanted to see Las Vegas, which is on the way.

I had recently quit my regular part-time job and am hysterically happy about having spare time.  Blue Eyes was up for going, and we like to encourage adventuring in Joseph…so a vacation was born. We’d spend about a week and a-half driving to and from, and exploring the wild west.

Friends told us we would have a wonderful time. Arizona was one of their favorite places and it would be amazing. To most of them, I smiled and said I was looking forward to it. To one of them I explained that Joseph could have a hard time with change so it would probably be challenging. To Terese, who has an autistic kid of her own, I said that Joseph could be such a pill on these trips that it would no doubt be difficult.

Perhaps “a pill” wasn’t quite the right expression. Sleeping in new places is usually difficult for Joseph, going to new places (especially crowded ones) is difficult, and not getting his way is also hard. All three of which are happening on this trip to some extent. Add to this the fact that Joseph had recently finished a round of antibiotics and was displaying pronounced symptoms of autism and candida (much flapping, fingers constantly in mouth, etc), and we were headed for quite a time.

Yesterday was day three and was supposed to be “his” day. We had made it to AZ and had booked a train ride up to the Grand Canyon. Challenge #1 occurred when Joseph went to sleep late and woke at 4am, resulting in three straight nights of sleep deprivation. We arrived early at the depot to watch the cowboy shootout but, as soon as the first “shot” rang out, Joseph screamed and cried and would not be calmed down. Blue Eyes quickly ushered him out of the bleachers amidst the looks of curious families.

My impression of age 13 is that the volume’s been turned up big time. Joseph’s always been one for constantly making noise (“verbal stimulation” in the vernacular), but it’s really gotten worse lately. Walking around the incredible, breathtaking Grand Canyon naturally inspires a reverent silence — but my constant companion was a nonstop noisemaker which was, to put it mildly, draining. And disappointing. Yogananda used to say that, if someone got your goat, they got your inner peace — so don’t let them get your goat. Well, my goat went galloping down the canyon and I haven’t seen it since! So my disappointment was for both the experience of the canyon and in myself for losing that goat. ;-(

At one point, in a small crowd, a little chipmunk appeared. Of course everyone was thrilled to see the cute little guy. Everyone else, that is. Though he was quite a distance from it, Joseph started screaming in anxiety and the only way to calm him down was to find a quiet place in which to sit for half an hour.

I sound like I’m blaming Joseph but I also blame myself. Before the Grand Canyon trip, I forgot to pack nutritious snacks and had let him load up on carbs (hotel breakfast, anyone?). Things have been quite good with Joseph — many breakthroughs this year — and so I thought this trip would be easier than it is. I didn’t prepare myself for a difficult day, so the fall was greater. The idea that expectations set us up for being disappointed at some future point certainly applies here — but the expectations were so unconscious that I didn’t realize they were there until, well, now.

Speaking of now, it is 2:20 in the morning and I am in the hotel bathroom, typing away and dreading the fact that Joseph may wake up anytime and give us yet another difficult day, tainted by sleep deprivation. Is it an autistic thing that he simply can’t nap during the day unless he’s deathly ill? And if positive expectations bring future disappointment, what does dread bring? As my own private guinea pig, I hereby postulate the following effects of dread: Insomnia (did I mention 2:20am?), negative mindset, and separation.

Ah yes, separation. Where is God in all of this? Of course I know that God IS — but I’m not feeling the Love. What if I just take a moment to soften my body and open my heart. What if I close my eyes, take a few deep breaths and release some resistance.

Then I realize that the thoughts are not my thoughts. They come from I know not where and they go I know not where. They are there, but who I AM is something much greater.
Jaw softens, shoulders drop. Heart remembers.

And then, oh gloriously then, there it is: The felt inner communion. The spaciousness of Spirit, more breathtaking than any grand canyon. A shared silence filled with understanding and even amusement. A remembrance that this is just a tiny blip on the radar of life, and especially of life beyond. The reassurance that always, always I can come to this place – no matter what is happening externally. In this I can rest. Time to go back to bed.goat

Hello, little goat. Welcome home.

fair2016bThrough the years in our little family, there has been a subtle but growing attitude of autism being not okay. Blue Eyes and I — and, for that matter, Joseph’s school and doctors and therapists and specialists — have all attempted to “normalize” this kid. And it’s succeeded pretty well. This school year the last major sign of “I’m different” got removed when Joseph insisted that he no
longer wanted an aide. The school staff, bless them, respected his decision and has pretty well phased the aide out. It’s going okay — his academics have declined but we’ve never expected him to be a scholar, and his level of independence has increased dramatically. At this point you’d have to sit down and get to know him a bit before you could figure out that he’s not exactly typical.

Cause for celebration, right? Well, hold on, hoss, because we are being shown another perspective.

Blue Eyes and I just completed a fabulous 4-day playshop (as opposed to workshop) on awakening to presence. Wow! Life is different when you tune into that expanded awareness, that conscious presence, and truly grok that you embody it at all times. Many gifts were received during the playshop, and one of those was our attitude toward autism.

We were talking about how sound can be a doorway to presence: music, gongs, nature sounds, etc. The instructor pointed out how we tend to filter sound rather than allowing all sound to be in our awareness and to help us access presence. During the break, I asked the instructor, John Mark Stroud, about autistic people, who often can’t filter sound.

He said that most autistic people were highly advanced souls who couldn’t quite fit the whole “typical” scene. He said that many came in with amazing gifts — not savants, but highly gifted.

Nice, right? Well, I didn’t think so. With incredible resistance I responded that it was hard to imagine a 14 year-old in diapers as an advanced soul and that no, they didn’t come with gifts.

Later, Spirit (and Blue Eyes — thank you, honey) spoke to me about that strong reaction. I realized that, of the autistic kids I know, there truly are gifts. One is amazing at technology. Another plays the piano so beautifully it can make you swoon. Our own kiddo deeply loves, and is so loved back, by his classmates. His imagination and creativity are incredible.

As I opened to that, Blue Eyes and I had conversations about how we’ve normalized Joseph — and was that a good idea? I mean, how great is this “normal” life anyway? We spoke again to John Mark, who suggested that we tune in with Joseph on a soul level when we’re with him (and when we’re not). He suggested that we let Joseph teach us some of his gifts, that we appreciate the amazing soul he is. That we step out of the parent role and enjoy being presence together. That we open to the soul agreement we’ve had to incarnate together as a family.

For many months there has been major tension between Blue Eyes and Joseph. But that evening at home, they sat together on the couch and there was peace. Joseph’s stomach was hurting, and Blue Eyes brought him a bowl and helped him while he vomited a few times. It’d been years since Joseph vomited, and later, when I asked him how he felt, he said he’d gotten the bad stuff out and felt better.

We mentioned this incident to John Mark the next day – how Joseph had maybe eaten a bad burger at the restaurant. John Mark said that no, what had happened was that Joseph was vomiting out the toxicity that had been in our relationship with him. Wow, what a perspective.

Since then, it’s been a whole new relationship. Joseph still flaps his hands and jumps around autistically when he’s excited or creative, but it doesn’t trigger us. In fact, it seems pretty cool. I had the opportunity to give one of Joseph’s friends, another kid with autism, a big birthday hug, and I could feel his energy rising up his spine when he felt my unconditional love.

Something stiff in me has melted. Last night I thanked Joseph for coming to be with Blue Eyes and me, and he responded very simply with “You’re welcome.” Later, when Blue Eyes said good night to him, Joseph said, “Thanks, Dad.” He didn’t say for what, but Blue Eyes knew. Thanks for opening to who he is, thanks for appreciating the gift he is and the gifts he brings.

I woke at 3:00 this morning and asked Spirit why I was awake. The response was that my soul was longing to express this. Thank you for reading. I pray that, if autism is in your life, you too may open to the soul agreement you and your beloved made to be together, and that the gift of it fills your heart.

When it was really bad 7 or 8 years ago — when Joseph didn’t sleep and I didn’t sleep and we were socially isolated and our marriage was hurting and anxiety constantly gripped my heart — Blue Eyes dragged me to a doctor for my first prescription of sleeping pills. This doctor was a spiritual friend and, on follow-up visits to get more meds, he would recommend that I take time out. Specifically, a seclusion – a time of silence for meditation, reflection and rest. But Blue Eyes was working a lot, we had no family who would take it on, and I felt too panicked to entrust Joseph to anyone else’s care. Those were by far the toughest years of my life.

chakrasA few years ago, I started taking seclusion again. Not for a whole week like I used to, but for 2 or 3 days at a time. Seclusion is where I am now, in fact – sitting on the deck of a private cabin in a spiritual community, with a view of tall trees and hills and the melody of a river some distance away.

I don’t “do” much when I’m in seclusion; I become a human being instead of a human doing. I meditate more and my mind gets quiet. I feel my connection with all. I remember that I am a spiritual being dancing around in a human body for just a short time.

And of course I reflect about Joseph. Who we have now is so different from the Joseph of 7 or 8 years ago. All the work we did? It was so worth it. Teachers and school psychologists comment on how different Joe is from other autistic kids – they say they can see the results of that hard work. So can I. He will always have autism, but my hope and prayer is that it will be something he manages and something that doesn’t define his whole life. It looks like it’s headed that way. God willing, it will be.

Most autism parents don’t do the hard work. I can’t blame them: It’s HARD. You have to face the autism and your own demons about it. You have to give every ounce of yourself to it. You have to spend time (lots), money (lots), and energy (all). And then it’s a crap shoot, because maybe it will work and maybe it won’t.

Because I’m in that world I know a number of autism kids, and it’s obvious who has been worked with and who hasn’t. The one who makes my heart ache the most is an 11 year old boy who desperately wants to connect with people. Not all autistic kids even want to connect – but this one does, and he’s never been coached. Human dynamics has never been broken down for him. Thus he is reduced to asking a isolationconstant barrage of annoying questions like, “What’s your favorite number?” Or “Which ‘g’ word do you like best?” Unless something changes, this kid will never have the deep connection with others that he craves – and when you desperately want connection but can’t access it? That must be a terribly sad thing, and I fear the worst for him.

On the other hand, I know a couple of other autism couples who have done major work with their kids, and yet their kids won’t ever fit into society’s standards of “normal.” Still I’m positive that, without that work, those kids wouldn’t be nearly who they are now. And I think they have enough skills that they will find their place, and their own, in this big old world.

There is a time to work like crazy, and then there is a time to stop. I wonder what would have happened if I’d followed that doctor’s advice and taken time for seclusion even when life’s waves were tsunami-like. I probably would have managed the anxiety better. The rest would have been so good for me, and stepping out of the storm to get a little perspective, to dive into Spirit, could have made a big difference.

But it was what it was and, with a ton of grace, I am now able to enter seclusion. Sitting here in the quiet, with nature’s beauty all around, I am grateful. Not just for this moment but for the whole journey. Though I never would have consciously asked for it, autism has taught me so much, and through it I have become more trusting, more aware, and more compassionate. So thank you, God. Please don’t do it again to me — ever! — but thank you. 🙂

Namaste’.

Professor Temple Grandin, perhaps the best-known person with autism next to Rain Man (who, I remind you, was a made-up character), once commented that we need to keep the lives of our autistic kids interesting. I have pondered this many times over the years, agreeing with her that presenting new and exciting adventures to Joseph keeps him interested, engaged and challenged.

But when your kid has anxiety — which is extremely common for people with autism — it has to be looked at slightly differently. bell-curveOur RDI consultant once drew us a bell curve like the one to the right. The line in the center separated the two sides. To the left he wrote “Productive” and to the right he wrote “Unproductive.” There is a point, he explained, where challenge simply becomes unproductive. While you don’t want to make Joseph’s life too cushy (too far left), you also don’t want to immerse him in events that produce unproductive anxiety (right).

But anxiety is unpredictable and often irrational, so you don’t quite know what is going to push someone over the edge. Like last week, for example…

We went camping. Fun, right? Blue Eyes and I both come from camping families and we have wonderful memories of the adventures we had on those trips. Joseph was excited: we camp every year for a few days so he knew, more or less, what to expect. Blue Eyes had even fixed up our relic of an RV, and we took that along (I happily spent the nights in a tent next to them.)

anxietyThe first morning, anxiety struck. Why? Who knows. Dogs were leash-only, so that was okay. Maybe being out of the routine? Somewhere new? We were in Lassen National Park: Volcano territory. Like a volcano, Joseph’s anxiety built up and exploded out – hot, fierce and uncontrollable.

What we forgot since we last went camping is that campgrounds provide a great view into other people’s lives. There is nowhere to hide a kid who is loudly expressing his fear, resistance and anguish. Think humiliation.

On the other hand, other people couldn’t hide either. We watched happy families with excited kids who were loving — and making the most of — every minute of their camping experience. Living so openly, side by side with typical families, really got to me for a while there. I felt terribly sad.

By the third day of some difficult times, Blue Eyes had a brilliant insight: Part of Joseph’s anxiety had to do with the structure of the day. If we’d done a morning hike and returned to the campsite for lunch without any particular plans for the afternoon, this was perceived by Joseph as a high-stress situation. Whereas Blue Eyes and I looked forward to a few empty hours, our kid did not. He’s not like this at home, but we had to roll with what was happening there. It worked to say, “Let’s take half an hour to rest and then go for a bike ride.” It didn’t work to say, “Let’s do whatever we want for the afternoon.” This helped. A lot.

Looking back, I don’t think I handled the anxiety well. I was irritated. I hated that others could see and hear our troubles. Why couldn’t Joseph just reason himself out of this? Why was he behaving in such a ridiculous way?

But the beauty of reflection is the learning that comes from it. I don’t fully understand Joseph’s pain and I doubt I ever will. But rather than judge him (to take another view of the bell curve: unproductive behavior), I want to feel compassion for him and support him (productive behavior). We are going to get to work on this anxiety, starting with an Ayurvedic specialist who focuses on kids with anxiety.

During one of the low points of the camping trip, Blue Eyes pointed at our sweet dog and said, “That’s our gift.” Then he gestured toward Joseph (who was out of earshot) and said, “That’s our work.”

Paramhansa Yogananda, in a letter to one of his devotees (though I think in actuality all of his devotees), said,

Everybody’s difficulty is different and he or she has to win that test of karma…I will never give up my job about you….Not only will I ever forgive you, but ever lift you up no matter how many times you fall.

This, I believe is the work of us parents, especially those of us with special needs kids or rebellious kids or troubled kids. Our kids come in with their own karma and their own tests. We can’t change that, but we can let them know that we won’t give up on them. We will ever forgive them, ever work with them, ever help them to be all they can be.

Dang, it’s hard. But here I lean on Yogananda again, with these excerpts:

I shall ever be with you and through Divine Mother guard you from all harm, and will constantly whisper to you guidance through your loving self.

So do not become discouraged and tired…

A smooth life is not a victorious life — and I will give you lots of my good karma, so you will get through.

…not only will I invisibly help you but visibly, through many here.

IMG_1977Opening to receive that good karma. Exhaling a big exhale and allowing my own anger, resistance and anxiety to dissolve as I remember, yet again, that this work is much greater than just Blue Eyes and me. The Universe offers unlimited support, if only I allow it in.
Blessings.

One never forgets the day someone comes to evaluate one’s child for autism. In my case I had called around to a couple of local agencies to ask what to do when you suspect it, and I’d been referred to what was called Infant Program. The two leaders of the program came to visit. Two year-old Joseph sat in the living room, his back turned to us, while we talked.

They weren’t sure, but they suspected I was right about the autism and asked me to bring him along to the program. Their parting words were, “Stay in his face all the time. Don’t let him go off into his own little world.”

So far I’d been raising Joseph the opposite way. I would marvel at what an easy kid he was, looking after himself while I cleaned the house or whatever. It was a big deal to drop everything and stay in his face all of the time, but  I did my best. Then tutors started coming, and they stayed in his face when I wasn’t. Later, when we got involved with Relationship Development Intervention, I learned to use the many opportunities life gives us as a way to keep Joseph constantly engaged and relating.

Ten years after that visit from Infant Program, Joseph has turned out to be a very social kid — more social than his introvert mama! He loves his friends, is now inviting himself to their homes for sleepovers, and is still (sigh) asking us for a brother.

What I am learning about puberty, however, is that it’s time to step out of his face. Joseph is getting more private about things: going into his room and shutting his door, not readily letting us in when we knock. He got some time to play with Minecraft yesterday, and he sat underneath a blanket to do it so that I couldn’t see (and yes, I’m sure it wasn’t porn – we have filters set up 😉 ). Almost 48 hours went by recently without my seeing him, as he was with friends and at swim team, sleeping in in the mornings while I snuck out to work for the day.

It is an odd new practice for me. I am so used to being in his life, connected umbilically. It is natural that he  pull back — this is what puberty and teenagerdom is about — and yet it’s hard to get that “stay in his face” advice out of my head.

One of Love and Logic’s most beautiful teachings is that, when there have been or are going to be times of separation, like before bed or first thing in the morning, the parent touches the child in some way — as if to say, I missed you. So good to connect again. Our morning touching used to be a huge hug that we both loved. Now, when I try the hug, Joseph shrinks back. I find other ways: walking by, I’ll put a hand on his shoulder — but our cuddle times are now precious and few.

Sometimes I have to give myself a talk about the shrinking from touch and the decrease in connection. This is not the autism, I say. This is puberty. This is natural, this is right. It’s different, but it’s not bad. Panic is not necessary.  

I know that’s so. But the withdrawal kind of looks like autism, you know? So I get to work with myself.

Recently my dear friend Terese texted me. She’d been in the shower, thinking about something else entirely, when out of the blue she was given some advice that she knew she HAD to pass on to me. Dripping wet, she stepped out of the shower to put it into a text before she forgot the words. They were:

Remember: He is not the same person he was two years ago. If you can change, so can he. Trust in the process!

My dad, who passed away some years ago, was a seeker like me. At turbulent times we’d say to each other, “Trust the process.” I truly felt that my dad was speaking to me through Terese. I was reminded how very supported we are, by beings both seen and unseen.

Now, I am replacing the advice to “Stay in his face” with “Trust in the process.”

Wishing you trust in your process, and awareness of how very supported you are. Blessings.

 

 

 

 

Two weeks ago, a dear friend took his life. As soon as we heard, in shock and grief, Blue Eyes and I made emergency arrangements for Joseph and headed to his house. As we got out of the car his wife hugged us and said, “They are just taking Ian away. Say goodbye to him while you can.”

The coroner, who was helping to carry him out in a stretcher, unwrapped his face. Blood spattered and frozen, it didn’t look like Ian. Ian, the ever-smiling, ever-caring, silently serviceful man, was not in that body. The Best Man at our wedding 24 years ago, the deep friend and brother in God, this was no longer present in that body.

Most of our meditation group gathered there. Hugs, love and tears were exchanged freely. Oh, Ian. How we miss you.

Do we not know what an impact we make on others in our simple lives? Ian and his wife were so kind to Joseph. Healers come in all kinds of packages, and Ian, by his humble example of love and care, was a healer. He was an important male role model in my son’s life — and now he has removed his physical presence from our lives. The reason will always be a mystery.

In sharing with our group a few days later, his wife brought up how small talk was so hard for Ian. He found eye contact hard. He didn’t know how to start discussing inconsequential things and let the conversation move around to things of more substance. His wife said that this brought up a lot of anxiety for him — how he wished he could be “enough.”

I knew Ian had social anxiety and that he couldn’t easily meet my eyes. A long time ago I had silently diagnosed him as on the spectrum. Way up on the spectrum, but still on it. Yet he was famous for his huge smile, so friendly and sweet. I never, ever would have tagged him as a potential suicide.

Held a pistol to his heart and pulled the trigger. A nice, neat hole that took him instantly. And such symbolism. A broken heart. No more heart for this life.

We didn’t, couldn’t, tell Joseph how it happened. We told him Ian’s heart stopped, but Joseph guessed that Ian took pills to make that happen and we didn’t contradict him. I wonder if many suicides are from people on the spectrum. The only other suicide I’ve had close to me was a teenage neighbor, and, looking back, I remember that he couldn’t make eye contact and that he walked funny — on his toes. Sigh.

A surreal twist to the whole situation was that Ellen, a medium from England, was visiting our friends. She comes twice a year to the US and conducts readings with loved ones from the other side. So as we grieved on that day two weeks ago, she would quietly point and say, “He’s standing right in front of that tree. He keeps saying, ‘I’m free! I’m free!'”. She said he took his life because he felt like he didn’t belong. All these years trying to fit in, and he just didn’t belong. He was so confused, she said.

As a spiritual being having a human experience, I too have often felt like an alien in this life. This is a common feeling for those of us who identify with our spiritual side more than the human one.  But to feel that one also just can’t fit in with other humans — that must be hard. To stand quietly while others talk because you can’t think of what to say. To feel things deeply and not be able to express them. To be unable to engage or outwardly connect with people who you know and love. Ugh.

I pray for my Joseph, and for all our spectrum kids. May they make their way in this crazy world. May they find connection and authenticity. And, when it’s not working, may they seek help. As Ian’s sister said at his memorial service:

I wish you had not been so heroic with your burdens;
I would have carried more, much more and gladly.
It would have been an honor.
So I spit on stoicism today;
That chill perjurer who poses as a virtue.

Someone once told me that Satan loves it when we don’t ask for help. And I remember, at an OA meeting, the leader said that if you share your pain, you leave it there; but if you leave it unsaid, you take it with you.

May we have such a good relationship with our ASD kids, and all our kids, that they can share the good, the bad, and the agonizing. May we, as parents, have the ability to empathize, to hear and feel their pain, and not try to gloss it over or make it all better when it’s not. May our children feel heard. And loved. And worthwhile enough to choose life when facing the darkness.

Om. Peace. Amen.

Yesterday I bumped into a friend. It’s funny; I can’t say she is a close friend because I see her only rarely, and yet, when we do stop to catch up, there is no small talk. Instead we go immediately to the depths of our journeys, sharing the challenges, the growth, the roads we’re on now. What is a close friend if not that?

Janine watched her husband slowly and painfully lose his mind, his voice, his body, and finally, just over a year ago, his life. Now she and the kids are carving out new footholds, healing the raw aching places, and moving forward. As Janine says, that chapter of their lives is over now and it’s time to see what’s ahead instead of what was behind.

I think about that with Joseph. I remember how, after getting through four years of not sleeping, a year of enemas, intense years of medical and alternative treatments, we saw some great breakthroughs. A dear friend said, “The worst is over.” I didn’t believe her — but, from this vantage point years later, I think she was right. The worst appears to be over.

While Joseph took a shower tonight, I ran to the piano and started to play. He’s started lessons lately and it’s inspired me to play again, the piano being one of my great loves. But I knew I could only play for a short time because, in the past, Joseph would scream and yell bloody murder if I tried to play. This time he finished his shower without me knowing it. When eventually I stopped playing, he asked if I would please continue.

(Who are you? And what have you done with my son? On second thought, never mind. I’ll keep you instead.)

One of the things I’ve deeply grieved was that I wouldn’t be able to speak of spiritual things with a child who has autism. Au contraire! My son has declared himself to be a Christian Yogi, like his parents. He is earnestly and deeply interested in spirituality. Today, after months of his urging, I finally drove him to the Catholic church so that he could see inside it. While we were there, he asked if we could go for service to every church and temple in town, so that he could see what they were like. How can you say no to a request like that?

dressed upHe’s got a big crush on one of the girls in his class. With only a little encouragement from us, he’s decided to stop picking his nose, start washing his hair, and learn to cook and clean so he can be a more eligible husband. He is even dressing up for special occasions!

While the thought of his hopes being crushed stabs my heart, all I can do is encourage him to go for it. Joseph is full of surprises, so who knows what will come?

So here, in this new chapter of our lives, I let go of the terrors of the past and turn to experience this moment. Thich Nhat Hanh says, “All the elements for your happiness are already here. There is no need to run, strive, search, or struggle. Just be. Just being in the moment in this place is the deepest meditation.”

Big exhale.

Wherever you are in your journey, I wish you hope, trust, comfort and presence.

IFJoseph turned ten yesterday. He had a wonderful day and was greatly celebrated both at home and at school. This morning he came into our room in a grumpy mood. With deep feeling he said, “I want it to be my birthday again today!”

Wouldn’t it be nice to be greatly celebrated every day? In this spirit, I am working on seeing what’s good about the people in my life and acknowledging that to them. I have a friend who, when her husband comes home in the evening, says, “Thanks for going to work today.” A small thing, but a big small thing. I think about how I would feel if I got thanked for making the dinner or doing the dishes or just for who I am. I want to notice those things in others. There is, after all, so much good in people — in the world in general. If we have the eyes to see.

When Joseph was little, I used a Halloween analogy to explain God. You know how people dress up in all kinds of costumes on Halloween? I’d ask. Well, every day is Halloween to God. God dresses up like you and me and every single person in the world. God dresses up as light, as color, as sound, as plants, as animals. And the trick is to see God through those disguises, because s/he is right there!

When you gaze out at the ocean, Yogananda said, You will be looking directly at me, United with my Beloved on the altar of the horizon.

God even dresses up as autism. It’s not God’s best look, to my way of thinking, but nonetheless there He is. When I look beyond the veil of flapping and tantrums and lack of eye contact, I see Her. I don’t know why God chose this particular costume, but why not? God is, if nothing else, playful and mysterious.

The divine play, the yogis say. The lila. When we celebrate the lila and the many costumes of God, then we are able to see God behind the whole adventure.

Spirituality to me means having a joyous spirit. I don’t know about you, but I am at my most joyous when I remember who is throwing the party, and when I realize that we are all merely players in a play. Then I smile inside. Then I feel that Presence within, around, everywhere. And I celebrate.

There You Go Again

~ by Adyashanti

Ever since I stepped out of imagination
and into the heart of things
I have become so much less spiritual.

Heaven, hell and earth
hold no meaning for me anymore.
For I am neither coming
nor going, nor staying put.

All I do is notice all the various ways
that Light weaves itself into dreams.
When someone asks me who they are,
or what God is…
I smile inside and whisper to the Light:
There you go again… pretending…

Wishing you a day of celebration. Because wherever you go, and whatever you encounter, God is.

Do you ever just step back and admire the mind, with all its stories and games and tricks? All its envying and resistances and fears, all its ‘what-ifs’ and ‘why me’s’ and ‘oh no’s’?

I know I do. I mean, it never stops its play. Oh, maybe here and there, at a life highlight or an amazing meditation, but mostly the mind just goes on and on and on. And when you have a big thing like a child with autism, the mind gets tons of grist for its mill.

I have consciously tried not to blame my son for his autism. In something reminiscent of the Christian policy of loving the sinner but hating the sin, I have loved Joseph but I have hated autism. I have despised autism, cried over autism, obsessed about autism, resisted the fact of autism, worried relentlessly about autism, and cursed God because of autism.

It’s different now. This is because I recently heard a spiritual teacher, Gangaji, speak about the enemy. I am paraphrasing her here:

She says that the mind, in its restlessness, seeks out entertainment. Obviously there are many ways in which the mind is entertained, but she got specific, singling out how profoundly the mind is entertained by war.

This war, I assume, is not just nation against nation, but conflict within one’s own little world, or even with oneself. And in order to have a war, Gangaji says, the mind must first conjure up an enemy.

Since hearing this, I have been watching my mind conjure up enemies. They are everywhere! If I am running late, the red light is an enemy. If my husband snores when I have insomnia, he is the enemy. If one of my closest friends gets depressed and doesn’t contact me for a while, she is the enemy. Basically, anyone or anything who does what I don’t want them to do becomes an enemy.

Ooooh, enter autism. Autism is the club nobody wants to join. Raise your hand if you agree. Ok, don’t — I can’t see it anyway.

Here’s the thing: Gangaji goes on to say that when we’re truly ready for peace, we stop conjuring up enemies. There simply IS no enemy anymore.

It’s really quite simple. We are either resisting, or we’re not. ~ John Astin

Don’t hold me to it ‘cuz I may change my mind (literally), but right now I am choosing peace around autism. Autism is not the enemy. Even God — the one I blame when all else fails — is not the enemy. Autism just is, and I am not going into war over it. I will do all I can to help Joseph realize his full potential, but that, too, can be done peacefully, without fear or worry or even urgency.

When that resistance stops — and when I stop being in a war even with the war — then there is peace. Gangaji defines peace as the absence of entertainment.

It’s a nice place. I watch the attachment to this nice place come up and I smile: There is the mind again. Now it wants to make being anywhere but in this nice place an enemy.

Wishing you presence, awareness, and the ability to witness — rather than believe — the mind in its playing.

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Two days ago, Joseph and I were headed for the grocery store when he asked if we could buy him a Lunchable for the first day of school.

For those of you blissfully unaware of what a Lunchable is, suffice it to say that it is a pre-packaged, highly-processed container of “food.” Lunchables keep our children slim, healthy, and on top of their game — NOT. But they are really tasty and they include a sugary treat, so of course kids love them.

Joseph’s been feeling nervous about school, so I thought, What the heck. At least he’ll have something about his first day to look forward to. And I told him yes.

We get out of the car and walk through the parking lot. Suddenly Joseph looks at me, smiles a wicked smile, sticks his hand down his shorts and grabs his you-know-what.

This is his thing lately: Act in inappropriate ways in public for the fun of it, and also because it pushes Mom’s buttons.

So I give him a consequence. I tell him we’re not buying the Lunchable.

He is immediately reduced to tears. Can’t it be his last warning? (No — I’ve done way too many of those.) Can he have another chance the next time we go to the store? (Yes — but it doesn’t help his upset.)

Oooohhh he is upset. If I weren’t totally determined to buy my 5-lb bags of carrots for my morning juice, which I am completely out of, I would turn around and go right back to the car. As it is, I decide to drag my totally messed-up autistic kid through the store with me.

Joseph cries. He moans. He buries his head into the crook of my arm, which is where it stays for the duration of the shopping trip. Everybody looks, of course. I grab the carrots, mentally dropping all the other items on the shopping list. I drag him, sobbing and groaning, into line. Naturally, the lines are very long, but a kind woman standing at the next register comes over and asks if I want to go in front of her. Whoever you are, caring woman, may you feel the repercussions of your kindness every day for the rest of your life.

We make it to the car, carrots and all. I put on my sunglasses, start the car, and cry as I drive home. It never gets easy having a child on the spectrum.

A big part of it, I think, is that I am used to being successful. I pick an undertaking, or it comes my way. I give it a lot of thought, prayer, time and energy, and it almost always comes out well. I am good at manifesting. I am good at relationships. I am successful at generating money. I am a great yoga teacher. I am just plain good at stuff.

But I am not successful at turning my child into a normie. I have given Joseph more time, energy, thought, and prayer than everything else combined and still he is not who I want him to be.

Ha ha! Isn’t it great?!! It’s just what the yogis say: Give something your full energy and then let go of the outcome.

And it’s also just what the Buddhists say: The mind loves to compare. “This is not as good as other parents have it.” “Why does my kid have to be so different from other kids?” The comparing mind hates to come up short against anyone else. Hates it.

I get sucked into the darkness, but eventually I remember what to do. Up my meditation time so that I can calm that comparing mind and re-identify with my (and Joseph’s — and your) true nature. Add in some juicy prayer time where I can deeply let go and let God. Bring in more yoga postures, because they bliss me out. Spend time with good friends so that I can laugh and enjoy myself. And stop doing Facebook for a while.

I get in trouble when I do too much Facebook — FB, to its close friends. The comparing mind really jumps in. Photos of happy kids on happy trips with other happy kids. Posts about children who say and do amazing things. Awards the children win for being so normal and nice and good at stuff. And, of course, all the happy parents, as well.

Attachment to outcomes and a comparing mind are misery-making. Trust me, I know. So just for today, I stay in the present and allow life to be what it is.

Just for today, I tuck into my heart the words of John Milton from Paradise Lost:
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heaven of Hell, a hell of Heaven.

* *

Update: In this morning’s meditation, the first lines of the 23rd psalm came to mind. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. I’ve always thought “I shall not want” was a reassurance, but perhaps it’s not! Maybe it’s a commandment. Reign in our desires; be content with what we have. The Lord is our shepherd, and so there is no reason to want for anything else.

This is the kind of thing that meditation brings up, and it is the reason I love spiritual practice! Wishing you (and me) a glorious day of not wanting.

Blue Eyes talks about a period in his life where his neck would go into terrible spasms — so badly that it would make him lose consciousness. He went to the hospital, where they ran him through a myriad of tests, but they couldn’t find anything wrong. The doctor finally told him that it was, simply, stress. Massive stress.

“Stress?” Blue Eyes looked at the doctor in surprise. “I’m not under any stress!”

But as he went home he started to look at his life. A very sensitive young man, Blue Eyes was far from home, working with a really rough crowd of guys. He didn’t fit in and he couldn’t fit in, but he felt stuck in the situation. Yes, he had to admit to himself, he was stressed. Massively stressed.

This is how I felt after my first appointment with Sheri, the therapist, last week. “Stressed? But I’m not under any stress!”

With Sheri’s guidance, I looked at my life. If I’m not with Joseph, I’m almost always doing something “useful.” I work or I go to meditation or I attend a spiritually-oriented class. Even my weekly date nights with Blue Eyes consist of going to meditation. Which is great, but there’s got to be a balance there somewhere. Or so I’m told.

With Sheri’s encouragement — really, almost at her insistence — I spoke with Blue Eyes about an upcoming “date” to go to a spiritual class. Our amazing respite worker, Karen, agreed to come earlier than planned, I picked up Blue Eyes at his work, and we spent a whole afternoon and evening at the river. Our area has the MOST beautiful river, so clean and healing and nurturing. We swam and we napped and we read and we talked. As the sun began to set we hiked out, feeling alive and grateful and fed.

I have been seeing Joseph as a problem, a nuisance. The problem here, I believe, is that I haven’t had a big enough vision about my child. After all, I didn’t have a kid in order for him to win popularity contests or get straight A’s. I had a kid, and I think God gave me this kid, in order to for him to go out and make a positive difference in this world.

Kahlil Gibran says:

imagesYou are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

* * *

My job: To let God bend me with gladness. To shoot the arrow straight, swift and far. Straight to God’s purpose, whatever that may be. Probably something in “the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams,” (Kahlil Gibran).

Mom and JosephJoseph’s future is not even my business. My business is to focus on bending (and part of the bending, happily, seems to be having more fun!) and becoming a straight-shooter. My dear little arrow is already fearfully and wonderfully made, and it is tremendously egotistical to think that his development is all on me.

In truth, Joseph already makes a positive difference in this world. People who interact with him are touched, impacted by his sweetness and caring and humor. For many, he is the first person with autism who can engage quite well with them.

So maybe I can relax and realize that the arrow is already going straight. These kids are God’s own, just like all of us, and so I give mine back to God.

Which, of course, is where he is anyway.

Relax — this is not a post espousing Christine doctrines; Yoga Mother is not the type to do that. This is about a more personal kind of crucifixion.

This past weekend was  a very interesting one for our family. We rent out the small cottage on our property as a vacation rental. Usually people come, enjoy whatever they’re here for, and go. Sometimes we meet them and exchange a few words; often we don’t.

This time it was completely different. A man named Eban got lost finding our place, gave up, and then crashed his car heading somewhere else. Blue Eyes picked him up to bring him here and, from that moment on, he was part of our lives. A man in his late sixties, he needed to be driven here and there; he needed emotional support dealing with the car; he came over for meals.

During all this, we talked. He is a psychotherapist and had some really valuable things to say about the autism in our lives.

crucifixion-altarpiece-detail.jpg!BlogIt is a crucifixion, he said: The ego is getting crucified. What is the ego? I’ve heard it defined as the part of us that says, “Yeah, but.”

Yeah, but I didn’t sign up for autism.
Yeah, but everyone else has it so much easier.
Yeah, but I don’t WANT it to be this way.
Yeah, but…(What’s yours?)

Terese and I took our boys to the playground yesterday. Her autistic son scared a little boy by going down the slide right after him, basically pushing him down. His mom rushed over, picked up her son to hug and comfort him, and then took her kids to the lower playground to get away from us. Eventually we went there too, and again Terese’s boy disturbed the younger one. The mom threw Teresa a really dirty look, gathered her kids, and left.

And so another nail got hammered through Terese’s hand. Another sword punctured her side.

Yeah, but I’m a good mother. It’s not my fault my kid acts like that. Why are people so judgmental?

Eban says that it’s all about vulnerability. Look at Jesus, he said: A great master with all the powers in the world, he nonetheless made himself completely vulnerable.

“Yeah, but look where that got him,” I answered (notice my yeah, but).

“Ah, and look what happened after that!” he responded.

The resurrection.

It hurts, this thing called autism. This man who magically appeared in our lives says to let it hurt; to be vulnerable enough to open to the pain. In this way, he says, we can be molded. In the suffering, he says, there is grace. Find the grace.

I don’t claim that autism has the monopoly on crucifixions. Most of us have the so-called grace of something that crucifies our egos! Mine happens to be autism.

And so I wish us vulnerability. I wish us trust that God loves us so much, and knows us so dearly, that S/He gave us our particular crucifixion. I wish us freedom from false identifications (another definition of the ego: The soul identified with the body/mind) so that we resurrect in our full glory as unlimited beings, as children of the light. May we truly know that we are spiritual beings having a human experience.

May we open in surrender.

Into Thy hands, oh Lord, do I commend my spirit.

I am reading a great book , a true story called Dying to be Me. To make a lovely long story extremely short, this woman had a near-death experience (NDE). One of her insights there was this:

I understood that I owed it to myself, to everyone I met, and to life itself to always be an expression of my own unique essence…Being inauthentic also deprives the universe of who I came here to be and what I came here to express.

She writes about the ultimate perfection of everything. She was given a choice: If she chose to die, for instance, her husband would soon follow her, and that would be perfect! On the other hand, if she chose to go back, she and her husband would work together on their passion, and that too would be perfect!

I look at Joseph and I wonder about the perfection of his autism…and the perfection of being his mother. This week has not felt like perfection. Blue Eyes just started a new building job and has been absent until bedtime, school has been doing STAR testing so the routine’s been totally different, and the teachers are trying to make up for it by plying their students with wheat and sugar. In other words, I’ve been single-mothering an off-balance, artificially hyped-up kid who, this week, melts down regularly and can hardly put two sentences together in a coherent fashion.

In meditative fashion, there is the part of me who objectively watches myself fall apart. “Huh! Interesting!” It observes. “She can’t keep it together even though she knows it’s not for real — even though she’s practiced for years staying calm on the inside no matter what’s going on externally.”

The other part of me, hooked-in emotionally, despairs for today and tomorrow. Not only tomorrow tomorrow, where he probably will once again wake up way too early and I won’t get my meditation time and he will be tired and crabby and a royal pain in the butt. I refer also to the other tomorrow: you know, fellow autism parents — the one where your grown-up autistic kid is alone, isolated, lonely, impoverished, homeless, and terribly mistreated by his/her fellow man. Yeah, that tomorrow.

Not my idea of ultimate perfection.

Anita Moorjani, the author of Dying to be Me, was living a life consumed by fear when she got cancer. After four years of fear and struggle she succumbs to death, where her “deceased” father and “deceased” best friend tell her to go back and live her life fearlessly.

I have wondered about people who have amazing NDEs: Do they ever have a bad day afterward? Anita says she has times where she feels disconnected:

When we live completely from the mind over a period of time, we lose touch with the infinite self, and then we begin to feel lost. This happens when we’re in doing mode all the time, rather than being. The latter means living from the soul and is a state of allowing. It means letting ourselves be who and what we are without judgment. Being…means that our actions stem from following our emotions and feelings while staying present in the moment.

Oh yeah. I can stop and just breathe for a moment. I tell my yoga students that one of the great things about the breath is that it’s always present — so, the moment you tune into it, you too are present. That gets you out of your crazy mind for a blessed moment, which can create a gateway into more moments of realizing our connection with the Universe — and, oh yes, even the ultimate perfection of it all.

Ram Dass talks about how we are all sandpaper for each other, smoothing out each other’s rough edges. Well, this week Joseph has been one hell of a sandpaper for me, and having my rough edges worked on has not been comfortable.

But those who get more than a glimpse of the other side come back and tell us to get out of the comfort zone. Live your life fearlessly! They say. Be totally authentic! Know that you are deeply loved and cherished, simply because you are you!

Breathing this in. Somewhere in my soul I know this is the truth. I know my son is just perfect and so is this life of mine, which gives me endless opportunities to practice profound teachings in the cold light of day.

Endless opportunities to open to the perfection of this moment. Endless opportunities to let go of fear and embrace the gift instead. To go forward in faith and security, loving and feeling loved.

Amen.

 

When Joseph got his autism diagnosis at the age of two, they might as well have diagnosed me with anxiety at the same time. Anxiety has become such a habit for me that I now have what I call an anxiety slot. It seems that this anxiety slot needs to always have something in it, so if Joseph’s situation isn’t making me anxious, my mind easily puts something else in the slot.

But the spiritual path is a path of increasing awareness. The call is to look intently into the mirror of one’s consciousness and not shy away from the blemishes. So, yes, I have developed the habit of anxiety. And now it seems like the time to work on it. I can see my new yoga series: Yoga for Anxiety. It’d be a big hit, don’t you think?

That  being said, we are experiencing some wonderful breakthroughs with Joseph! Blue Eyes took him to New Zealand (Blue Eyes’ native land) for two weeks in October, and I stayed home. Joseph came back with a deeper bond with his father,  a new openness for adventure, and an appreciation for his extended family.

374567_10151146801606586_881625458_nThis was great, coming on the heels of Thanksgiving, where we recently gathered at my brother’s house with about thirty of his American relatives. Joseph was excited to go — amazing in itself, given that he’s dreaded past gatherings. And he had fun!

Joseph needed the constant scaffolding of being with Blue Eyes or me, but our RDI Consultant assures us that many of his kids would be happy wandering about in their own world, not needing anyone. So this was a good thing. Joseph’s need for us included emotional comfort and perspective-borrowing —  a wonderful thing for a child with autism to look for from people!

It was interesting to look at the impact Joseph makes on my larger family. He reaches into people’s hearts and,  simply by his very being, he helps them to open. He’s been doing that to me for years. There’s something so special about connecting with an autistic child.

Blue Eyes and JosephBack on the home front, Joseph’s figured out a way to tease Blue Eyes so that he gets chased all over the house. Once he is caught, he is tickled. This can go on for hours. Joseph can’t wait for Blue Eyes to get home in the evenings so that they can play this game. In the past, Blue Eyes has been pretty much ignored, and now Blue Eyes says it’s actually fun to come home from work.

The happiness in our house is palatable. Wow.

Connections have been happening, more than ever. I love shared things! Shared smiles. Shared emotions. Shared conversations. Shared snuggles. Precious, precious times.

I have been wondering what the flip side of anxiety is. Contentment? Faith? Trust? Surrender?

For me, in this journey with Joseph, it seems to be hope. I used to hope for recovery, and then I shut down around that and stopped hoping pretty much altogether.

Now I want to cultivate hope again. I hope for continued intimacy, continued growth, and continued breakthroughs.

It’s been said that many of the great achievements of the world were accomplished by tired, discouraged — and, may I add, anxious — people who kept on working. That is a really good adage for us autism parents.

The thing about hope is that it’s a risk. To hope is to risk pain. But to live a life fully open and fully lived, we must risk. We must hope. We must continue on.

And every now and then we get some sweet, blessed, blessed encouragement. Yea.

Wishing you strength, courage, and hope on your journey.

Joseph came home from school today and marched right upstairs to his room. “Do NOT come into my room, Mom!” he instructed me — several times over the next hour. I could hear him in there playing with his trains, which we hadn’t gotten around to putting away Sunday evening. Toy trains, being something of an obsession, are usually restricted items, so naturally it was exciting to Joseph to enjoy some forbidden fruit.

When an autistic child tells you to leave them alone, it can produce a perplexing amount of emotions. I went back to the educators who came to our house for a first look at Joseph at age two, when we initially suspected autism. When they left, they instructed us to stay in his face — to not allow him to retreat into his own world. No private time, they told us. And I remembered how Temple Grandin’s mother would let her stim (in this case, I believe it was flap her hands) for only half an hour after school before hauling her out and putting her to work, learning and interacting.

I am an introvert. How I prize my alone time, my quiet time. If I don’t get it for a while, I have a melt-down; I really do. I believe that Joseph has at least the same need  for space — if not more.

This was one of those times when I wanted the manual. You know the one: It’s entitled How to Work with your Autistic Child for Their Maximum Benefit.

Joseph’s gone in and out of train obsession since he was two. It used to freak me out, as it was all he’d think about, talk about, watch on video, and play with. That’s why we ended up restricting toy train time.

This time it’s slightly different. Though he’s thinking about trains and talking about them a lot, he’s engaged in other parts of life, as well. He’s goofing around with our dog and he’s wanting to go swimming and he’s excited about an upcoming vacation.

Still, trains rule all as his Number One Love.

We have a friend, a guy in his 50s, who loves trains like that. He had an extra room built on his house which he filled with model train tracks and trains. On weekends his buddies come over and they run trains together. He goes to train shows and train exhibits. His wife comes along sometimes; she thinks it’s funny.

Joseph will be like this man. There is just something about trains that he adores. It will be a lifelong passion. It’s not the way I choose to spend my life,  but it is his life, not mine. I can live with that.

Joseph is not figure-outable right now. In some ways he seems to be regressing: train obsession, more jerky movements than usual, more flapping. In other ways he seems to be progressing: finally enjoying board games, understanding his math, conversing a little better. Maybe this is a healing regression. Maybe not. I’m tired of trying to figure it out.

I don’t have the manual, so I think I’ll just release it and leave God’s business to God.

I’m even going to give myself some slack for not hauling Joseph out of his room and making him interact with me this afternoon. Sometimes you’ve got to put aside the (imagined) manual and go with your gut. My gut said, leave him be — though I did have him put away the trains this evening.

When you have a kid with autism, you can drive yourself crazy really easily. I never should have taken him to that noisy concert when he was a baby; I should have had him diagnosed earlier; I shouldn’t have done vaccinations; I should never let him have too much alone time.

But there is no manual, and much of Joseph’s, and perhaps anyone’s, autism is simply not figure-outable. Because of this, I try hard not to should on myself. Part of the divine perfection of this journey is that I’m learning to release things more easily rather than to flog myself with them repeatedly.

All this to say, Joseph and I had a lovely, quiet afternoon. We came together at times but also spent a lot of time apart doing our own thing.

And God said, It was good.

Or, at the very least, I did.

🙂

Our church had a fun bounce house set up for the kids this past Sunday. Us parents chatted as we watched our kids leap and tumble about. Blue Eyes and I got into a conversation with a man who told us that he had five kids: four girls and one boy.

“What I didn’t know about girls,” he said, “is that they cry so much!” I assured him that it never really stops, and we smiled together. Then he pointed out some of his girls, one of whom was standing at the entrance to the bounce house — sobbing her little eyes out. Blue Eyes patted him on the shoulder and said, “Sainthood is just around the corner for you, mate!”

I loved this man’s response.

He said, “Not me. I’m just broken all the way through.”

I’ve thought about this broken-all-the-way-through concept ever since. I mean, really, what is a saint but someone who is broken all the way through? Saints are known for their humility, for their understanding that they are not the doer. At the same time, this brokenness, this submission, allows the light to shine — bright and unhindered — right through them.

Look at Mother Theresa. As the “saint of the gutter,” she often performed the lowest of tasks. She couldn’t have done that if she wasn’t broken all the way through. Yet she could be fierce when necessary. She was one tough lady on a mission from God.

The way I see it, God breaks us in order to use us more completely. That’s why Mother Theresa, while being completely humble, was a force to be reckoned with.

Here’s one of the great things about having an autistic child: it breaks us. Not just once either, as it would if some horrific event occurred and then was over. It’s a daily, hourly, sometimes moment-by-moment breakage.

Just for a moment, imagine you’re in your soul-body looking at what you’d like to learn in your coming lifetime. Maybe it’s major doses of humility, surrender, and openness. But how to accomplish such amazing gains in one short lifetime?

“I’ve got an idea!” your guide says. “How about you have a child who relentlessly challenges you and requires constant looking after. A child who may always be a child, no matter how old s/he gets. A child who doesn’t understand social norms and so embarrasses you in public many times over. Can you imagine how much that would teach you?”

“Yeah, baby!” your soul-self says. “That’s what I’m talking about! ” And into this life you leap.

As hard as it is having this very different kid, my soul self is content. The desperate clawing — the wishing, hoping and praying that the situation was otherwise — marinates slowly with the balm of acceptance and surrender. Daily I am more broken and, when I am in the God Zone, I feel my heart getting more peaceful because of it.

Hinduism has a trinity God-head: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Brahma is the creator of all of life. Vishnu preserves it, and Shiva? Well, Shiva is the destroyer.

You may ask, what is a destroyer — a God of death and destruction — doing among the top three Gods? Lord Shiva, you see, destroys all that is false within us. He destroys particularly the ego, which includes delusions, desires and attachments.

The energy of destruction associated with Lord Shiva has great purifying power. Destruction opens the path for a new creation, a new opportunity for beauty and truth.

So hip hip hooray for our autistic children who, by breaking us all the way through, destroy our false desires and illusions.

May we remember, now and then at least, that Lord Shiva’s dance of death and destruction represents the most essential goodness. May we remember, now and then, that powerful things are happening within us because of our journeys.

Lastly, may we open and surrender to that power of good — so that, as saints in the making, it may flow through us ever more freely.

Blessings.

I was an est-hole early in life. My dad, who was a seeker back when seeker-dom was not trendy, entered me in the est training when I was 11 years old. While studying self-growth at a young age had its good points and bad points, one of the things I learned there has recently become relevant in my relationship with Joseph.

It’s the but-and difference.

I might say, for instance, that I’d like to be with my husband but I want alone time. In this case, one point negates the other. I can’t be with Blue Eyes because I’m choosing to be alone instead.

In other words, it’s either-or. Either I’m with Blue Eyes or I’m alone.

On the other hand, I could say that I’d like to be with my husband and I want alone time. This doesn’t kill off one option in favor of another; rather it holds both options as happening in the realm of possibility.

This is not either-or; this is both-and. I get to be with Blue Eyes and I get alone time.

Enter Joseph. It has recently occurred to me what a great kid he is. He woke up around 6:30 the other morning and, when I came in to rouse him at 7, he was busy with blocks. “I’m building, Mom! See my school? This is room 3.” Yesterday I came to pick him up from school. We started walking toward the car when Joseph said, “Hey! Where’s my hug?” and gave me a big embrace. Warms the heart, that one. 😉

He’s a great kid, he really is. Funny and smart and goofy and loving. It used to be that all this was negated, in my mind, by the autism diagnosis. He converses pretty well, but he flaps his hands. He gets along in a mainstream classroom, but he chews.

And the overall perspective: He’s a great kid, but he has autism.

Truly, this is how I’ve viewed my son. Everything else he is got cancelled out because of autism. Ugh. If I was into guilt, I could think about how my limited outlook has shaped my child, but I’ll try not to go there.

Here’s my new point of view:

Joseph is a great kid. And he has autism.

Yes, both these things are in the realm of possibility. They can, and are, happening concurrently. I have a really great kid who also has autism.

I love this! It’s a subtle shift, but often those subtle shifts are the ones that shape our subconscious and the very way we see, and interact with, the world. If the Universe is always and only ready, then my seeing Joseph differently  allows the Universe to give me the evidence I am now looking for.

And I do see it. More and more I see this amazing child who I get to hang out with.

All my life I’ve been attracted to people who are different. Scheming to sit next to the tiny midget on the bus so that I could strike up a conversation with her. Bringing home a transient so that I could get a glimpse of his life. Reading anything I could find about people who are blind. Covertly watching deaf people converse. Traveling to foreign lands to soak in other cultures. Making friends with people from other countries. Marrying an alien (Blue Eye’s official legal title).

In my mind, different is good. Different is interesting. Different offers us interesting new perspectives on life.

Except for my own child. His difference has been a bad thing, a disastrous thing. Something that’s devastated our lives.

Byron Katie would ask, Who would you be without that thought?

Peaceful. Happy. Content.

I will strive always to help Joseph improve himself, just as I strive to improve myself. But in life, if we are wise, we learn to foster our strengths and manage our weaknesses. This is what I do, and this is what I will endeavor to help him do.

It’s not all over because my kid has autism.

I have a great kid, and he has autism.

Both. And.

Joseph is really into the movie Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. He insists someone watch it with him, so  he and I have watched it about half a dozen times in the last few weeks. And I still like it…mostly.

The last time I watched it, I was struck by the relevance of the Mirror of Erised. According to Professor Dumbledore, when you look into this mirror you see the “deepest and most desperate desire of one’s heart.” Thus Harry looks into the mirror and sees his long-dead parents alive and well, smiling and nodding affectionately at him.

As I watched the movie I wondered what I would see if I were to look into this mirror. In a flash I knew the answer: Me having a long, back-and-forth conversation with Joseph about some meaningful topic. Life lessons we’ve learned, observations we’ve made, the condition of the world, the existence of God — any of those will do, as long as we are engaging with each other in a deep, powerful way.

As I continue to look into the Mirror of Erised, I see that this conversation is with a neurotypical Joseph. Not one trace of autism in him.  Joseph is really listening, reflecting deeply, sharing back from his heart.

I want that mental/emotional connection with him so badly. He is snuggly and cuddly, so I get the physical engagement (and am well aware that many autism parents don’t), so I get lonely for mental/emotional. It’s definitely the deepest, and most desperate, desire of my heart.

But I know it won’t work to spend my life staring into the Mirror of Erised. Harry finds this out too, after he spends the better part of two days gazing into the mirror. Then the wise Dumbledore comes and tells Harry that people have gone mad in front of that mirror, not knowing if what they have seen is real, or even possible.

It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live. Remember that,” he says.

I think that all of us have a deep ache or two, something we’d see healed if we looked into the Mirror of Erised. Perhaps that’s just part of driving around in human bodies on this planet. The human condition, if you will.

I was fortunate to spend this past weekend with my brother, Aaron. We are both hovering around the half-century mark — me just above it, him just below it — and dealing with bodies that are more painful than they used to be. Aaron’s got a great solution: instead of popping more Ibuprofen to block the aches and pains, he’s focusing on increasing his pain threshold.

According to Wikipedia, and I quote: The threshold of pain is the point at which pain begins to be felt. It is an entirely subjective phenomenon.

Entirely subjective. Hmmmmm. I’ve read that there can be two people with the exact same spinal injury (bulging disks, that sort of thing). One of them is in extreme pain and the other doesn’t even feel it.

Sounds like maybe we can change our perception of pain — do ya think? Let’s extrapolate a little further.

If we can change our physical threshold of pain,why not our emotional one? Why not raise our consciousness and be bigger than our emotional aches? I’m not talking about suppressing or denying our emotional sorrows. I’m talking about acknowledging them without identifying with them or giving them too much energy and attention.

If we’re living bravely, after all, we can see that these sorrows are a part of life. They deepen us and open us and stretch us in ways that we wouldn’t previously have thought possible. So we could possibly,  theoretically, welcome them. Embrace them. And still know that, while our sorrows are a part of us, who we are is more than them alone.

Dean Acheson said, “I learned from the example of my father that the manner in which one endures what must be endured is more important than the thing that must be endured.”

I choose not to spend my life looking into a mirror of dreams. I choose to be courageous, to increase my ability to endure what must be endured, and to do so in a manner of trust and openness.

It’s the way of the spiritual warrior, it’s the way to inner peace, and it’s the way I want to live.

It isn’t easy, but the best things rarely are. I won’t be perfect at it, but I’ll continue to practice. One day at a time. Today I am practicing courage. Endurance. Inner strength. Acceptance. Trust.

It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live. Remember that.