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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.

 

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.