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Monica Pickard spent twenty years of her adult life as a child care provider. During that time, with the help of her husband, she raised her son who has been diagnosed with Autism and Developmental Delay. She learned to navigate a world that was new to her – the world of Special Needs. She now shares these experiences and the wisdom they taught her, with love and heartfelt compassion for the human condition.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Gifts That Matter: Letting Go, Finding Peace

My last blog post on forgiveness brought back many memories for me and it got me thinking about how I was able to forgive myself and other people in my life.  Not only did I begin to understand the cause of my and other’s behavior, I eventually had to let the past go. 

For years, I waited for peace to happen outside of me. I waited for Josh to start communicating. I waited for him to get better at putting his clothes on, brushing his teeth, picking up his room, the list goes on and on. I would still be waiting if I had not accepted reality and released the control I was trying to have over him. All of these things were outside of my control, but still I tried and tried to help him, trying to get him to do things he was not ready to do and trying to make it happen on my timetable. I was making myself miserable with the stories my ego devil told me.

When he can get himself ready in the morning life will get easier. You will have peace then.
When he can brush his own teeth more thoroughly you will have peace then.
When he can care for himself better you won’t have to worry about his future. You will have peace then.
When he can tell you about the things he wants and needs you will have peace then.
Strangers might abuse him someday because they have to help him with his hygiene. You will never have peace if he does not do this for himself.

These thoughts and feelings caused me to behave in ways I am not proud of. I was negative towards people at times because I was in pain internally. I was trying to control people in my life. I was miserable and thought that I could find peace and happiness by manipulating others. At the time, I was not aware that is what I was doing. My ego was not speaking to me through reality. It was speaking to me through an inner world that is not of reality. It was a made up world. I saw examples on TV of disabled people being abused in group homes because they could not care for or protect themselves and I convinced myself that Joshua’s future was at stake. In other relationships, I thought I knew best how others should live and I felt threatened, emotionally, by some of their behaviors. I convinced myself that if they would do certain things and not do certain other things my life would be perfect. My inner world was miserable much of the time. I fell into depression and did not even know it.

“Your eyes become adjusted to the level of deficiency present.” 
~ Iyanla Vanzant

This quote refers to a story Iyanla Vanzant told an audience about taking her grandson to the eye doctor. It was one of those places where you can get two exams and two pairs of glasses for one low price. She decided to get her eyes checked and buy a pair for herself, even though she did not think she needed it, simply because it would not cost her anymore due to the sale. It turned out she did need corrective lenses. Her eyes had adjusted to the level of deficiency present. She went on to explain that this is what happens in life. In our relationships we adjust to dysfunction, in our minds we adjust to our negative internal dialogue and this causes us to adjust to feeling depressed to the point we do not even register it anymore.

In my life, everything seemed fine on the surface, but I was so miserable all of the time that I could not see it. It felt normal. I felt normal because I had felt that way for so long that I forgot what true happiness felt like. The happiness I felt as a kid without a care in the world was no longer there, but I did not notice. Brief periods of joy were not enough to remind me. When I had a disagreement with someone I found myself arguing with that person in my mind. The person was not there, but I was fighting with them. I thought this was normal! My fight with them had no effect on them at all, but it did have an effect on me and on Joshua. It clouded everything in negativity.

Coming to these realizations has caused me to drop my agenda for other people. The only agenda I need to be concerned with is the agenda for MY life. My life is the only one I can live. Everyone else gets to live their own, including my son. I have found that a certain level of control is necessary when raising my child and in being his legal guardian, due to his disabilities, but I do not have to hold on with white knuckles to every issue. I have also found that in my relationships with others I do not get to choose for them – at all – and my manipulation only harms us both. 

“Ego, E – G – O, could stand for Edging God Out.”
“Let go and let God.” 
~ Dr. Wayne Dyer

Our family members have issues they are dealing with and they are on their own journey in life. We cannot make their choices and we cannot control their life no matter how much we want to. They must make their own mistakes so they can learn their own lessons and grow in their own consciousness. We must do as Wayne Dyer says – stop edging God out by trying to control others and let go so that God can guide our loved ones just as we are being guided. Our gift of accepting others as they are and letting them live their own lives is where we find our peace. It will eventually lead them to peace because it frees them to make mistakes and learn from the consequences. This does not mean you have to like their choices or even the people they become, but you must recognize that you cannot, should not even try to change them or allow yourself to enable them. You may offer advice and suggestions, but then you must release your attachment to the outcome of their choices. You must make your own choices to stay in the relationship or move on and you must not allow them to manipulate you or control the way you want to live your life. You must live your life for you and allow them to live their life. It may be painful to watch them suffer through their choices, but they cannot grow if we keep interfering.

Part of our own growth comes from understanding that our personalities will not love everyone's personality or the decisions they make. That is okay as long as we recognize and love the spirit within the person. We must recognize ourselves in them because ONLY the personalities are different, ONLY the wrapping is different, ONLY the things of this world are different. Our spirits are one and the same. Compassion for the growth of each person gives us the ability to let go of control, releasing our hold on them. We are now able to foster growth in them and in us because we recognize that each person is in charge of their own life and the only choice we can make is to love them and ourselves through it.

Having acceptance and letting go is our way to peace. Now that I have learned these lessons I have begun to accept any outcome before it even occurs. I still have feelings about it, but I know where the feelings come from and I release them because peace means more to me than anything.

May you have a peaceful and joyous Christmas and New Year!

I have a Facebook page called Love Button Worthy! It features photos, blogs, quotes, and other content full of positivity and inspiration. Click here to check it out. Please like the page if it suits you and don’t forget to invite your friends to like it, too.  

Check out my recommended reading list below the menu. I hope this blog helps you to create a more peaceful life. Keep in touch by the following methods: Use the links under the archive menu to subscribe or follow by e-mail. Help me get this message out by sharing it with your friends on social media! If you enjoyed it and were helped by it, they will, too! Comment by using the comment link below or write to me with your comments and questions at mindchange4all@gmail.com  I look forward to hearing from you!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Gifts That Matter: Forgiveness

“When you know better, you do better.” 
~ Maya Angelou

When Josh was born I did not have what it took to be a good mother to any child, let alone a child with disabilities. I was self-centered, egotistical, inadequate and walking through life unconsciously. I made mistake after mistake with him. I scolded him thinking it would motivate him, but it only made things worse. I had stories in my head about his future and how he might be treated if he did not learn certain skills. Honestly, there were times when I was overwhelmed and angry with our situation. I was drowning in negativity exposing him and everyone around me to it. It impacted his life in a profound way, in that I made the decision not to have another child because I was in such a negative place. I feared I would favor him over another child, or another child over him. Because of my thinking, he will never have a sibling to watch after him when I am gone. 

My little Santa, Christmas 1989

Always wanting the best for him, I had the best of intentions, but parenting him in negativity all those years is something I have to forgive myself for. I can honestly say I did my best, but now I know better and must do better, consciously. In the opening quote, Maya Angelou is not speaking of knowing right from wrong. Sometimes my reactions to events and situations felt wrong, but my mentality, my ego and the stories I came up with justified my behavior. There may times in your life when you know the right thing to do, but you choose wrong because of your emotions. We all have done it.

Maya Angelou is speaking of consciousness; being aware of our true self as opposed to our false self – the ego. Once I learned about the ego’s control, my attitude and my behavior changed. I no longer allow the stories to control my actions. I know I have a choice to stop the stories and to choose my reactions. I know that my reactions create my world and that what I do affects Joshua and both of our futures in ways I can’t imagine. Now I choose, consciously, every word and every action where he is concerned. I know my stories are not true and I know that things are exactly as they should be. I now have compassion for the unconscious person I used to be and I forgive myself.

It is this quote that made me understand forgiveness:

“Even if blame seems justified, as long as you blame others you remain trapped in your ego. There is only one perpetrator of evil on the planet: human consciousness. That realization is true forgiveness. With forgiveness, your victim identity dissolves, and your true power emerges – the power of presence. Instead of blaming the darkness, you bring in the light.” 
~ Eckhart Tolle

The gift of forgiveness will change your life if you understand the truth of what it means to forgive. True forgiveness is not what we typically think. It is not about letting the person off the hook. It is not about what they did or didn’t do, said or didn’t say that hurt you. It is not about letting them into your life to hurt you again. It is not about acting like what they did was okay.

It is about understanding why they did what they did – not in a details sense because the details don’t matter. It is about understanding their humanness, their egotistical ways, and realizing that we all behave in the same way – in varying degrees, of course – but the bottom line is that we have all been stuck in our ego at some point. It is about understanding that what they did has nothing to do with you. Yes, you read that correctly – IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU. It only feels like it’s about you, but it’s not.

Think about it this way: When you take an action, who is taking the action? (That would be you.) Who is making the choice to take the action? (You again!) Where does the choice come from? (Your own mind.) What do you tell yourself to justify the action? It is your story, not the other person’s story. You can blame them all you want, but it comes from your own mind, your own story. It is the same for everyone else. You have no control of their actions, which is why it has nothing to do with you, and they have no control of your actions, which is why your actions have nothing to do with them. Knowing this, understanding this is the key to forgiving anything.

“Good men melt with compassion even for one who has wrought them harm.” ~ Buddhism

The Buddhists know that when someone brings harm upon them, that person is suffering. People don’t cause harm when they are happy. People only cause harm when they are hurting. You can forgive when you can see the humanity and the pain in the wrong-doer. Recognizing the humanity, the ego that is in them and you, you will understand there is really nothing to forgive. That is grace.

The gift of forgiveness does not mean you have to keep someone in your life. Forgiveness has nothing to do with the other person. They don’t have to know you have forgiven them. Forgiveness is not about trying to convince yourself that what they did or said was okay because it was not okay and never will be okay. It is not about letting go of revenge. Karma will handle it. Forgiveness is about accepting that it happened and releasing your negativity, your anger, your bitterness so that you can feel better. It is a gift you give to yourself, to your family and to humanity. Your actions will now come from a positive, compassionate place rather than a negative place. Forgiveness for someone who has wronged you will lift a burden from you and those around you. The truth is when you don’t forgive you are the one you are hurting, not the other person.

The Buddhists have another saying ~ 
“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

That saying needs no further explanation.

Love to you all and a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!

I have a Facebook page called Love Button Worthy! It features photos, blogs, quotes, and other content full of positivity and inspiration. Click here to check it out. Please like the page if it suits you and don’t forget to invite your friends to like it, too.  

Check out my recommended reading list below the menu. I hope this blog helps you to create a more peaceful life. Keep in touch by the following methods: Use the links under the archive menu to subscribe or follow by e-mail. Help me get this message out by sharing it with your friends on social media! If you enjoyed it and were helped by it, they will, too! Comment by using the comment link below or write to me with your comments and questions at mindchange4all@gmail.com  I look forward to hearing from you!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Gifts that Matter: Non-judgment and Compassion

Joshua, Christmas 2011

We are called to look for God’s light that is shining forth in every person’s life, especially in those lives where God’s light seems heavily disguised.”    
~ Rev. Ed Bacon

            This month I am writing about GIFTS THAT MATTER. I think it is fitting for December, with Christmas coming in a few weeks. I feel I must begin by talking about something that breaks our hearts. In a couple of weeks, it will be the first anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting. The world thought this would be the violent tragedy that changed America. It has not changed us. We became even more politically divided than ever and thousands more have died from gun violence. I have come to realize that politics and laws are not going to stop these tragedies from occurring. The only thing that will stop us from pointing guns at each other and pulling the trigger is love. Jesus Christ tries to teach us that love is the only answer to any problem, but we don’t understand it. If we did, these violent outbursts would stop.
            We have to start loving each other. I’m talking about the people we don’t know, the people we look down upon, the drunks, the drug addicts, the welfare moms, the gang members, the shooters, the bombers, the monsters. These are the people Jesus tells us to love. He does not say to love everyone except these types of people. He says to love everyone as your-self and he tells us not to judge lest we be judged. He says it many ways, through many parables. He even gives us examples through his own behavior. He shows us how gifts of non-judgment and compassion can transform the people to whom they are given. 
            The young man who ended the lives at Sandy Hook was loved by his family, but obviously that’s not enough. He needed to feel loved by society.  All of these people who commit these tragedies need to feel accepted and loved. Right after the shooting last year, I thought we might change when I saw the press conference called by the father of one of the children who were killed. This man, who had just lost his child in a senseless murder, told us we needed to show compassion for the shooter’s family. We ignored him. We ignored this man who spoke to us in his deepest grief. Why did we gravitate toward hatred, vilifying the shooter's parents in the media? We need to try to make sense of it all, but looking for fault is not the answer. We must look within ourselves and ask how we can stop the judgment of each other. What can I do to follow Jesus’ request of me? Can I stop and realize I don’t know these people? Can I understand that their mistakes are none of my business, and that Jesus wants me to love them all and have compassion for them all no matter what they have done? Most importantly of all, can I understand that blaming them and hating them will never change anything for the good and will only create more chaos in the world?
            If we, as a society, were to lay our judgments down and begin to treat all people with dignity and respect, no matter what their lifestyle, there could one day be peace in this world. It has been said by people of eastern religions that if every eight-year-old were to be taught how to meditate, there would be world peace within one generation. Imagine that. People will say this is a Pollyanna way of looking at things, but we will never truly know if it would happen if we never try.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” 
~ Mahatma Gandhi

            It starts with you and it ends with you. Now, you might be thinking that just because you show dignity and respect to everyone does not mean everyone else will and you might be wondering how change can occur in the world if only some people change. I offer you three things –
1) It is not your business what others do,
2) You control yourself and no one else,
3) There is this powerful force called Karma. What you put out into the world comes back to you, just as Jesus said – your cup will run over. The way you treat people has a profound effect on them and how they will treat others. It might not happen right away, but the more people who are treated with dignity and shown loving kindness the more apt they will be to pass it on.
            There are people in the world with hateful attitudes. I know this. What if they were to be met out in the world with love? Even with their bad behavior, their swearing and aggressiveness and overall disregard for people around them, what if they were met with love anyway? Might not they see a different path? Might they become a little less aggressive? We don’t know because we don’t try. We just judge them and get away from them as fast as we can. We might even find ourselves chewing them out or being rude to them. I know because I have done it. I vow to never do it again. I can’t change my past behavior, but I can do better today than I did yesterday.

            I have felt the sting of judgment against my son and against me for the way I parent him. When Joshua was 4 or 5 years old and still in diapers I was judged by a cashier when I was buying diapers. She had no idea what our situation was. She saw a mom buying diapers for a child clearly old enough to be potty trained who looked like typical a child. Period. That was all she needed to know to make her judgment. Another time when Josh was around 6 or 7, we were in an elevator with a mom and her two kids, one of whom called Joshua a retard. I was very hurt and very angry with the mother because she did not correct him. She did have a look of horror on her face, though. I just ignored them, but a better response would have been to educate them both with kindness. A simple gift of non-judgment would have brought peace to me and maybe to them, as well.
            I did not know anything about ego back then and I was extremely hurt. Josh was not affected at all. He had no idea what had been said. All he knew was that kids were on the elevator with us and he was excited they were there. I was grateful he did not understand. I judged the little boy as an out of control brat and I judged his mother the same way I had been judged by the cashier, as a bad mom who was not parenting her child correctly. We had just come from Joshua’s neurologist’s office and I gave no consideration to the fact that they may have come from a doctor’s office, as well. Maybe the child had Tourette Syndrome. Maybe the mother was still trying to figure out how to cope with it, just as I was struggling to figure out my life with Joshua. You just never know. Ignoring them was not the worst thing to do, but my internal response could have been much better. I put a lot of negativity out into the world that day and on the day I was buying diapers. I thought up hundreds of nasty things I wished I had said to those people. All of those negative thoughts went out into the world whether I spoke them or not. I was not at peace and so the world around me could not be at peace, either.

“How someone treats me does not relieve me of my responsibility to treat them like the child of God that they are.” 
~ Rev. Gene Robinson

            We can start practicing non-judgment and compassion with our own families and work our way out from there. We just celebrated Thanksgiving and now we are focused on Christmas. It is a joyous time of year for most people. We look forward to sharing time with our families, especially those we don’t get to see very often. However, many people have family members they feel they must tolerate being around because it is the holiday season. We want to get together with some of our loved ones, but not certain other family members. There are multitudes of reasons why we don’t want to be around some people. Some of us have family we refuse to have anything to do with because of disagreements and fights we have had. Whoever it is, or whatever the issue is, it makes for a dreadful holiday.
            Why can’t we just take a break from the drama for the holidays? The answer is very simple. We all behave this way because we are not at peace. Every day I see people who are not at peace. I see them on Facebook, I see them out in public and I see them in my family. I witness the turmoil in their lives and I want to shake them and say,

You will never find peace in that bottle.
You will never find peace in blaming others for where you are in your life! This is a result of YOUR choices, no one else’s! You can make different choices.
You don’t need anyone or anything to change in order to have peace. All you have to do is claim it for yourself.
Accept what you cannot change (other people). Change the things you can (YOUR mind, YOUR heart, YOUR attitude). Once you have done this you have obtained the wisdom to know the difference!
Peace begins with your love and compassion for others!

            I want so much for them to understand that peace is not found outside of them. It is found within. But it looks like it is found outside of us. That is the problem. We believe that if so-and-so would stop behaving badly we could live peacefully. Those of you who have children and grandchildren know that there is nothing they could do that would make you stop loving them. Nothing. It is our mission to find that same love we have for our children and give it freely to every being. It is not easy sometimes to show love to our own family when they act out against us. As I am writing this post over the past few days, I have been tested and it is difficult to know how to respond, even if I should respond. My intuition tells me not to respond and I have learned to listen to it. A response would only keep them stuck in the ego drama. So my internal response is to pray for the ones who are in turmoil right now. I pray that everyone involved receives the peace they need, no matter what has been said, no matter what has been done. I pray for everyone to receive all the gifts I want for myself because I know my prayers will be answered. I don’t know how, I don’t know when, but I have faith because I have seen the results in my own life.
           I was in hell for many years and I acted out in hateful ways, so I understand why people lash out. They are not in their right mind. My past experience reminds me that the little devil ego in our minds wants the drama to continue so it can survive. Its survival means the death of the angle in our heart. People act in hateful ways because they have given all their power to the ego devil and their angel has faded almost to death. They don't even realize this is what they are doing. Sometimes the result is turmoil within a family and sometimes the result is shots fired into innocent bodies. 

“We need to decide if we are going to be disciples or admirers only, of Jesus. And can I just tell you, Jesus doesn't need any more admirers.”
~ Rev. Gene Robinson

            Our job, as children of God, is to give the gifts of non-judgment and compassion to those who we can clearly see are not at peace. We must look at their lives from their perspective as much as we can and try to understand why they behave the way they do. It may be difficult to see their reasons for it because, often times, we don’t know what they have been through. We must try. We can start by realizing that meanness does not happen overnight. We can give up our feelings of superiority and start acting like we truly believe Jesus’ message of love. And, we can begin to understand the reasons don’t even matter anyway. We must do this with our families and we must do this with strangers. We must take on the responsibility of being true Christian disciples of Jesus, because if we don’t we are nothing more than his admirers.

My love to you all!

Enjoy a sermon by Rev. Gene Robinson here.

I have a Facebook page called Love Button Worthy! It features photos, blogs, quotes, and other content full of positivity and inspiration. Click here to check it out. Please like the page if it suits you and don’t forget to invite your friends to like it, too.  

Check out my recommended reading list below the menu. I hope this blog helps you to create a more peaceful life. Keep in touch by the following methods: Use the links under the archive menu to subscribe or follow by e-mail. Help me get this message out by sharing it with your friends on social media! If you enjoyed it and were helped by it, they will, too! Comment by using the comment link below or write to me with your comments and questions at mindchange4all@gmail.com  I look forward to hearing from you!