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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.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Wound Is Where the Light Enters

“The wound is where the light enters.” ~ Rumi

My little Halloween mouse. Joshua was one-year-old
It is October! Halloween is fast approaching. All the children will be dressing up in their little costumes and teenagers are already screaming their way through haunted houses. October is the month of fun and fear.

      What is it you fear? I’m going to share some of my fears with you in this post. One of my fears is feeling certain emotions, like sorrow. I don’t want to feel any negative emotion and I’ll bet you don’t either. I’m not speaking of having a down day or an off day. Those are feelings you can turn around pretty easily just by putting a smile on your face when you don’t feel like it, or listing all of the things you are grateful for. I am speaking of times when every day is down because something has happened or is happening that you don’t know how to deal with, or you don’t want to deal with; when you are feeling bad, in the background of your mind, all of the time. We all have things that happen at some point in our lives like the death of a loved one, illness, abuse, financial issues, love issues, or any number of things. It could even be something like watching someone we love self-destruct, leaving us feeling hopeless. Also, events from our childhood can haunt us all through our adult life. No one wants to have to deal with these types of issues, but avoiding them will only cause more harm.

     I used to avoid feeling sorrow, but I have discovered that you can’t ever truly avoid it. You have to feel your pain in order to heal it. You have probably heard that before, but what does that mean? Of course, you feel your pain. It wouldn’t be painful if you didn’t feel it, right? I’m not talking about feeling it so much as recognizing it and allowing it to be. We don’t allow our pain to be. We fear the feelings of sadness, anger, frustration, sorrow. We want to avoid feeling all of those things. If we were to walk through the fear and allow ourselves to feel whatever it is that comes up, our lives would change dramatically. We would learn from our pain what God is trying to teach us.

      The life event that caused me to learn and grow was discovering, resisting, and eventually accepting that my precious child has a lifelong disability. I fell into a depression, over the course of many years, as I tried to deal with all of the issues associated with disabilities. Believe me, there are many! My world – the life I expected to have – had been turned upside down upon my son’s diagnosis. I now had all this stuff I had to learn about and a new way I had to be in the world. Gone was the soccer mom I thought I would be. Now there was a world filled with special needs rights training, physical and occupational and speech therapies, an enormous amount of worry about his future and my future and my husband’s future, and new terminology I had to learn. The list goes on and on. I now had to take on the role of being Joshua’s advocate. I – shy, quiet Monica who never wanted to rock the boat, who never went to college – had to take on people with college educations who already knew about the system and had many years of experience navigating it. Along with all that I had thoughts like,

It shouldn’t be this way.

I shouldn’t have to fight people for things they know he needs in school!
I can’t do this. I’m not strong enough, smart enough, or articulate enough to get him what he needs. 

I don’t know what there is out there that can help him, so how am I supposed to know what to ask for?
      I felt hopeless most of the time. I feared not living up to the ideal of what I thought I was seeing in other moms. They seemed to know it all. They seemed to know exactly what they were doing, what their child needed, which doctors to go to, what to ask for at the school, how to handle being told ‘no’ and so much more! I knew nothing! At times, I felt like I knew less than nothing. I remember going to my first special needs rights training and hearing all of these terms I had never heard before. One of the terms was inclusion. Now I knew what the word meant, but in terms of how it applied to our special kids I was lost. Include them in what? It never occurred to me that they could go into a regular classroom and learn with typical kids. Moreover, why in the hell would I want that? Seriously! My experience of kids with special needs was that they were tormented and bullied. Not my son! No way was he going to experience that for the sake of INCLUSION. I was fearful of almost everything about this new world.
      The way I tried to avoid the pain and anguish I felt over Joshua’s diagnosis was to busy myself searching for a cure or a way for him to recover from his disabilities. In a previous post I mentioned that he was diagnosed with atypical mild cerebral palsy, but eventually, he was re-diagnosed with mild autism and severe developmental delay. In today’s terms, he is considered to be on the autism spectrum. I kept hearing stories of children who had recovered from autism by various means. Once they were able to communicate everyone realized they were not really intellectually challenged, they just couldn’t tell people how smart they were. I still hear stories like that about people. Those kinds of stories and events are wonderful for the people who live it, but not everyone is going to have the same kind of outcome. Hearing these stories gave me hope for a better future. I researched everything I heard about and I tried some of the things I discovered. I was in denial about my son’s abilities. I was on a mission impossible searching for a miracle and I thought it helped me to avoid the pain. The funny thing is, in reality, the pain was unavoidable. It was always in the background, but I always tried to stuff it down and to put on a brave face. There were thousands of other emotions that came along with it that I stuffed down, too.  
      There came a time when there was nothing more to do, but feel the pain. There were no other treatments to try, no therapies I could afford, no doctors willing to indulge my fantasy. I didn’t want to drink or use drugs because I had a child who needed me. I did, however, indulge thoughts of what it would be like to lose myself in alcohol, but I did not let myself go there – at least not enough to become addicted. I couldn’t afford to shop anymore after I rang up the credit cards. I put on weight as I tried to stuff my feelings down with food.
      As I said earlier, most of us tend to shy away from our feelings. We fear spinning out of control if we let ourselves feel it. Also, we fear never being able to recover from the pain. We bury our feelings with alcohol, food, drugs, sex or shopping. We will do just about anything to avoid dealing with our emotions. We understand that our emotions are our body’s response to whatever is happening in our life, but we don’t understand that they are signals we get from our body telling us that we need to pay attention to something. Instead of attending to the problem or the emotion we avoid it. We don’t realize that our emotions are the pathway to healing and moving forward; they are the pathway to growth and happiness and peace. Our negative emotions make us uncomfortable and we humans don’t like to be uncomfortable. But, what if sitting in the emotion, with the intent of healing and learning and obtaining peace, is the only way to get comfortable and to be at peace? I’m not suggesting you be sad and gloomy all the time; that is what we are trying not to do! But when you feel any negative emotion you accept it. You admit it. You don’t try to avoid it with other activities. You don’t use eating, shopping, working, drugs or alcohol as a way to either avoid feeling or as your excuse to allow yourself to act out in a destructive way.
Monica and Josh as Dalmations in 1994

     Once I had no other choice than to feel my pain, I wallowed in it. I cried for Joshua’s future, asking God ‘why.’ I cried for my future, asking God ‘why’ again. I searched my mind. I asked other people what they thought about why God would do this to my son and to my family. Some of the answers I received from other people were ridiculous. I knew that they couldn’t be right, so I kept asking and searching. I truly wanted, with all my heart, to know why.
     Asking with the intent of really wanting to know is powerful. It will draw the answers to you. I had asked these questions when Joshua was first diagnosed, but back then I had asked them without acceptance of reality. Back then, I had no idea what the future would hold because some doctors gave me no clues as to what it might look like, others sugar coated it or didn’t really know so they told me what they thought I wanted to hear. For all I knew he might fully recover or he might learn enough to become independent. I never let myself entertain the idea that he would be dependent on me forever. When anyone else in my family alluded to that idea it pissed me off. I thought they were just being negative. As the years went by I slowly had to face reality. He was not catching up to other kids. He was falling farther and farther behind. There came a point when I had to accept that he will never say, 'I love you, Mom;' not with his voice. Those are words I will never hear him say.
      I thought my pain was coming from an external source and that I felt this way because my son is autistic and mentally challenged. I thought I was hurting because my hopes and dreams for his future were shattered and because the life I had envisioned was no longer going to happen. I thought it was because I now had to deal with all this STUFF; this new, strange world of disabilities. But it wasn’t any of that that made me feel this way. It was inside of me. It was my thoughts and stories I told myself that made me feel so bad. This was my mental challenge. Joshua and Joshua’s challenges could never make me feel anything. No one else could ever make me feel anything. 

“All day, every day we are only just dealing with ourselves.” ~ Unknown
      In my previous post I spoke about the ego and how it controls our lives. No matter how much it looks like the person or the situation is causing your pain, it is really just you. The people we blame for our problems are doing what they do, living their lives; the situation is what it is and it does not have control over you. Your emotions come from you, no place else. You are the one in control of you. If you continue to blame others and you continue to avoid your emotions, nothing will change in your life. You will remain stuck in whatever pattern you are in. You can’t heal your life by trying to deal with the symptoms. The symptoms are the addiction or compulsion you use to avoid pain; the drinking or eating or shopping, etc. You must cure yourself by dealing directly with the dis-ease in your life before it turns into a full-blown disease. Eventually, I came to understand that our emotions are there to transform our life into something wonderful and magical. They are moving us towards learning and growing. They are inviting us to another way of being. Our emotions are guiding us towards peace. It sure doesn’t feel peaceful at the time, but there’s no gain without pain!

      The inspiration for me to write this particular post came about as a result of a video I watched of Peter Sellers giving a speech about creating, on stage and through music, a new version of The Passion of Christ and how our emotions can be a catalyst towards getting us up off our butts to make a difference in the world and in our own lives. Mr. Sellers spoke about how Jesus lives in each one of us and he wants us to do his work. Jesus wants us to make a change within ourselves and in the world.  
      Peter Sellers reminded the audience of a great quote from Rumi, and so I used it as the title for this post, “The wound is where the light enters.” Personally, I can’t stress enough the truth in that statement. My wound is exactly where the light entered for me. Let your wound, whatever form it takes, be your invitation to transformation and peace.
      Mr. Sellers spoke about how Jesus did not have the option of avoiding the cross. Sit with that for a moment… 

      Think about the gracefulness Jesus displayed while being beaten and killed for speaking The Truth and for living in pure love. He did not try to negotiate with his killers. There were times when Jesus cried out. He felt his physical pain and he allowed himself to feel his emotional pain. He did not try to avoid it. He allowed it. He allowed the situation to be exactly as it was and he allowed his emotions to come to the surface for the world to see.
      Mr. Sellers made the connection between our suffering and our resurrection just as Jesus, by going through that experience, was transformed and resurrected into a new way of being. Here are some quotes of his from the video:
“Crisis is there for the healing… The horrible situation is the invitation to transformation… Sometimes you just have to let them hammer the nails right through the palms of your hands because without that there can’t be a resurrection… We can’t skip over the crucifixion part… We have to recognize the power and necessity of the crucifixion part.”
We can’t skip over the crucifixion part. It is necessary. 

      The emotions you feel are God talking to you saying, ‘I have something to teach you; just be still and ask me what you want to know.’ Allow yourself to open up to this truth and you will be set free. When you open yourself up to vulnerability and you allow yourself to feel the pain, the sorrow, the hopelessness, the loss; when you surrender to it as Jesus did that day, by not trying to change it or make it go away, or talk your way out of it, or shop your way out of it, acceptance enters your awareness. You have surrendered to what IS. You begin to accept what you cannot change. Knowing that you cannot change it in this moment brings its own sense of peace. Now you can relax and stop fighting it. When you get peaceful it still hurts, but space opens up for ideas, possibly solutions. Gratitude may enter. Compassion for yourself or someone else may enter. Space is available now for you to move forward, to get unstuck. When you surrender to the pain there becomes space in your heart for questions to enter and there is a stillness allowing you to hear God’s answers.

What can I learn from this?
What is it about this situation I need to understand?
What did this person bring into my life?
What might I need to change?
What am I telling myself about this that may not be true?

Am I too focused on changing this?
Can this be changed?

      These are just a few of the questions you could ask yourself. When those kinds of questions enter, you are on your way to transformation if you stay with it long enough for the answers to come. It requires exploring your mind and your heart and being honest with yourself to discover what you need to know. You might find that your story is all wrong and that you are making yourself miserable. It’s possible that you will find yourself transformed into joy and being grateful for having the experience. You could end up with a new outlook on life. The possibilities are limitless! You must ask in order to receive, but then you must be ready and willing to receive the answers.

It may require you to drop some old ideas and this can take time. I asked questions for a few years and little by little my old way of understanding certain things changed and eventually answers came. Pay attention to the signs that come your way. That sounds strange - like some psychic thing is going to happen! I don’t mean it like that. Nothing unusual is going to happen. However, you might start to get the same message over and over from different people or different sources. For instance, you might read something somewhere and then hear it said somewhere else. Pay attention to that. In my case, my mom had given me a little book for Christmas one year called, Practicing the Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle. It was a little companion booklet to his book, The Power of Now. I could not read it when she gave it to me because some of the things people told me about why Joshua was born disabled had turned me off of religion. This book was not about religion, but when I started to read it, it felt like it was going to be about religion. I put the book away and forgot about it for a couple of years. Then I heard about another book of his called, A New Earth, Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. Oprah was going to do a 10-week free internet class with Eckhart Tolle about the book. She talked about it on her show, but she didn’t really explain anything about the book or the class. She just said read the book and log in for the class. I thought I should sign up for it, but I just didn’t really want to. I couldn’t imagine what this class would be about or what it might do for me, so I decide not to do it. Even though I had closed my daycare the month before, I convinced myself I was way too busy. After all, I had housework to do, dinners to prepare, laundry to wash and hours and hours of television to watch. 

      I watched Oprah’s show every day and every day she would talk about this book and the class. I felt compelled to read it, but still I kept resisting. Then one day when she spoke about it I remembered the book my mom had given me. I knew Mr. Tolle had written that one so I decided to read that book. I told myself that if I could get through it with all the religion in it, and if I thought it might be an interesting class, I would go ahead and buy this new book and do the class. I dug it out of the closet and started reading.

      I could not put it down.
      I read it cover to cover in one night and the next day I ran out to the bookstore and bought, A New Earth. I devoured it, also. In this book, I found so many of the answers I had been looking for. I was beginning my resurrection. I have read that book several times and each time I get something new out of it that I didn’t understand before. The amazing thing is that as I read it I come up with new questions about what I am reading and within a few pages the questions are answered. I highly recommend this book.  
      You never know where the answers to your questions will come from. It could be the most unlikely source. One thing is for sure; if you don't ask - sincerely ask - and listen for the answers, you will remain as you are. You will not experience the growth you are meant to. You will not receive the gifts that come along with that growth. You will not discover the peace you are meant to have. You may wonder how you will know when you have received the right answers. All I can say is, you will KNOW. It will all make perfect sense and you will stop questioning because you will be at peace.
      This is getting to be a long post, so I will leave you with one more thing for now: If you are thinking of your avoidance mechanism – the drinking, shopping, eating, etc. – as a failure or bad thing, that is just another story you are telling yourself. Your avoidance mechanism is perfect in that it has given you time to ready yourself for the lessons. It has filled a need and it is time to be grateful for it and to receive the lessons you are meant to learn. Don’t judge yourself for your actions; those are just more ego stories. Consider that it is time to give up your behavior to avoid hurting someone in your path.
      My Dear Friends, during this Halloween season, take a giant step towards peace and stop fearing your emotions; allow yourself to feel. Until next time, THANK YOU for joining me.
You can watch Peter Sellers' 35-minute speech here. Note: the video is 45 minutes in total, with a 10-minute question and answer session at the end of the speech.

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