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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.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Miracles Revealed in Gratitude

As Thanksgiving gets closer we are focusing more on the things and people we are thankful for. Some of my Facebook friends are posting thirty days of gratitude in November and it is uplifting and inspiring to read what they post each day. It causes me to notice more beauty in my day and to give more attention to the miracles all around me disguised as little things that are easily overlooked.

            It is easy to overlook the little things when our lives take a turn we have not expected. We grow up with certain expectations of how our lives should progress and how things and people should or shouldn’t be in order for us to be at peace. As I said in my previous post, Gratitude, taking a good long look at my ingratitude towards our home led me to see my husband differently, but it also showed me that I was ignoring the miracles in another very important area of my life… my son, Joshua.

            I began to realize that I was not fully appreciating the miracle of Joshua. I would complain about how hard it was to figure out what he wanted. He is nonverbal and has little ability to express himself. There were also times when I complained about him not understanding potty training and not being able to put his clothes on. My mind was always consumed with how I thought things should be rather than accepting how they actually were. When I complained about those things my husband sometimes asked me, “Do you regret having Joshua?” Or he would ask something like, “If you knew then what you know now, would you still have a baby?” I always answered that I do not regret having him because there was so much more joy than frustration and I could not imagine my life without him. I love him so much! Still, these questions my husband asked me were not sinking into my understanding until he broke through my ego concerning our home. It was then that I began to wonder where I was placing Joshua’s value.

Was I placing it on his abilities? Was I placing it on the level of difficulty of parenting him?

             I had wanted a child terribly before he was born and there he was. However, I was not appreciating the fact that he exists because my expectation of the child I thought I would have was different from the child I had. Also, I had not been focused on what he brought into my life, but rather on the difficulties of parenting. There were too many times when my focus had been about what I wanted to change and what I wished was different. I allowed myself to wonder about how things would be if he were born without challenges, constantly reminding myself how things should be.

              Prior to Ray showing me my ingratitude, I had been learning about how to end suffering and obtain peace and happiness. I had learned to focus my attention on accepting the little things, like the weather. I knew there was nothing I could do about the weather, so why bother being upset if it was raining or too cold for my taste? I couldn’t change the weather. I also began to realize that other people’s opinions have nothing to do with me and I began to see that I could not control their opinions or their reactions to any situation. Accepting these things became easier and easier. I started to see I couldn’t change or control anything, but for some reason, it did not sink into my brain that I could accept everything, no matter how big or how small because I had no choice anyway. I read about people who had life-threatening diseases and they were grateful for it. What?! I did not see the point in accepting that, let alone being grateful for it! Especially if it meant I was supposed to be okay with Joshua having disabilities. Nobody wants to be ‘okay’ with their child having a disability; as if accepting it is going to ensure that it never goes away. It feels like we might be saying, ‘I don’t care that they have a disability.’ Even so, just like with the weather, the only choice is to continue suffering, or not.

            I couldn’t make Joshua talk or learn, or even want to do those things. It was out of my control. Joshua had showed me this in multiple ways already, with potty training and trying to get him to eat, but I did not realize it applied to every aspect of my life. I had no control of anything outside of myself. I had learned to finally accept that Joshua would always be disabled and I stopped trying to find a ‘cure,’ but I was still seeing his disabilities as flaws. Sure, I had finally accepted the disabilities and I knew there was nothing that could change him, but what I hadn’t understood up until then was that he did not need to be changed. He is perfect just the way he is. He is perfect simply because he lives. His life has a purpose even if I can’t see what it is.

         Refocusing my attention on what Joshua brought into my life showed me that he brought joy, unconditional love, laughter and a new perspective on life. He shows me the miracle in my abilities and reminds me to never take them for granted. It finally came to my awareness that he is the one who facilitated my learning about ego and mind chatter. Joshua led me to my awakening. If not for him, I would not have asked the important questions that brought me to this wisdom. Maybe I would have at some other time, for some other reason because God moves us in that direction even when we resist, but Joshua is the one who caused me to grow into who I am meant to be. Joshua, with his autism and mental challenges, brought out the fear and the anguish I had inside and forced me to deal with them. Joshua brought out all of the parts of me that needed to grow; the timidity, the low self-esteem and, most importantly, the part of me that did not know God. If not for this beautiful, silly, scary, exasperating, perfect human, I would not be the woman I am today. He taught me to live from my soul rather than my head, although I’m not always good at it. He gave me the awareness to live from a place of love when I am centered. These things he brings into my life are bonuses. I get to know him and experience his being plus I get to learn from him! How wonderful! 
           I am grateful to him and for him beyond measure and I would not change one thing about him. I can honestly say that I would not take back one moment of our lives. Even if I could go back in time and have him be born without his challenges, I would not do it. I never thought I would say that, but now I know why people are grateful for hardships. We have hardships to facilitate growth. It’s possible that changing me is Joshua’s purpose. It’s possible that all people with challenges are here to show us the duality of life. We can’t say for certain because it is not our place to decide or even to know what someone else’s purpose is, but if we look, we can see the positive impact they have on our lives. I know that my growth came out of my anguish and mourning the loss of a child I thought I should have, and that is where Joshua’s perfection shines through. If I could do for someone else what he has done for me, it would be an honor. 
             Now, it is up to me to continue to grow by being aware of my thoughts and questioning every one of them. My task now is to let things go, let things be the way they are and to remember that I don’t have to suffer if things are not the way I want them to be. I can accept it and know there is a reason beyond my understanding for the way things are and to search for that reason so that I can understand more about life. I must put this knowledge to use in every area of my life: financial issues, disliking the way some people behave, disagreements about religion, how I perceived people of other races, even politics. I must remember to sort out the things I can change from the things I can’t.

            All people can benefit from refocusing our conscious minds on the good in our lives because when we look for good we find it. Likewise, when we look for bad we find it. Gratitude is the easiest way to focus on the good. We must begin to see that without the bad we would not perceive the good. We must also come to see that the bad we perceive is really good in disguise. When we understand that, the miracles are revealed. Our human minds cannot conceive of the wonders of creation in our lives. We must wait for things to unfold before we get the full picture. I would have never thought 25 years ago or even 7 years ago that one day I would see some good in my precious child’s disabilities. I see it now. Our minds must be open to the possibilities in every situation because if we are not open we are denying the fullness of this life God has given us.

            If you find yourself complaining about anything, make it your cue to begin searching for the good. Search for the good in your bad situations by opening your mind and say THANK YOU for the creation that is unfolding. Allow your heart to open now in pure gratitude because something good is coming for you, but you will only notice it if you are looking for it, seeking it, asking for the answers. Until next time, I am grateful for you all taking the time to read what I have to say. 

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