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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.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Mind Chatter and Following Your Passion

“Start a huge, foolish project; like Noah. It makes absolutely no difference what people think of you.” ~ Rumi

 ~~~A brief history about me and the purpose of my blog:
Growing up, and maybe even in some circles today, I was / am known as a quiet person. I tend to stay in the background, not saying much, and mostly listening to what everyone else has to say. I am starting to change that. In my 40’s I have finally discovered my passion! My passion is sharing life lessons I have learned, with anyone and everyone who is interested in hearing them and possibly learning from them. I hope you will find these blog posts enriching, entertaining and helpful to your lives. I hope you will share them with your friends and family. Invite them to join this space and maybe they will find something useful here as well. I plan to create and share posts every month, possibly more often, if I can. I welcome your feedback and your questions. I may not have all the answers, but I will do my best!

The things I have learned have changed my life. If you look at my life on the outside, it appears that nothing has changed. The change has taken place inside of me. It is all because of my son, Joshua.




Joshua and Monica on Josh's 1st birthday
Photo by Raymond Pickard


My son, who I’ve come to see as a perfect human being, is my favorite teacher. Today, as I write this, it is his twenty-fifth birthday. What a time we’ve had together these past 25 years! My son, Joshua, is mentally challenged and through being his mom I have made some very profound revelations. That is why I call him my teacher. It may seem odd that someone who has trouble learning can be a teacher, but we can learn from any situation and from any person. The main revelation I made is that probably 99% of the people on this planet are mentally challenged. I don’t mean we are intellectually challenged, like Joshua, but that we are psychologically challenged, in a way that is so easy to fix it is almost laughable. We don’t even realize it until we wake up and discover some simple, yet profound truths. Without Joshua, I’m not sure how I would have come to learn these life lessons, but my heart’s desire is to help others wake up and recognize their own mental challenges.

Some things Joshua taught me directly. For instance, he taught me that you can’t control another human being for any reason what so ever. If you’ve ever tried to potty train a child who just doesn’t seem to understand, or if you've tried to get a child to eat when they don’t want to, you know exactly what I mean! Other things he taught me indirectly, through my sorrow and grief over his disability. I asked a lot of ‘why me,’ ‘how did this happen,’ ‘what is the purpose’ type of questions. I intend to share all of the lessons I have learned with you. They are lessons that have brought peace, joy, love, acceptance, courage and so much more into my life. You don’t need to have a child with a disability to learn or understand these things because we all have things we struggle with at some point in our lives. Understanding some things that are not always obvious has made a profound difference to me and to Joshua. We are both happier as a result and we have a better relationship. Joshua did not have to change for that to happen. Only I needed to change. ~~~       

“Life isn’t as serious as my mind makes it out to be.” ~ Eckhart Tolle
When Joshua was first diagnosed we were told he had atypical mild cerebral palsy. His diagnosis has changed since then. At that time, we were told by the doctor that he would most likely grow up pretty ‘normal’ and that he might be a little clumsy, but nothing too out of the ordinary. What prompted her to tell us this was a question my husband had asked:
When Joshua grows up will he be like a child in a man’s body?

When the words came out of his mouth I was stunned. I don’t think that thought had occurred to me before that moment. I had been focused on finding out what the problem was and if there was any way to fix whatever was causing his delays. I hadn’t thought that far into the future. For an instant, I was horrified of what her answer would be, but at the same time, I was eager to hear it. Her answer turned out to be a relief.

Leaving her office that day we were pretty silent in the elevator. Neither of us knew what to say to the other. I was still going over in my mind the implications of my husband’s question.
What if she had answered differently?
How does she know she is right?
She’s a doctor. She probably sees lots of kids like Josh and so she knows what we can expect.
She knows so much more than we do about these things; after all, she went to school for this.
Still, why would he even ask that? How did that enter his mind? Has he been wondering that all these months and never told me?
She said that if Joshua learned anything in occupational therapy it would be a good sign and he did learn something. He did. That’s a good sign. We just have to keep taking him to therapy and he will do better and better.  

My thoughts went on and on, chattering away; worrying, rationalizing, reasoning, looking for clues to support what I wanted to be true. Most of us have noticed that our mind is always talking to us in our head. You are probably reading this silently right now and yet there is a voice that you hear in your mind which is reading the words to you. At the same time, you are having thoughts and feelings about what you are reading. You may be agreeing with these words or disagreeing with these words. You may be thinking all this is ridiculous or you may be feeling a little intrigued because you never really thought of it this way before. Notice that it is possible to hear the voice reading and hear the voice thinking at the same time.  So who is the voice? That voice you hear in your mind is your ego. This voice you hear sounds like you because it is, in essence, you. It can be judgmental towards people – including yourself – and situations, events, and even objects. It can be jealous, hateful, loving, happy, sad, wanting, worried – as I was in that elevator – or any other emotion or state you can think of. It can be positive or negative, helpful or harmful. The trick is to learn to recognize it and control it. In future posts, I will discuss the various aspects of the ego because there are many different ways it can affect you.

We all have an ego. Most of us think of egotism as the arrogant individual who his full of himself or herself. They think they are so great! But our ego is not only that. As I said, we all have one and it can take on any attitude. Unless you are extremely self-aware and you already have known this for your entire life, your ego has been the one guiding you through life. God has been trying to guide you, but if your life is not everything you want it to be, it is your ego’s fault. It may help to picture it this way: Have you ever seen a cartoon where someone has a little red devil with horns sitting on one shoulder and a little angel with a halo sitting on the other shoulder? The devil is whispering in the person’s ear telling them to do something ‘bad’ and the angel is trying to talk them out of it. It’s like that. The little devil is your ego and instead of living on your shoulder it lives in your mind, the angel is your conscience and lives in your heart. In my case in the elevator, my ego was trying to scare me about the future. This little devil did not go away when I walked out of that elevator. Oh no! That little devil stuck with me for years and she can still creep back in if I don’t keep her caged. Except now instead of worrying about what Joshua will grow up to be like, she tempts me with worry over who will care for him when I’m gone. Joshua's doctor was wrong that day. He did grow up to be like a child in a man's body. As the years went on and he grew farther and farther behind children his age my little devil ego tempted me with worry and self-pity and judgment over other things, too.
 
I used to have a home daycare and when Joshua was little, shortly after he was diagnosed, one of my clients asked if it would become a problem for me, as our children grew up together, if her child started to pass Joshua in their abilities. I hadn’t even thought of that up until that point (just like with my husband’s question to the doctor – see a pattern? You can take on fears of others, or create them yourself) but when she asked the question my ego latched on to that idea and off I went to ‘feeling sorry for Monica land.’ I started to come up with all kinds of nonsensical stories of how sad that would be for me. Her ego had probably brought up these same stories in her mind about how sad it would be for me. Her ego might even have suggested that it would be hard for her to see their ability levels changing in front of her – poor little Joshua. It is possible she asked that question because she felt superior for having a ‘normal’ child. And yet, it is also possible that she felt true compassion for me because my child was disabled and she was genuinely concerned about how I would feel. My point is, whatever judgment I place on her question comes from my own mind and has nothing to do with her. I can't possibly know for 100% certain what was in her mind. I choose which judgment I am going to place on it. It’s about the story I tell myself about it and what I choose to believe. For all I know, neither scenario is true. Whatever reason caused her to ask the question has nothing to do with me. It was all about her ego stories in her mind.

Our ego is based on lies. Not one of our judgments about each other is true. Not one single one. Our ego makes up stories to convince us that our judgments are correct. We find whatever evidence we are looking for to corroborate our story and that evidence is based on more lies. It is our perception of things, but not reality. If we like someone we tend to perceive them as truthful, loving and kind. If we dislike someone we tend to question their motives and perceive them in more negative ways. We can keep our minds open and recognize that we may be wrong. In order to break free from our ego we have to start questioning all of our thoughts. We can stop believing everything we think. We are conjuring up stories to support our beliefs, but we don’t have to believe them. I know I am making it sound like our ego is a separate entity from us that controls us, it is not separate from us – it is part of us as human beings – but it does try to separate us from each other. The good news is that once we realize what is happening we can take control of it. We choose our own thoughts. If a thought comes in that is judgmental we can choose a different thought or a different way of looking at it.

If you are feeling judgmental about someone, your ego is making you superior to that person. You may not want to admit it, but if you really think honestly about it that is what you are doing. I have heard it called ‘leveling.’ You are trying to get on a level field with that person so you tear them down in order to build yourself up by comparison. We tear them down because the reality is that we secretly fear they are better than us somehow. We are constantly comparing ourselves to others. I have a pretty big inferiority complex. Actually, I used to have an inferiority complex. Okay, if I’m being really honest, this little devil creeps in more than I like, but I have made great strides in taming her. If I hadn’t I sure as heck wouldn’t be doing this blog and sending it out to everyone I know! I’ve had some pretty serious doubts and worries about how this will be received by some people and how others will judge me.
What if they already know all this and I am the last fool on the planet who just discovered it? I’m going to look like an idiot!
What if they think I’m a know it all?
What if they think I’m arrogant and conceited for doing this?
What if they think I’m silly?

I have had self-doubts about it, also.
Who do I think I am to teach people?
What do I have to contribute?
Can I handle any criticism that may come my way?

I could go on, but I’ll spare you. All of this chatter has entered my mind, but then I remember, or hear, or read a great short poem like the opening quote of this post.
“Start a huge, foolish project; like Noah. It makes absolutely no difference what people think of you.” ~ Rumi

If you know me on Facebook you know I love a great quote, so here’s one more.
“Speak truth to power. Speak truth to love, even if your voice quivers because that is how the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings wants us to live.” ~ Zelda Kennedy, All Saints Church, Pasadena Watch her sermon here

Recognizing my ego has made a life changing difference in me – slowly. I’m still a work in progress with fears and doubts creeping in, but wisdom has given me courage like I never had before. I could give myself any excuse not to do this; I’m too busy, people will judge me, it would take too much time away from Joshua, people don’t care what I have to say, but if I don’t do this I feel like I’ll go crazy. Just now when I typed that last sentence the thought came in, “Someone out there’s going to say, ‘YOU ARE CRAZY,’ as soon as they read that.” Oh, well. So be it. I am now secure in the knowledge that what anyone thinks of me is really all about them, just as what I think of others is all about me.

Earlier I mentioned that your ego is guiding your life, but God has been trying to guide you. Every decision you make is based on a judgment of some kind and is probably being made out of fear, but your ego won’t let you see it that way. Your ego is too proud to admit what is real because if it did, it would die. It has to keep you feeling the way it wants you to feel in order to stay alive. It is the battle between the devil and the angel. The angel will never die, but the devil knows it is living in darkness. All it will take to make it disappear is to keep shining light on it.

If I were to allow all of the doubts to stop me from writing these blog posts I would be letting my ego control my life. Our passion in life comes from what we love and what we are longing to do. Ever since I read the book that changed my life five years ago, A New Earth, by Eckhart Tolle, I have wanted to spread this knowledge. I think everyone who experiences this wants to share it with everyone. At first, I only told my husband because I was afraid of how it would be received and how I would be perceived. It felt like I was living on a cloud for a while and I kept thinking that people would think I was going insane if I told them how I felt. It was, as Saint Paul described it, the peace of god which passes all understanding. I even wondered if I were going a little over the edge because it felt so enormously wonderful, like nothing I had ever felt. Pure love is what it is. Even if I had been going over the edge, I wouldn’t have cared; that is how wonderful it is. I take baby steps, though. I only spoke to my husband about it for almost one year. Then I slowly and carefully spoke to my parents, introducing little bits at a time.

We must follow our heart no matter what our mind tells us. That is how life is lived. What would you do if you weren’t afraid? Walking through the fear is what you must do to fully and completely LIVE your life. Let God guide you. God is speaking to you all the time, sitting right there in your heart and that little devil in sitting in your mind. You know which one is more powerful! Which one are you going to let win?

Until next time, take care, Friends!



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