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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, July 11, 2015

Pawns in a Political Game

            There are many issues on the minds of caregivers for people with special needs. One of those issues is state funding for the various organizations that help make our jobs as caregivers easier and our children’s lives more enjoyable. If you live in a state that is hurting for revenue to pay its bills as I do – Illinois – this issue can weigh heavily on you, especially as you get nearer to the end of your life. For older parents, finding a suitable home for your adult child with disabilities becomes one of your top priorities, while younger parents are often strapped financially, so their priorities are funding for childcare, therapies, and activities for their children. We become invested in the political dramas that unfold as the political parties go back and forth in efforts to come out on top while negotiating a solution. As constituents, we choose a side that we think is making the correct decisions and trying to reach a solution that will work for the majority of people. Often, we feel the other side is doing the opposite; trying to undermine the process for political gain. Sometimes we are correct in our assumptions and sometimes we are wrong. As caregivers, we feel like our loved ones are pawns in this political game. They are being used as pawns by politicians on both sides because that is what politicians do. They care about issues and people, but those issues and people become bargaining chips. That is a reality. This post is not about which side is right or wrong. It is about our feelings and attitudes about the process and how it impacts our emotions as we care for our loved ones. What matters to me in regards to this blog is that people stop suffering over things that are out of their control. That is not to suggest we have no control in the political process, we do! But, we have even more control over how we think and feel about this issue. Getting control of our thinking and our feelings can create a huge impact on our ability to get the kind of government we want and to see to it that the people in our government work for us to find non-partisan solutions. I almost feel like a hypocrite writing this because I have to admit I have not mastered what I am writing about today. I still struggle with these issues in politics; I still find myself being frustrated to the point that I lash out in social media about ‘the other side.’ I like to think that I have gotten better at outwardly controlling myself most of the time, but I still have my moments of weakness. Inwardly I am often a mess when it comes to politics, but I am working on it! I have found that writing about an issue helps me gain more control over it so, selfishly, here I go. 
            The issue today is that many of us feel hopeless and helpless as we hear about budget cuts and proposed budget cuts to the various programs that help us and our children. These are natural feelings because deep down inside we know we cannot control the actions of others, but we want desperately to control our politicians for the betterment of our loved ones. We get disgusted with the political process, understandably so. We might rage against it internally or externally, unleashing venomous words onto the politicians we think are doing the wrong things to fix the budget issues. We lash out at each other in the same way when we are on opposite sides of the isle. We care so much for our loved ones and it is frustrating to watch this all play out in politics, so we vent our frustrations to each other and we call or send letters to the politicians. We are trying desperately to gain some control and to change the minds of others that disagree with us. Those of us that do not rage often do the opposite of raging – we become apathetic. We stop engaging in the process because we feel there is nothing we can do. This gives us a tiny sense of relief for a while, but eventually we go back to being annoyed and aggravated. Still others find that we are on a continuous loop from anger to apathy and back to anger again. None of these approaches gets us what we want. When we approach the situation with these attitudes and feelings, even when we are taking action – calling our representatives and our governors, engaging in the political process – we find that not much changes. It does not change much because we are coming at the situation from a place of weakness. 
            We are in such a desperate place that some of us start to turn on each other. The programs our own families utilize seem most important to us, so we rationalize pulling our support from other programs in favor of the ones we use. We go back and forth with each other, stating the reasons we feel our program is better or more in need of funding than programs others use. We are willing to cut much-needed services for others because we fear losing our own. Each and every one of us can make a great case for our programs to continue and deep down we all know this, but there are basic human fears at play in our psyche that causes us to divide in an attempt to keep what we have, even while not wishing to take away from someone else. These fears are a fear of lack in the world, a fear of lack of safety for our children, and a fear that our children will not be valued enough to be given a life of enjoyment and opportunity.
            First, I want to explore the fear of lack in the world, or fear that there is not enough. We humans have this idea that there is only so much money, resources, food, time, etc. in the world. With all the talk of low budgets and budget crisis, it is easy to slip into thinking of lack and fearing lack. Fear repels what we want because in fear our focus remains on the problem. We keep hearing and repeating to others that our state is out of money. I have said in previous posts that we create our world through thoughts and words which are energy forms, so why not think new thoughts and speak new language about our state budget? Instead of focusing on the lack of funds in our state, let us begin to focus on the amount of money there is in the entire world. That’s a lot of dough! Thinking about what we want, rather than what we don’t want or don’t have, will keep the focus on abundance. When you thought of all the money there is in the world, did you automatically begin to realize that some of it can get here somehow? That is how solutions begin to emerge. Your focus went to abundance and drawing that abundance towards you. Instead of putting our energies into thinking about how wrong the politicians are and blaming them, we put our energies into figuring out how to bring some of that money here. We are not ignoring our problem; we are accepting it without fear. Now we can call our representatives and give them our ideas for solutions. We do not need the fear to motivate us into action because our positive energy is drawing solutions to us, creating the will to share those solutions. Focusing on abundance without fear of lack can open our minds to the ideas others have, as well. We can stop seeing the other side as wrong, stop assuming they have ulterior motives, and actually see that their ideas have some merit. 
            As I stated earlier, one thing we do when we are fearful is we try to control other people. It is human nature to attempt to control others when we are fearful. We don’t often realize we are trying to control others with our actions. We think we are trying to persuade, but our anger and frustration shows that what we really want is to control. If we simply wanted to persuade someone we would not get angry or frustrated when it does not work. The way to bring more peace into our lives when looking at budget issues – or any political issue – is to first become accepting of other people’s views. We do not have to agree, but we do need to accept that they are entitled to their own views and their own way of thinking. This is not easy when you disagree, but it can be done. You must remember that if the other person does not have a right to their ideas and opinions, then neither do you. As individuals, we feel that we have these rights. It is simply a matter of recognizing and remembering that everyone else does, too. We do not need to understand their views, either; we simply have to accept that they have a different view than us. You also have to keep in mind that if someone else is incorrect in their thinking, then it is possible that you might be incorrect in your thinking. No one is correct 100% of the time, so it stands to reason that there are times when you are the one that is incorrect. Keep an open mind for this possibility.    When you understand that everyone has a right to their opinions the next step is to stop thinking of the people and their opinions as good or bad. They are simply people with their own opinions. No one is evil. Acceptance comes from a much more loving place than fear. When you accept someone’s right to their opinion, you put yourself in a loving neutral place. You are no longer divided from this person or group of people and you can see that they are trying to do the best they can, just like you. You can stop making assumptions about their motives because feeling this connection with their humanness enables you to see that they are in fear. It is then that you can put yourself in place of persuasion rather than control. You can easily see a way to alleviate their fears and you can offer your suggestions while not being attached to changing their views or opinions. You can share your ideas and hope they will begin to change their mind, but knowing all along that their fear might keep them from it, at least for the time being. Once they have a chance to ponder your ideas, they might come around to your way of thinking, but maybe not. Likewise, we need to ponder their ideas without fear so that we can see the value they bring to the world. 

“When you are in a place of acceptance, 
it is easy to see what is destructive and what is optimal without judging anything as evil.” 
~ Dr. David R. Hawkins, psychiatrist and author of 
Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender, 
and many other wonderful books

            The task of keeping our focus on abundance is not an easy one when we read or hear others talking about the strains on organizations we rely upon. It brings up all of our fears about our loved one’s futures. It feels like everywhere we turn we are hit with gloom and doom scenarios; people and organizations fighting to keep critical funding. We must also find acceptance for the way other people speak about these political issues, as well as that fact that this is the reality of the situation we are faced with. Accepting the reality is a positive act because we cannot change what we are not willing to acknowledge. Although we may have decided to stay positive and focus on abundance, that does not mean others will do the same. Keeping our own focus in the face of negativity is imperative to our personal peace. We must remain aware of abundance in the midst of our interactions and encounters with others; accepting their responses and sharing our new insights with them so that they may begin to focus positively. If we allow ourselves to get sucked into the negativity and fear nothing will change for the better.
                Changing our focus to acceptance and abundance can help relieve caregivers of other fears about our children’s future, in the political process: the fear of lack of safety and the fear that our children are not being valued as human beings. We can bring acceptance to all the situations we fear. It is not that fear is bad; it is just that fear is unproductive. It paralyzes us and stifles our creativity, as well as putting us in a negative energy pattern. It makes us weak, but the positive energy that comes from focusing on abundance makes us strong and creative. I recently finished reading a book called Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender, by Dr. David R. Hawkins. Throughout the book, he talks about letting go of all of our negative emotions like fear. He wants us to feel the emotion because when we push it down we are not dealing with it and this causes it to come back up again later. He says that when a negative emotion arises inside of us we should allow ourselves to feel it without judging it as bad and without focusing on our thoughts that come with it. The thoughts feed the emotion. If we recognize our fear as just an emotion, neither good nor bad, simply there inside of our bodies and minds, we can let it go. Here is the process:

The emotion comes, you notice it, accepting that it is there, feeling in your body a sensation of pain or a tightness, you notice the thoughts that follow, you let them float away without feeding them with more thoughts, you realize the emotion is just a feeling that has no control over you, you let it float away, and in a few moments or seconds the thoughts are gone along with the emotion.

            Feeling negative emotions is unpleasant, but it is something we can acknowledge as accept as part of life. Feeling them and then letting them go will enhance our experiences in this life. I invite you to go through the process that Dr. Hawkins, a world-renowned psychiatrist, spiritual teacher, and author of many books, suggests and see if your fears are not relieved the next time you get upset about the political process. You might even consider doing this in a formal way in order to grow into a more positive energy pattern in your everyday life. To do this you could write down your desires for your loved one and for your life. Do not write down your fears because you want to focus on abundance. While writing, when you feel a sense of lack or fear allow yourself go through the process described above. Simply going through this process anytime a fear arises within you, whether you do it formally through writing or not, will put you in a better place to create the peace you want in every area of your life. It is a process you will need to do over and over again. As I said earlier, I am still working on this when it comes to politics. Some fears and emotions will recur many times while others will fade away quickly, but your life, your child, and your society are worth the effort.
            One more tool that will surely help you to stay focused on abundance is to take some time each day to be grateful and give thanks for all of the wonderful services you and your loved one already have. Gratitude is the very best way to draw more abundance into your life! And when you contact your local politicians, don't ever forget to thank them for their efforts, even if you disagree with their approach. I wish you and your family a happy, healthy life, full of peace and abundance!

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