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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.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Call is Coming from Inside the House!

Josh with his Grandpa Pickard
Josh with his cousin and his Grandpa Stines
          Recently I was speaking to a man whose only grandchild has severe cognitive disabilities. He was telling me about a conversation he had with his brother a couple of years ago that is still upsetting to him when he thinks about it. The brother was annoyed by something his own teenage granddaughter was doing and he was complaining about her. It was nothing serious, just petty little things that irritate parents and grandparents sometimes. He told his brother not to judge her too harshly because it is best to accept people the way they are. He said his brother became defensive and told him he could never understand because he does not have grandchildren. This upset the man very much because he does have a grandson. I asked if maybe he took it wrong and that maybe his brother meant that he does not have a ‘typical’ grandchild and so he felt he could not understand the feeling since he never experienced it. He remained adamant that it was a deliberate insult to him and his grandson. He was sure his brother was taking a dig at him simply because he would not support his complaints. He explained that, although they are very close, they disagree on many issues and see the world differently. He said they do many things together and have wonderful fun, but they stay away from all of their areas of disagreement. He broke down and cried after hanging up from his brother and could not stop thinking about it for days afterward. His brother has not seen his grandson for a couple of years – since the phone call took place – because he feels his brother does not deserve to be around his grandchild if he cannot acknowledge his existence. The brothers still get together as much as they always have and for one brother the relationship has not changed. For the wounded brother, however, this one moment in time is eating away at him.
 This is an example of how we project onto others what we truly feel inside. It reminds me of the old line from a horror movie – The call is coming from inside the house! This man feels like he does not have a grandson, so when his brother stated it as a fact, it wounded him. It is easy to see why he feels he does not have a grandson. They cannot do the things grandfathers and grandsons typically do. They cannot have the kind of relationship he envisioned when his grandson was born. It is not bad to feel this way because all he wants is to have the same experiences most grandparents get to have. It is normal to want that. It does not mean he does not love his grandson. It does not mean he wishes him gone. It does not mean he wishes his grandson were different than he is. It simply means he wants to know him in the way most grandparents get to know their grandchildren. That seems impossible for a child with his grandson’s cognitive disabilities. This man has never mourned the loss of the grandson he expected to have. He has pushed the feeling, of not having a grandson, down so many times that he does not recognize it in himself any longer, or he may have never recognized it. He just knows something is missing, but can’t place his finger on what it is. He can only acknowledge it if he thinks it is coming from someone else.
             We cannot control the feelings that come up inside of us. We can rationalize them, we can stuff them down, or we can transform them by claiming them as our own. These feelings are our inner call to become wiser, to gain compassion, to learn how to love every person unconditionally, and to understand that each person is perfect the way they are. Pushing the negative feelings down and trying not to feel them temporarily places the call on hold. However, one day, someone will release the hold button by making an insensitive comment and the call will begin ringing in our heart once again. When that happens the weak part of us continues the denial by pushing the feelings out of us and onto the person that made the insensitive comment. We think we know why they said it because our fear will not allow us to fathom another reason for their comment. We recognize the feeling because it is a familiar feeling; one we’ve had before and one we still want to deny. Acceptance of our true feelings cannot come to the surface of our minds when we are unconsciously going through life because we see the world through our ego filter. This filter does not allow us to question what we think because it is our protection from feeling like a bad person. Who wouldn’t feel bad about feeling like this person you love and call grandson is not really a grandson? It hurts. But that is okay. There is nothing wrong with our feelings. It’s the things we tell ourselves about our feelings that create our problems.
These photos of Joshua represent for me a time when I wanted things to be different than they were. I wanted him to play like other children. I wanted him to keep that truck upright and push it around like every other child I saw playing with trucks. I wanted him to ride that tricycle and not just play with the wheels. My inability to accept his way of playing caused me to miss many moments of his joy. Look at his face. He is happy. There were times I noticed his happiness and his joy and I was grateful he was happy and joyous, but I can’t help but wonder, how many joyous moments did I miss because I was stuck in what I wanted and what I expected life to be like? There’s no telling. These were the calls I placed on hold.
Whatever is inside of us is what creates our experience. The only way we are capable of relating to anyone else is through our own mind. Because of this, there is no way to ever truly know another person and what motivates them. Every relationship we have is a figment of our imaginative mind; essentially a relationship with ourselves projected outward onto everyone we meet. If we were conscious and understood the deceptive ego, we could question our thoughts about our loved one’s insensitive comments and know that we really do not know what is in their mind. We can never know. We can only guess, but all of our guesses come from our own mind, our own feelings, and the way we view the world. Even when someone tells how they feel or what they think, we decide if we believe them based on our own thoughts, feelings, and assumptions. This man might be correct in assuming his brother meant to insult and hurt him, but he would not be insulted or hurt if he knew there was nothing to feel insulted over. He would have simply understood that his brother was being his usual insensitive self and reacting from his own thoughts and assumptions,
We get to know our families and we become sensitive to their personalities and the ways in which they behave. We expect bad behavior from them sometimes because we know their patterns and the ways they lash out when they are hurt. But, when an untrue comment hits us so profoundly that we are hanging onto it years later, that is our cue to wake up and realize there is something we are not understanding about ourselves. It has nothing to do with them, no matter how bad their behavior has been. This man put his call for growth on hold years ago by denying his feelings. All his brother did was trigger the ringer. If this man were to examine his feelings and mourn the loss he experienced, giving himself time to heal and come to terms with his feelings, he would be able to forgive himself for those feelings and truly forgive his brother. He would eventually see his grandson in a new way and would be able to have a deeper, closer, more profound relationship with him. He would not want his brother to miss out on the perfection his grandson embodies. Every call of this nature originates inside our own house and is begging to be resolved. The things that irritate us the most are what we need to get over, use to grow wiser and stronger, and forgive ourselves for. These irritations are showing us the lessons we most need to learn. They are calling us to challenge our ideas of good and bad, right and wrong, defective and perfect, and all of the other things we’ve thought about the world up to this point. What calls have you placed on hold?

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