Letting Go - of shame, guilt, expectation
I’ve spent my life as an over thinker, which are just other words for anxiety prone. I have learned though, that while anxiety lies in the future, and depression with an over focused eye on the past, joy lies in the present moment. In the present moment I am free. Free to lift my gaze and connect with the people around me, free to move and breathe and make decisions based on my own intentions for my days. In the present, nothing is too hard or too scary and nothing needs to be controlled. The present moment holds no shame, guilt, or burden of the past. In the present I get to be me, and it feels good. It’s the space that taught me that I was tough enough to endure heartbreak and disappointment and still see so much beauty in every day. The present moment is where flow is possible, when my brain and my body have the most seamless connection and my ability to move keeps the perfect pace for what I want to achieve. The present merely unfolds in front of my eyes and teaches me to separate action from emotion. I don’t always nail it, but I am grateful that I am so much better at it than I used to be.
I never knew the term “emotional regulation” until I started working my way down this path of questionaires and surveys that raising Matthew has lead me. Before him, developmental milestone questions at the pediatrician were automatic answers…yes she babbles, yes, she rolls over, crawls, and walks. When Matthew came along, I fought a gut feeling from day one that something was different and his responses to everyday life situations like whistles at the soccer game (he would practically flip his stroller over) or the sobbing child that couldn’t handle people singing happy birthday to him on his 1st birthday broke my heart confirmed my gut instinct. How we take in, interpret, and react to information and stimulus in this world is directly related to our ability to learn and form relationships. Our ability to appropriately react to situations or sometimes not react at all, is paramount to the ease we find in our days.
Matthew’s nervous system is on high alert all the time, I can literally see him struggle to sit still, not fidget, and slow his mind to be able to tune out certain stimuli and be able to focus on what matters for him to learn. It’s also impossible to find presence in this state. I try and model it for him. I show him how to breathe to activate his parasympathetic nervous system and try and find longer moments of calm, but often he fights it like his body just wants to feel what it knows. Truly the only place I have seen calm presence for any length of time with him is when he’s in the water alone, boogie boarding, body surfing, or surfing. I have always had a special relationship with the water. I understand intimately the sensory deprivation it provides and have no doubt that is what draws him to it. What I see when he finds calm in the ocean only deepens my belief in the water’s healing power.
On land these days, he is seeking a deep pocket of self awareness for a 12 year old that I am proud of, but is also difficult. He is desperately trying to figure out why he struggles and put a name on it. How do I teach him that none of us can be summed up by a label, and that certainly isn’t the place to let a story end?
For anyone who has any experience with the autism spectrum, it’s very broad! Just like no two neurotypical people are the same, the same can be said for the autism spectrum. The quote that explains Matthew’s struggles best was coined by his amazing kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Bateman. She was the kind of teacher who saw her job as a vocation and she was so good at it.
“My best advice is to talk to parents who have had kids like Matthew and see what they are doing.”
But then she laughed…
“Good luck finding another kid like him.”
She said this in the most endearing way, and I understood exactly what she meant. The truth about Matthew is that not a day goes by that I don’t think how lucky we are to have him here with us, that he is here to teach big things. In my mind, on my best day, when we are connecting at the highest level, he is the quintessential example of being, not doing. His EQ is off the charts and he has a connection to the spiritual world that I swear is mystic. He takes to some people like he has known them for a lifetime and will trust them with the deepest conversations, but others he wants nothing to do with. His intuition is almost always right. He picks up on everyone’s vibration and can feel the tension or ease in a room. Knowing this, I put a lot of pressure on myself to make him feel safe so that he can focus and learn. I have failed in many respects over the years since I pulled him from the bottom of the pool though, because my anxiety over never being in a similar situation with him for any reason rears its ugly head way too often. Until him, I was not a hovering parent, maybe that contributed to his terrible accident. My favorite quote whenever I had a disagreement or a frustration with Ryan, a therapist, or one of his siblings though is
“If I knew what to do, I would just do it.”
There are no easy answers, no silver bullets, and no quick fixes. The answer lies deep in the unraveling of a very tight nervous system and from the time I came to understand this, I have sought information tirelessly for what would help him achieve this level of inner peace. It’s what mom’s do for their kids, it’s impossible for us not to. What I didn’t know when I started down this path was the tension it would cause in my life…this mom thing can be an overzealous path.