So two things. I read Richards blog and thought there is more to say and my closest friend told me a while ago to write about my precious little grandson. So this is my attempt to get something down. Wish me luck!
Joseph. Even saying his name softens me inside and makes me smile to myself. He has taught me more than I even know, about life, about me, about why we do what we do and about why being helpful causes more trouble than letting things be.
Being helpful…a strategy to help others or to protect ourselves? After being so ill last year I have found a place of peace and stillness inside, not always accessible but always there. I love Brigid Russells words in her tweets, they remind me of my place and I feel connected to hers. I have discovered that if you want the whole of life which I do (most of the time anyway) then it means going deep inside to find all those parts of me that have kind of been left behind, holding the feelings that I had to protect myself from, many years ago. As my friend has also taught me, to experience joy you have to also allow sorrow and the deepest grief, they are two sides of the same coin. It is not an easy path to take and although I am learning I still stray and have to find a way back. Having said that it’s mostly down to whether I have faith, whether I let the knowing and wisdom inside reveal itself, whether I can listen, not resist and be brave enough to look and see what’s there. I read Elizabeth Gilberts book Eat, Love, Pray a while ago and I chuckled at all the ways she found to resist just being with herself. It is so hard…meditation is my therapy now. When I was first ill I learned to quieten my mind with meditation through music. I discovered that place inside me this way. Now I find I want complete silence and I want peace. I don’t watch TV anymore. I rarely put it on, unless I want the company of background noise. I used to judge those people who didn’t have TV’s and think it was a class thing. When I was growing up and when I had my kids we loved watching telly and it was on all the time. Sometimes now I feel like there is a whole life going on in the silence, in the background hum that’s always present but rarely noticed. Meditating the other day I found myself, just like Elizabeth Gilbert, yawning, convincing myself I had other things to do and about to stop I caught it and wondered whether it was just resistance bubbling up. So I stayed with it and found tears streaming down my face as memories of pets lost when I was little popped into my head and I realised I hadn’t ever felt the grief and loneliness inside, living in a house that was so chaotic no one was safe, not even the animals. I felt like I could touch and taste my mams sadness and regret, it was around me and her all the time, in the stories she shared with me probably because she had no one else. I read a book once about lemon cake. A little girl who could taste her mothers sadness in the cakes she loved to make. I get this.
So Joseph, my Joseph. Why should I write about him? Why would that be different to how I usually express myself? Maybe its because he breaks my heart wide open. He goes right inside to my essence, reaches into the deepest places with his presence, his watchful open eyes and heart. In him I recognise myself as a little three year old and I feel for her in the same way that I do for him. The child who learned at a very early age to protect herself, to step out of her own shoes to keep her parents, both vulnerable in their own way, happy and close. What an effort! I wonder what it means for the people we work with when we bring this into our “work”? I know that I have met a lot of adults and children who seem to know that it is their job to make us feel good about our caregiving or helping. It is at a cost to them I think. The looked after child who goes along with the narrative provided by well -meaning social workers who provide them with words like “forever family” and programmes designed to shape them to fit in the appropriate shaped hole for that family. Where does the anger and distress and need for comfort go? When it can’t be contained it explodes everywhere and causes chaos for all. Each of us finds our own unique way of forgetting or hiding, burying, sending into orbit those parts of us that hurt the most. One of the things that I have discovered is that the language I have acquired from books and theory over the years is not how my own story is told. I find my own words, my own path and expression that says what I want to say with words that come from deep inside. not from a book. I wonder whether in fact we limit what people are able to tell us sometimes because we are busy remembering some theory or book or paper that explains what might be happening and what we should do. Just being with someone, really being with them is not an easy thing to do. It is one of the first things I learned from my friend and mentor Dr Pat Crittenden and also one of the reasons why I like the DMM, her model. Joseph teaches me to love the little people inside of me, to think about them in the same loving and wondrous way that I see him. Discovering the grief deep inside can take my breath away and it also allows me to experience joy like I have never felt before.
It is a strange thing but this joy, the joy that I feel when I walk on the beach, look at the sky or at the face of someone I love, brings a contentment that changes the drive to “help” others but tells me that the more I can be, the more present I can be to every moment of my own precious life, the more I can actually be of use to others. I have another grandchild, older than Joseph and not born to me. We’ve had a difficult time getting through the days and years together and I have always known that we each have a contribution to what happens between us (another gem from Pat Crittenden). I met someone who has been brave enough and loving enough to give me the courage to discover my part and I have been blown away by what happens when I stop compulsively trying to caretake. It’s simple and yet complex at the same time. So what I have discovered is that when she rings me, especially when she is stressed and angry, instead of listening, being present with her I go off in my mind trying to find solutions and ways of making her feel better, offering them to her and then feeling rejected, angry and exhausted when nothing seems to help. If and when I catch myself just as my mind is about to kick in, if I simply stop and be right there with her, listening properly, feeling for her-it is more satisfying for us both and brings us closer together. It also means that, as with Joseph I have a deep connection with her and with myself. After years of questioning whether we would be okay I find myself knowing that we will, that both me and her are enough for one another. I think it is true that those whom we love the most are our greatest teachers. They hold up a mirror, both to those parts of us that are loving but also those other more troubling parts that are deep inside and contain our greatest sorrow, grief and unexpressed anger. It is definitely not an easy path to take but it is so worth it.