After Symbiosis- What then?

November 27, 2008

Bodhi is now thirteen months old. A toddler, if you insist on labels. And I am quickly learning that this age comes with many challenges!

 One challenge is finding our places as two separate selves. Bodhi has moved on from the lovely cocooned infant stage where he saw himself and I as one. In fact, if you get down to it, I did too. Not physically, but on some spiritual or emotional level, that strong bond of mama and baby, where we slept, ate and played in the same rhythm, that was a kind of oneness.

Bodhi now realises that we are separate. And that scares him. He is experiencing intense separation anxiety at the moment. His emotional state is highly mercurial, changeable and forceful. Some of this is due to normal stage development, and some of it is due to birth trauma.

I took Bodhi to my kinesiologist this week to address these and other symptoms he has been experiencing, to work on them and to ascertain whether it was developmental issues or birth trauma related as I suspected. What we found was that it was trauma, some physical- in the areas of the heart chakra and throat chakra along the spine- and some emotional. Bodhi has a deep wariness of the world, and sadly, does not feel safe. Much of the time when he is upset it is due to fear, and my placations only pacify him- they do not help him feel more secure.

As a connected and attached parent, this is one of the biggest challenges I could be given. Coming also from a counselling background, I understand how important building trust and security is to a young soul, and how laying these foundations will aid healthy development in all other stages for the rest of his life (these ideas come from Bowlby and Erikson and make interesting and informative reading). This young age is so paramount to healthy psychology and knowing that he has this fundamental fear is distressing.

At this point I could berate and blame myself, but I have chosen not to do that. Not only does that not achieve anything, or help resolve the problem, but it takes away my power to rectify the problem with my child. I do, however, need to grieve for this lost sense of trust in some way, which I am sure we will do together over the coming weeks.

To look on a more positive aspect of the issue, I believe I have caught this issue early on. Bodhi has only been manifesting this intense and volatile emotionality for about three or four weeks. I think perhaps part of it may be related to Mum’s stroke, the interruption that had on our lives and rhythm, and a lessened emotional and practical availabiltyavailability to Bodhi. And also, his growing and learning we are two separate entities.

Having brought the issue to awareness early, I believe it will be healed more effectively, and with less resistance and complication, than if it had been left to fester for some time.

The question now, is how to instill that trust of the world, and of my place as his mother, again. Again, because I do feel we had that secure base at one point.

The most obvious answer is to make sure I am physically available to Bodhi as much as possible. Now is not the time to get a job, or put him into daycare, or undertake any demanding projects. I can continue bonding activities- breastfeeding, co sleeping and having him in arms- which I would have done anyway. I can attempt to have a consistent, gentle, predictable home rhythm and not throw any major curve balls his way for a little while.

They are the answers that come to mind immediately. I think it is important, with this issue as in any other, to look deeper and perhaps meditate on other things that might help.

When I do this, the answers that I am given extend. I need to slow down with life. Not just for him, but for me as well: to be more aware of the moment, what the experience of “now” feels like, and to embrace and immerse myself in it. Young children have such a wonderfully innate sersesense of mindfulness, and slowing down in this way will help connect me with his experience exponentially.

I need to ensure the way I relate to my son is positive and nurturing- see the “Communication Manifesto” post, and in that way I will be more firmly connected. I also need to protect him from influences that aren’t conducive to feeling safe again- such as not exposing him to overstimulating things like television and toys with all the bells, whistles and batteries, or people who do not understand the psychological needs of young children. Of course, I can not and should not protect him from these things at all times, but for now, he needs a little extra cocooning and  a mama bear that can be equally ferocious and cuddly.

I can also try to tap into my intuition and inner wisdom even more. It has served me well and is my best mothering tool- it’s got me this far and brought the issue to awareness.

So as I move into this new stage of his development, whilst we are effected by his birth trauma issues, the answer to “How do I deal with this age?’ is at the moment, to continue what I am doing, and, where possible, connect deeper, trust my intuition stronger, and be present consistently, gently and lovingly.

When he is ready, life will have new challenges for us. But for now, I thank the universe for allowing me the challenge to show my motherly love and devotion even more.


Being The Change

November 20, 2008

This week my family and I made a decision. We will be moving to Bellingen when our current tenancy agreement runs out in July next year, after years of talking about it.

Those of us that know us, know that Bellingen is a special place for us. It’s our soul town. My personal experience of Bellingen is one of resonance and peace and joy. When I walk down the main street, or through the fabulous markets, or sip chai in the many ambient cafes, I catch myself smiling- really, cheek hurtingly smiling. I walk with more grace and lightness. I am focused on the moment, and every time on the way home, apart from a feeling of separating from myself, at least a little, I see life with more clarity and vigour.

It’s taken me a long time to reconcile myself with this need to move to Bellingen. Big change scares me. There was one time in my life, motivated by a fervent love, that I was going to move to Brisbane. That didn’t eventuate; the relationship broke down. But for that few weeks I gained the courage to make that significant a move, spurred on by a greater force than my fear- love.

I think now, reflecting on our decision to move to Bellingen, I finally love myself enough to take such a risk and do something that scares me so much.

Why does is scare me? Moving is a hassle, especially long distance, but it is not that which has stopped me. It’s the loss of my support network. I am surrounded by so many loving, beautiful people, and I am going to find it hard to let them, and the protection they afford me, go. In a way I will be trusting in my own independence and resilience.

The biggest force to stay, however, has been my mother. I have spent a lifetime so bonded to her, and to not have her close by doesn’t feel right. It scares me, not for me, but for her. I have always felt somewhat responsible for her, and moving away to me feels like an injustice upon her.

Funnily enough, her stroke has given me the opportunity to let go of those feelings of dependence and responsibility. I have witnessed both her sickly weakness and the resilience of her spirit. And we have both grown closer and got to know each other on deeper levels of the past few weeks of her being under my soft wings of care. I can trust in her and life’s process of differentiation from her. And, as she says, she will only be two hours down the road.

So now free of those self imposed restrictions, a whole new world of opportunity awaits me. I have come to realise that often I feel like an impostor or a shadow of my self here. Whilst I espouse a range of ideals, there are barriers to me truly encapsulating them here. There, the ‘mainstream’ is alternative: there are communities and MO’s we could move to, where there are none here; there is a great Steiner school for Bodhi instead of me burning myself out trying to home school; there is more awareness of self renewal and actualisation.

The challenge, however, is to live all these ideals authentically, wherever we are. Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see in the world”, and I truly believe in this statement. I may have grand ideas about the way I think the world could be better, but yabbering on about it does little. The very most important thing in all this activism stuff, is to take responsibility for individual changes first. Only through personal change, on a cognitive, behavioural and ideological level, can change take place. Just little by little. And then not so little, until the ‘new world order’ comes about.

For example, for a long time, I was fixated on other people’s role in my birth trauma. What my partner did, what the midwives did or didn’t do, how I reacted to this, was all in the forefront of my mind. However, this week a wise friend of mine helped me see that through identifying so strongly with this side of the birth trauma, I was blocking myself from truly getting in touch with the experience itself, and therefore working through it. I was pushing my emotions away by trying to rationalise it all. That lesson taken on, I am aware of my need to feel it all once again, give those emotions space, and set them free to the universe once again.

Another example is breastfeeding. In the early days, I was self conscious of feeding in public. I did not want to look unskilful, or create controversy in such an important area. But then I realised, role modelling is the best community education I can undertake, and the perhaps the most effective way to encourage other women to pursue a breastfeeding relationship with their child: to normalise it. Twelve months on, I feed my child anywhere, and a lot of the time go out without a bra on (my breasts are there to nourish my child and to provide myself and Zai with pleasure, neither of which requires a bra). It’s just so much easier that way! I have completely taken on breastfeeding on a cognitive, behavioural and ideological level.

So the next step I see in this journey of life is to move to Bellingen. To perhaps live in an intentional community or some old shack in the hinterland; to give up many material comforts, to grow most of our food and barter for that we can’t; to live a more creativity and community based life; to provide our son with a more complete and self enhancing education.

Of course, we could do all (or maybe most) of that here. It would be more difficult due to the demographic and dominant beliefs in the area. I completely acknowledge this and value the challenge that goes with it. And perhaps not to stay sounds like copping out.

But in the end, to stay here would be to ignore the voice in my heart that sings for Bellingen. It would to be ignore that feel of my soul being drawn. To give up the chance to live where we may be most happiest, to be the fullest self actualisation we may find. And so finally, we listen.

The Rhythm of Calm

November 16, 2008

Everything in life has a rhythm. The gentle, warm rise and fall of breath energising our bodies. The sharpness of emotion falling back into homeostasis.  The ebb and flow of each day’s light, and the moon and sun circling each other in the skies.

Quiet now, you may be able to hear it. Let artificial rhythms fall away; the clock ticking, the hum of the fridge. Let them fall away. Listen deeper. Hear life.

Life itself has a rhythm; life is rhythm. Right now I am listening to soft rain falling on our tin roof. I have always found this particular sound so blissful. The rain would lull me to sleep as a child and even now this sound evokes feelings of snuggly comfort and security.

If I were to describe the rhythm of my life at this point, it would be frenetic. Being a mother to a one year old, caring for my mother, a writer, student, and running a non profit organisation is not always conducive to cultivating calm.

However, even writing that, I know the statement is potentially incorrect. It is not the activities of my life that dictate how rushed my life is, but the attitude I have towards them. If I write or mother or undertake any task with mindfulness, focus and positive energy, then I will enjoy the peace that comes from this. If I undertake the same task with half of my attention devoted to my next action, how big the laundry pile is and what I would rather be doing, then I harvest disjointedness.

This mindful peace is akin to the concept of ‘flow’ in the study of motivation. Flow is the state in which we are totally absorbed in the task at hand, in the moment, and oblivious to the passing of time or peripheral issues.

I am well aware that I do not go into tasks with the most positive amount of mindfulness at times. Furthermore, being a goal orientated person, I am far more often focused on the “doing” of life, rather than the “being”. It’s hard for me to play with Bodhi at his level, because I do not allow myself to let go of the doing side of my self and become ensconced in my surroundings.

I do, however, find myself at times in the state of temporal detachment. Today my family and I visited some relatives. As we were leaving, Bodhi objected to being put in his car seat, so I decided to give him a breastfeed in the car before we went. As I curled up in the front seat with him, laughing with him as he pulled off every now and then to look at the unfamiliar surroundings, feeling his soft hands playing with my face and hair as he fed, my aunt commented that she had decided to stop breastfeeding her son at around Bodhi’s age as he was often distracted just as my little boy was today. She told me I had patience.

I had never really considered myself to be a patient mama. Feeding Bodhi is just such an absorbing task. These little blue eyes look up at me with such an intensity that it’s hard not to get lost in them. But looking at it with hindsight, I think now that I have accustomed myself to the time it takes to feed Bodhi, and is never a burden. It’s a chance to rest and connect. There is a rhythm to it, and we both tune into it easily.

Yesterday, Bodhi, my mother and I met some of Zai’s family on the town green and watched a concert. Zai’s aunt and her partner joined us.

I have so much respect and love for these two. Zai’s aunt is an intelligent, gentle woman who has a depth of spirit around her. Her partner is full of warmth and joviality.

I did not realise until yesterday, however, what it is that so draws me to them. It’s their rhythm. Both of them, together and as individuals, have a gentle, slow rhythm about them. They are unhurried by life, take time to contemplate their thoughts before they respond in conversation, and enjoy the moment. Talking to them yesterday, although our conversation was short, left me calm and happy.

So often I find myself rushing around in life. These two let life rush around them, and enjoy the peace that is left for them to soak in.

History Making

November 6, 2008

I am usually only ever aware of overseas politics in my periphery- and that awareness only generally reaches to issues I follow- but I, like the majority of those in the world with access to some kind of media, have been saturated with information about the US presidential elections over the last few months.

I did no real research into it. My political side was more busy following the two recent local by elections and becoming ensconced comfortably and satisfyingly into Australian politics. I don’t know much about Barack Obama. What I have read about his policies, some I agree with and some I don’t. My intuition (or could that be the media hype’s subliminal influence?) pulled for him more than McCain, and I certainly hoped Obama would win.

The thing that drew me to Obama was his leadership ability. He speaks strongly, eloquently and with passion. He carries himself with dignity and professionalism. He had a well targetted and well managed campaign.

I was often annoyed, however, by the question I heard the media ask a few times: “Is America ready for a black president?”

This infuriated me. Why does this question even need to be asked?  Surely there are a greater majority of intellingent, socially aware people out there that realise that the ability to lead well and justly is not affected by the colour of one’s skin. Is the race card that pertinent an issue that it will be used as a media selling point, rather than policies, actions and analysis (there is a part of me snickering cycnically to myself here, but the question stands)? This question- is America ready for a black president- is ridiculous! Why do I keep hearing it?

I didn’t get it until today. I am not a racist. I do not judge people on the colour of their skin, but on their actions. I do not segregate myself or others into categories like that.

But I am not Black.

Perhaps if I was, I would see the issue differently. If I was part of the “minority group”, and had experienced a lifetime of discrimination based on genetic material, I would see that Obama becoming the first black president as the history making moment that it is touted as being (which I don’t disagree with at all- I just think it’s sad that it took so long to happen, and that because of the state of society it is so significant). I would be celebrating in the streets too.

I will never have an experiential understanding of what it means and what it feels like to be of a “minority” race- which, aside, is such a stupid phrase, not only does it immediately semantically create segregation and a status implication, and aren’t we all part of some kind of minority somewhere?- and as such, I do not believe I will ever truly grasp the full extent of the issues that affect someone of that kind of group. Just like I might never know what feels like to be a political prisioner, to be a victim of domestic violence, to dies of AIDS or to be a refugee.

What I need to avoid, however, is disengaging myself from the willingness to try to empathise. Only through empathy will people who need the support, the numbers, the votes or the dissent, be served well by me, the fellow human being. I need to let go of my assumptions and biases, connect with individuals on a personal and interactive level, and become educated in issues that way.

To go back to the original topic, I am pleased that America has shown it is ready for a Black president. If it was a campaign run only on racial progress (which of course it wasn’t), and he hadn’t won, I would have despaired for humanity.

Now, I hope, he can be a good custodian of the “Leader of the Free World” tag. Because that’s what matters most to me.

The Grief in Illness

November 2, 2008

Two weeks ago, my mother had a stroke. Just like that. The day before, she and Bodhi were playing with their normal experience and joy. The next we were thinking she might die.

Actually, I wasn’t thinking she might die. I had this uncanny feeling, and I don’t think I can label it, but I can try to describe it. It was as if I was taking in the seriousness of the situation by osmosis. Seeping slowly and gently into my conciousness.

I was sleeping peacefully, late by most people’s timetables but not by our family’s. When I was awoken by Zai who took the phonecall from her workplace, I was immediately caught up in a whirlwind of rushing and heat- it was a hot morning and I think that essence of sweat and business will stay with me when I think of it.

We were directed to her in the back of the shop, where she was sitting, oblivious to us really, confused, weak, and looking back on it, probably only half in this world. We took her to hospital (that she didn’t argue should have told me something was urgently wrong), and even as I sat with her in triage, it didn’t strike me that she had anything more than a severe tummy bug. Even when she couldn’t tell the nurse where she was, where it happened, or what year it was.

As I sat with her in a bed in emergency, Zai continued the preparations for Bodhi’s Blessing Day which we had organised for the next day. She seemed relatively coherent, but didn’t tolerate well the monitors on her and especially the cuff of the blood pressure monitor on her arm periodically inflating.

I snuck a look at her notes whilst waiting for results from a barrage of blood tests and scans to come back, and I read words to the effect of “bleed into vent. Transfer to JHH.”

That didn’t make sense. Bleed into vent? No, she has a stomach bug. What is bleeding? And what does JHH stand for…it’s not the name of a ward in the hospital.

It struck me, then, that JHH stands for John Hunter Hospital. The big hospital in Newcastle where people with “serious” illnesses get sent.

That’s when enough had soaked in for it to make a discernable difference. I told mum I was going for a walk, and went outside for a little while. That was the one and only time I cried in this whole ordeal, which concerns me. There is a lot of emotion there, but it’s all under the surface.

The doctor soon explained that mum had a bleed in her brain, and they were sending her down to John Hunter in a helicopter. I don’t think Mum took much in, even though I tried to explain everything to her in ways she would best understand. She was tired and pale and not-really-there.

Standing and waiting outside for her to be prepped for the helicopter (there was too much activity going on inside the small cubicle) was surreal, isolating and intense. The sound of the chopper taking off, taking my mum away, possibly forever, was hard to take in- all those what ifs, so all I did take in was the sounds and other sensory material of it all.

The next week or two passed in this same kind of emotional procrastination, with the occasional moments of clarity to the grave risks of the situation. Like when I sat with Mum in the emergency ward of JHH that night, when we finally got there following that helicopter in our car, her laying against my arm, hooked up to all the equipment, whilst in the next cubicle a doctor talked to the family of a man who was now braindead. Or when I googled her condition.

50% of people who have her kind of stroke (a haemorraghic stroke, the rarer kind) die within twenty four hours. 83.7% die within the first month. We are 15 days in.

I think she will survive. Pragmatically, it was a small bleed, and she never went into a coma- both of which are important diagnostic factors. Whilst she gets tired easily, and gets some specific words mixed up, there appears to be no significant or long term brain damage. She is still the same woman she was the day before the stroke, though we lost her there for a few days.

From a more personal perspective, whilst her body is weak, her spirit and being is shining as strong as it ever did. And that’s what makes me believe she will make it.

Mum is now living with us. It’s been some of our most special time together. We have shared a lot and she has made so many postive changes, like eating regularly and giving up smoking, that I never thought she would.

All in all, theres a wonderful closeness and positiveity in this time, if spiked with fear and greif.