"I told myself to stop looking back, keep my gaze forward......I squint at the moon shining outside my window. The same moon that inspired the ancient Zen masters to worry about nothing. In the timeless, clarifying light of the moon, I begin to make a list." - Phil Knight (Shoe Dog)
"Don't lead with fear of what might be, lead with the strength of who you are.." - Charley (Queen Sugar)
Looking back is a powerful thing. Reflecting and remembering is an important part of growth and development; it can help in the measure of progress and is an important part of coming to terms with where you may be and how much (or how little) you have done. It can also inform what may need to happen going forward. However sometimes in the process of looking back, you may get stuck. It is a constant challenge to keep moving forward with the past hovering just behind, always there and a constant reminder of everything that has happened. It's the ever present choice life greets you with in the moment; to look back or move forward.
I felt the need to focus this blog on the power of memories, thought and intention; the past the present and the future. It is so important to be self-aware in the navigation of personal challenges and the curveballs you can almost guarantee life will send your way. I decided to to write about this as I reflected on a recent experience with Chloe.
I woke up the other morning in my usual routine with Chloe: managing a child on the spectrum can be the most repetitive experience - nothing much changes, and most times if it does there is always the experience of significant disruption, so you try to avoid that at all costs or introduce changes that you are prepared to manage the impact of! I made my way to her room and was met with her amazing smile and telling me 'morning mummy, I love you.'
I walked over in my usual tired daze to pull up her Blind and at the same time she said loudly 'Alexa, play London LBC' (don't ask - it's for another blog!). This morning was going to be different however - I had all of a sudden decided, with great resoluteness and determination, to try and get her to be able to do her buttons up by herself - even one. Chloe's Autism affects her in various ways. One of the aspects is difficulties with fine and gross motor skills. Her hyper-mobility in one sense allows her to do many things some of us can't, but in other ways it affects her ability to do the small things that can be quite important; writing, washing herself, holding certain objects, putting on her clothes, and of course doing up her buttons.
I sat on the edge of the bed and maybe because I was tired from work and anticipating all the stuff ahead in the day, I suddenly became so overwhelmed. I wanted this morning to be the morning she did up her buttons! It had to happen I kept telling myself because I wanted to know that she would be ok in life. The buttons became the focus of everything at that moment and represented more than just the act of her doing them up; they became my fears of the future, my frustration with the past and my thoughts in the present moment.
She looked at me as I said, 'today is the day Chloe - you are going to do up your buttons yourself!' As I say this, she replies emphatically and with equal determination, "No, I can't' and is adamant that today is not the day.
We become embroiled in a battle of wills as I take her delicate fingers and help her to hold the button with one hand and then with the other hand gently show her how to guide the button through the tiny slit. However in the process of doing this and seeing her frustration get more intense I realise in that moment I am not trying to help her do her buttons up at all. In fact what is happening is that I am trying to make everything 'normal' for her. I can see how hard it is for her and it is not simple; it is simple for me but not for her and all of a sudden an emotion comes over me as I become aware of what is happening. I realise this morning I became fearful; I want Chloe to be ok in life and for her to be independent so that she is not reliant on others. I am also tired and exhausted and become stuck in what has happened and what may happen. I am not focusing on her at all. I stop as can see this morning she is not going to do up her buttons by herself and is getting quite frustrated.
Chloe has a strong intuition and senses I am upset. She looks at me and hugs me saying "It's ok Mummy" and I feel awful for making today the day I wanted her to do up her buttons by herself. If regret lives in the past, it's counterpart fear travels between the present and the future and it is important to be aware of both things imposing their presence in your mind and influencing your actions.
This moment made me realise that I can get caught in the trap of thinking of the things that Chloe is not able to do more than focusing on what she can do - she has so much talents and her own unique way of being in the world. I need to focus more on that and the other things will follow. I need to make sure fear does not take me over in the moments it chooses to arrive. Chloe has come so far. I stop and reflect on where she was and where she is and I understand that doing up the buttons will come, in time. I look at her and she smiles at me as we continue to get ready for school. I do up her buttons and Look Forward.