My Life on Hold?

Innovation, Box, Man, ThinkingAn interesting one this:

I was recently told by a well-meaning friend that I was ‘putting my life on hold’ for the sake of accommodating the complex needs of my friend Will.  She pointed out that I ‘give up’ every Sunday afternoon to work with him on remote viewing (“Can’t he do it at other times?”/ “Well he tries sometimes, but he copes best when routines are set up and feels most comfortable that way.”).  She added that I’d undertaken a six hour round trip to London to possibly spend a short time meeting up with him (I LOVE my coach trips to London and meeting with him was the icing on the cake of an otherwise enjoyable day), that I give huge amounts of time and energy to assist him in maintaining our contact and am always putting his needs before my own.

So that set me thinking.  A lot.

If I say I don’t begrudge any of the time or effort I spend trying to work within with the limitations his social anxiety and bouts of depression and withdrawal place on our relationship, I run the risk of being labelled co-dependent.  That one has been levelled at me, too, on several occasions by people who – again – feel I’m ‘wasting’ my life.

Strange how our society views the way we spend our time, don’t you think?

Afternoon Tea, Tea Cup, Tea 壺I suppose I could be spending those ‘given up’ Sunday afternoons pootling around Somerset in the car of the aforementioned friend, stopping off for a cup of tea at a garden centre somewhere.  I could spend them watching old movies on TV.  I could read a book or check Facebook.  There are many things I could do.  Glastonbury, Cathedral, Ruin, Henry ViiiYet I choose to hold groundbreaking conversations with a brilliant young man, whose originality and psychic skills never cease to amaze me.  I choose to travel to interesting places – ancient sites, bustling cities or interesting landscapes – so that he can sit in his home, remotely view my location and, in ways that are a mystery to us both, send detailed sketches or written descriptions of the place I’m in.

Which of those would be a ‘waste’ of my time?

I’d argue that none of them could ever be a waste.

I’d argue that my life is never ‘on hold’.

I’d argue that my ‘Life’ – or the portion of it that I’ve chosen to spend embodied as the human I am currently being – is a precious gift my greater self has given to me.  It’s all about experiencing through my senses, in a way that isn’t possible when I’m in spirit.  It’s about learning through those experiences.  It’s about adding to the cumulative knowledge and awareness of All That Is.

Head, Wireframe, Face, Lines, WaveMore than that, I believe that every single one of us has a ‘pre-planned’ life purpose, or theme – something we’ve decided in advance to work with in this particular lifetime.  That could be exploring aspects of illness/wellness, of poverty/wealth, of victim-hood/control or one of a thousand other explorations.  Aspects of that pre-selected theme turn up repeatedly in people’s lives.  They have been born in this particular era, at their particular location, the better to encounter situations and other individuals who will push them to explore and discover.  Once a ‘lesson’ is learned, a new situation will appear, to allow the person to put their new knowledge into practice.  That will, of course, throw up a new set of challenges and discoveries.  And so it goes, until we finally decide (at soul level, usually) that we’ve gleaned all we can from that life.  At that point, we move back into spirit and, perhaps, decide what we’d like to explore on our next sojourn on the blue planet.

I watch with wonder and delight as my interactions with Will allow me to explore our relationship with the non-local and the vaster aspects of our psyche.  I also take great joy from the opportunity he gives me to explore aspects of Autistic Spectrum Perception.  Each fresh discovery or revelation allows me to work more effectively and appropriately with him and with the other ASP young people I encounter.

So I know – absolutely KNOW – that my life is ‘on purpose’ and is as fulfilling and amazing as I could wish it to be.  No matter how I choose to spend it and how pointless or foolish my activities may seem to others, I – like every other human, being – am learning, developing and making the most of everything this experience has to offer.

 

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When Worlds Collide

People, Bus, Commuting, Public TransportA three hour coach ride passes so much better when you find yourself seated next to someone interesting to chat to.

My neighbour yesterday was, it emerged, travelling to London for a brief, bittersweet half day with her daughter.  It was the girl’s birthday.  She’d booked herself into a posh hotel in the West End.  They were to have champagne, then lunch somewhere luxurious.  The daughter would unwrap her presents then – ‘a comfort sack’ with such items as a thick duvet, pillow and covers, hand warmers, hot chocolate mix…  Tomorrow the young lady will take all her spoils and return to Greece, where she works for the UN, caring for the refugees.
“It’s so desperately cold there, Mum,” she’d told her mother. “Just so desperate”.

Lesvos, Island, Mytilini, GreeceI wondered how it felt for that young woman to move between those two quite different worlds – her opulent English lifestyle and the squalor and tragedy of the transit camps.  How must the smells, the sounds, the sickness and pain feel to someone who has grown up in such a different culture?  How, indeed, must it feel for the inhabitants of the camps, wrenched from their lives in such violence and terror?

 

“And you?” my neighbour enquired.  “Why are you going to London?”

“Oh,” I said, with a slight smile, “I’m probably going to enjoy a few hours in the British Museum.  And I might be meeting a friend.”

Well it was a long journey, so gradually my story came out too.  If we did meet, it would be no less shocking and difficult a transition for my friend than her daughter’s move to Greece had been.

Sport, Exhausting, To Clench TeethJust as the refugee camps would seem overwhelmingly disgusting and sickening to us – their sights, smells and emotional charge far beyond what we feel able to cope with – so our world is, for people like my friend.  For him, and so many other super-sensitive people who live with autistic spectrum perception in its many and amazing forms, our world – in all its raw, visceral physicality can be almost too much to cope with.  Their senses are easily overwhelmed by what, to us, would seem trivial.  Their anxiety never sleeps.  Their fears grapple constantly at their throats with sharp, threatening fingers.  Small wonder so many would prefer to remain in the insular, relatively safe surroundings of the worlds they have built for themselves.  Why – given the choice – would they venture out into the uncertainties of our unfamiliar and terrifying world?

The answer is the same as for the young lady working for the UN – compassion, humanity, generosity of spirit.  They want to help us.  They want to build bridges.  They want to reach into our world and show us their perspectives.  If they manage it, we will be so much richer for it, but if they don’t, we have no right to criticise them.  Every single day, they struggle to do what they can to reach into our world.  And there will be days they just can’t.

When I reached London, he was still at home, holed up in an agony of indecision.  If he managed a meeting, it would be the first for many years.  The least I could do was to make it as easy as possible for him.
‘No rush,’ I messaged.  ‘I’ll head for the museum. Text me later if you feel able to meet somewhere.’

An hour later I was a stranger wandering in the world of the Abyssinians: huge bas-reliefs of Kings and courtiers.  ‘Spirit helpers’ with the heads of eagles and small handbags held objects like oversized pine cones against the backs of the humans’ heads.  Why?  Pineal gland connection perhaps?  What was in the bags?  What favoured realm had these beings descended from, to help their human counterparts?

Then my phone pinged.

‘I’m going to come.  I’m in central London.  Shall I meet you at the British Museum or elsewhere?’

‘The museum’s crammed with people,’ I told him, when I’d had a moment.  ‘Let’s meet in one of the squares nearby.’

On my way out I paused to stare in awe once again at the Rosetta stone, that magical jigsaw piece that had given the modern world a way into the world of other races at other times.  For me, at that moment, the stone became a talisman, allowing my world and my friend’s to come together for a short while.

Seat, Iron, Metal, Bench, Seat BenchBloomsbury, like much of London, has many lovely, peaceful squares – small oases of calm and greenery amidst the hubbub of traffic and commerce.  I selected a calm, pleasant open space where I felt he’d be most comfortable, sat on a bench and waited.  I sat at one end and placed my bags beside me, knowing he’d need more body space than most would consider normal for lifelong friends.  I remained seated when he arrived.  No exclamation of delight, no bear hugs or grasping of hands.
“Alright?” he said simply.
“Yes,” I said quietly.  “And well done.”

Old friends.  Old friends.  Sat on a park bench like bookends.
Paul Simon’s song echoed in my mind from another of my distant worlds.

I’d written much of what I wanted to say on paper.  He finds the written word easier to handle than speech – less unpredictable.  So for the first few minutes he sat and read in silence.  Then we talked.  He kept his eyes fixed straight ahead; body language and facial expression are confusing for him, so it’s easier if he cuts them out.  Still there were deep discussions and moments of humour, with both of us laughing out loud.  There were connections and shared memories of times when we’d spent so many days and hours together.  It was wonderful.

And because I know he finds transitions difficult, I made the decision on when to leave.  Or perhaps the weather did, as the rain that had been threatening all afternoon eventually began to fall.

Neither of us said, “See you soon.”  Who knows?   And what does it matter?  Our worlds had come together for that short while without any explosions or disasters and we are closer for that experience.

Not very

Mural, Girl, Balloon, Heart, GraffitiI can’t remember when our last meeting was.  If you don’t know it’s going to be the last time, you don’t take particular note of it, I suppose.

I remember my last meeting with his mother.  It was in the hospice.  That meeting is easy to recall, because we were both all too aware that she’d have moved beyond her body within a few days.  We had a rather surreal conversation about this and that – mostly her plans for the funeral and what she wanted me to do to help care for her little boy.  I kept asking whether she was tired and would prefer me to leave and she kept saying, ‘No.  I don’t want you to go yet.’  But eventually she was tired and she did need to sleep and we hugged and cried a bit and said none of the things people usually say when they are parting: ‘See you soon’, ‘Keep in touch’, ‘Take care of yourself’.  It was an adieu moment, not an au revoir.

When I last saw her son – the little boy who had grown up to be a man and who had become just like one of my own children to me – he DID say, ‘See you soon.’  I distinctly remember that part, although I can’t quite remember where we were.  He was waving me off on a bus or a train or something.  He’d been anxious, awkward, twitchy – more so that I’d seen him before.  He’d kept wheeling around and looking suspiciously about him, as if he expected an assassin to come lurching out of the crowd.  He’d looked awful.  There was an unhealthy pallor to his skin and much of his hair had fallen out in untidy clumps.  Alopecia, he told me.  Stress, the doctor had told him.  It might grow back or it might not.

He didn’t see me soon, nor I him.  The months became years – probably six or seven.  I feel I should be able to remember.  Each time I suggested meeting, there was a flat ‘No.’  If I pestered for a reason, I’d get, ‘Can’t do it’ or ‘Too stressful.’

Last week, I suggested it again.  He’s been coming out, I feel, agonisingly slowly, of the deepest slough of despair, social anxiety and depression.  His texts and emails have been far more chatty and even shown flashes of the old sense of humour.  He accused me of being paranoid about something, adding, ‘And yes, I know that’s rich, coming from me.’

He didn’t say ‘No’.

True, he didn’t come anywhere close to saying ‘Yes’, but he was far more concerned that he wouldn’t be able to commit to a meeting until the day itself, and that as we live far apart, I might have a wasted journey to London.

I told him I love London – in small doses – and that I’d enjoy a day trip there in any case.  I told him I’d plan a trip to the British Museum, another old and much-loved friend.  I told him that if he felt able to join me, that would be great, but I’d have a great day in any case.

You don’t get sighs in texts, unless they’re intentionally written in those silly little arrow things (<sighs>) but I could feel his as he replied, ‘That’s up to you but I don’t want to get your hopes up.’
London, Lantern, Big Ben, RiverSo my coach ticket is booked.  Next Saturday I’ll begin the 3 hour trek to London.  I’ll be caught (as happened so often, when his mental state waxed and waned throughout his teens) somewhere between assuring myself that he’ll be there, in order to manifest the reality, and stoically preparing for a pleasant day wandering through the delights of the museum, just in case.

Whatever happens, though, I’m jubilant.  When I asked how likely he was to be there, he replied, ‘Not very.’  That’s a long way past ‘Not at all’.  There will be other chances, other days.  Just as his mother begged me, all those years ago, I’ve never given up on him, never thrown in the towel, and nor has he.  I’m proud of us both for that.