Learning

The Story of Me – Begin…

I could start at the beginning. I could pretend I know my ending, and work backwards. I could give you the bleached version, the raw version…

Welcome to the as-it-comes ‘story of me’, and I’ll begin where I am.

I am at graduation. Graduating from seventeen years, three children, and parenting through school (including my own first academic qualification).

Would I do things differently? Well, that would be to pretend I could be different to who I have been at any given moment. So, if I had my time over (pretending again), I’m guessing it would be exactly the same. Are there things I regret – conversations, actions, reactions, beliefs, values? Of course! Which shows I’ve grown; reflected; learned; processed; become more wholly myself. Not arrived, but arriving.

 

One of the most painful paths of my journey has been going through the school years as a parent (and I didn’t much like most of my own school years). A parent with children who experience the world outside of the mainstream.

There was some seasonal epilepsy, which was met with compassion. We brought with us allergy and eczema, which was largely dismissed, or used to shame and control. Blindness and emotion, though, were largely to be feared, seen as a threat, and handled by protecting ignorance, the status quo. Essentially, self-preservation of staff and systems (even outdated/non-recommended systems) – at the expense of…my children. Not just their academic education, I had been learning how I would facilitate that since before they were born anyway. But their sense of self, individuality, place in the world, contribution to the world, belonging in the world, was undermined at almost every opportunity.

 

To those of you who embraced my children (though few in number), drawing them into community and thereby being changed and changing yourself as a result of being in each other’s worlds, thank you.

Thank you for learning to do and say and model differently to your preferences, so that my children could learn in the ways they needed to. Thank you for engaging with their ways and their person – especially those of you who saw each of my children as their individual selves. Not as one, identical. Thank you to the ones who naturally did these things, and thank you especially to those of you who responded positively to change when challenged by my children.

I thank you because you are/were rare. Like an endangered species, hard to find, at risk of extinction, often being slowly extinguished by systems. Thank you to those of you who are like my secondary school teacher sister-in-law, psychologist/teacher uncle, and primary school teacher/principal uncle; those who are like my mother, who intuitively tuned in to the individual; individuals like my father, who learned to listen and learn from others (experimenting, modelling and teaching what he learnt), and standing boldly for those who had no voice.

 

Sadly, to be a ‘shifter’ in a mainstream system is not easy, painless, comfortable, or the way to make and keep friends easily.

So, kudos to those who will shift and be shifted for the benefit of the other, and consequently for the benefit of the whole… us.

1/1/2018

More Stories to come

A Private Conversation with a Fellow Parent – Some Reflections (with permission)

Sometimes we parents get to guide our children through learning experiences which are unfamiliar to us, outside of our current comfort zone, and seemingly not within our perception (or another’s) of the mainstream gig of ‘growing kids’.

One way to tackle these moments might be to chat with someone who is further along the parenting journey than we are…so, I recently got to have a great chat with a go-getter parent.

As my adult children have all been blind since birth, this chat was essentially around having a conversation with a child younger than mine, about the differences between a parent/child relationship, and the parent/parent relationship. It came about, though, because the child had heard mum and dad during intimate moments.

Many of us have had the experience of walking in on dad and mum during sex, many of us have had our children walk in on us, and many of us feel either uncomfortable or unsure about how to respond. Some of us also have the consideration of what our children can/can’t see, hear or comprehend no matter what the new experience encountered.

After hearing the parent’s story of what had been happening with their child, how the parent themselves felt about the kind of conversation they may need to have, and the child’s vision impairment coupled with some level of communication/comprehension difficulties, we brainstormed some strategies for the immediate, and some suggestions for in the future.

The child had been repeating sounds heard from mum and dad’s room when they’re alone, and those sounds were beginning to be repeated at particular times. The parent believed that the frequency was increasing and wondered what, if anything, she might do about it. Since there was perceived future negative impact for the family and their relationships, and seeing a potential learning opportunity for the child, these are the strategies we worked out together:

  • Talking with the child about their own special relationships (e.g. with a grandparent or sibling)
  • Discussing something that the child does only with that person
  • Explaining to the child that the sounds heard from the bedroom were only for mum and dad, as their special times with another family member are theirs alone

Because of one of the diagnoses the child has been given, it was recommended that a chat with the educational psychologist that the family already connect with might be a good idea to talk through some of the possible related experiences they may have with the child as they move into teen and adult years.

For the parents, I suggested that the bedroom may not be the only place for physical intimacy. This might reduce or eliminate the child associating what was heard with that room, and the parents. It also brings with it some new interest for the couple relationship…nothing wrong with that!

Who could ever say that we don’t have anything to learn by being a parent?

And thanks to the other parent for trusting me with their story, and wanting to share some of their own journey so others may have a few more tools to work with.

Grateful!

I am grateful for a great many things, some of them healthy and positive in and of themselves; others healthy and positive because I learned, as I was being taught, something/s healthy and ultimately positive, subsequent to those initial “things”.

I am grateful to have grown up with Christian parents; I am also grateful that my parents were first generation Christians, without historical and generational ties to systems, theories, expectations and presumptions – free to learn relationship with their designer and restorer according to design and his character – relatively unencumbered; I am also grateful to see the finite, independent, human tendency to box, enshrine and sequentially define persons and groups, even in those less encumbered (including myself) – we are all human, finite and dependent by design.

I am also, in a broad sense, grateful to be living outside of most “boxes” – some naturally so, others a fight to leave or to stay out of; in the moment, though, living outside of the boxes (and standing for others who do) is hard work, painful, lonely, exhausting; grateful to have been studying community services, learning new experiences of humanity from fellow students and teachers (community servers) – and/or further definition or refinement of my own experience/understanding of humanity.

I am grateful to be the sibling of three other “out-of-the-box” thinkers; I am ultimately (though not in the moment) grateful for the conflict this brings as we challenge each other with regard to our own boxes; I am especially grateful that our love of, and loyalty to each other is not diminished, regardless.

I am grateful that my design by, and restoration to, the image bearing inheritance of the creator – refined by experiential, reflective, learning, growth – led me to tune in to the children granted to me, largely independent of boxes and main streams; my gratefulness also extends to their forgiveness for when I have slipped back into boxes, inadvertently or intentionally tried to box them, and painfully, gradually had to recognise the imaginary nature of said boxes.

Though not true of every day, today I am grateful to be human; today I am grateful to have been designed for a dependent, love relationship with my designer; today I am grateful to have been designed for an interdependent, love relationship with other humans; today I am grateful I’m being restored to be more authentically human, more humbly human – living in acknowledgment of, and according to, the truth of who my designer is, who each of my fellow humans are, and who I truly am in relation to these other truths.

…grateful…

28/5/2017

Cane Verses Guide Dog

By Christine Casey…Teacher, musician, friend

Since I received Lainie, a number of people have asked me how using a guide dog is better than using a cane. I’m still not sure that I can explain it well, but here is a comparison of how I felt the other week, walking along Swanston street with Lainie compared to how I have felt doing it with a cane earlier in the year.
With a cane:
I must listen carefully as concentrating to hear voices, footsteps, traffic and the echoes off buildings, posts and pedestrians helps me to keep myself orientated. Despite my careful listening resulting in a greatly reduced number of collisions with objects and people, my cane is constantly becoming entangled in signs, seats and legs. Every thirty seconds I seem to be muttering an apology. My speed varies considerably as I focus my concentration on dodging things and people and listening for clear paths. The appearance of a street sweeper or similar constant and loud noise causes frustration as it reduces my ability to hear potential obstacles. I secretly wish the Melbourne City Council would ban all buskers as they attract crowds which block my way and require careful negotiation. While I realise that my fellow humans are probably not paying me any attention, I feel incredibly conspicuous and somewhat awkward. By the time I make it to my destination, I’m longing for a rest and some quiet.
With a guide dog:
As the dog picks a path through the crowds, I am able to relax and appreciate the sounds of the city. I hear the tram bells, and notice music drifting out from doorways and I catch snippets of conversation from passing people. A wide variety of scents waft on the air. There is a gentle sun, and a slight breeze. I feel the dog’s movements through the harness handle and follow where she guides, only paying enough attention to ensure that she continues in an overall straight direction and to detect if she should become distracted or uncertain and require encouragement or instruction. My steps flow and there is little need to vary speed, except for especially crowded patches. The music of the buskers adds something special to the atmosphere and I feel a great fondness for them and this city which I now call home. The free-flowing nature of the journey makes me feel equal to my fellow pedestrians and, while I do overhear the occasional comment on the clever dog, I feel as though I blend into the crowd. When I reach my destination, I am somehow both energised and relaxed: ready for the next task of the day.

Fear

By Stuart McDonald, Accredited Exercise Physiologist.

I said in my last post that we can let fear be, allow it to exist in us, to be there, real and potent.
I do not say that we should pander to fear, seek it out or do nothing about it. Rather, I say that fear is something that is legitimate and that we experience for a very good reasons – even if we can’t work out what that reason is…

When we experience fear, our body changes in many different ways. In the brain, certain circuits fire up, and certain hormones are released throughout the body. Our muscles react, our breathing changes, our blood vessels change, our memory systems become more potent and our body wants to do something about the fear. It is as we suppress the fear – as we push it down, pretending it is not there or fooling ourselves into believing we shouldn’t feel fear – that we don’t allow the body to respond.
Not allowing the body to do what it is most naturally made to do – and not allowing it to do that thing over and over again – will result in the body finding other ways to express that fear. Typically, it will be things like: Sudden, explosive reactions to fearful events; sudden angry outbursts; physical and verbal aggression; agitation; constantly tense muscles; anxiety attacks; guilt and depressive symptoms; poor sleep quality; stress-related symptoms – cardiovascular issues, breathing issues, metabolic issues.
Sounds stupid, doesn’t it?
Well, that’s the body and it’s not stupid, it’s beautiful and amazing and sensible.
You see, there is no “mind-body” connection. That’s an old idea and it’s a little outdated. By about 20 years. What there is, is a “mind-body” (see what I did there? No connection). The mind and the body meticulously interplay, they intertwine and feed one into the other. Your mind and sense of self is only what it is because it receives information all the time from your body – and your body is what it is because it is changed by the mind, which responds to your body (and your external environment).
When the fear instils itself in your body, it is a conscious representation of the emotion of fear that your non-conscious self is responding to. The body is changed because of the fear – there is a perceived threat of some sort – and the non-conscious self makes that fear accessible – you become aware of the fearful changes in your body and interpret those as “I am afraid”.
Now, I don’t know bout you but when I ignore internal states like that – say, oh, I don’t know, like a full bladder – that can end up all kinds of messy. And smelly. It works like this: the muscles of the bladder stretch as the bladder fills up and they constantly send a signal to the brain. When they stretch a certain amount, that signal changes and the brain then brings the signal into the awareness of your conscious self – you become aware that the bladder is (almost) full. It was filling up and the signal was going to the brain all that time but you were only made aware of it once the signal needed to be dealt with.
You only became aware of the signal once the signal needed to be dealt with.
Fear, too, has a signal. It is one that occurs throughout the whole body – it’s more of a combination of a host of signals – there’s the central neurological one, but there’s a whole lot of other ones as well, depending on the thing you’re afraid of. They can be physical stimuli (that muscle is stretching too much!) and they can be cognitive stimuli (There’s no way in heaven I can pass that exam!). Once the signal needs to be dealt with, the body makes the conscious self aware of it. The body was always sending the signal to the non conscious self, but it brings it into awareness when we need to deal with it.
And so, like a full bladder, fear is simply an experience the body wants you to deal with so that everything can feel a little bit more balanced, a little more okay.
The body brings the signal about the bladder into our awareness when it’s time to deal with it. And the body brings the fear into our awareness when it’s time to deal with it. And so we shouldn’t suppress the fear or pretend it’s not there or tell ourselves we shouldn’t feel that fear (you shouldn’t feel you need to do a pee?). It is instead a time to understand the fear; to explore the fear; to ask if the fear is warranted or not, grounded or not in truth? Or is it just my opinion?
When we are children, we do not know how to understand the signals about our bladder. Then we learn to. In the human body, if you don’t use it, you lose it. And so, with fear – if for 15, 20, 45 years we have stopped listening to our fear and have instead been suppressing it, running from it, pretending it doesn’t exist or feeling guilty about it (small or large) then we will need to rest ourselves like children again, children learning to go to the toilet. We will need to learn once again to listen to the signals of fear, to understand the body’s language, and understand what it is about this fear that is important. And like children toilet training, that is a thing that takes time and lots of frustration. And it is most rewarding.
It’s probably best to do this at a safe time, and not when the lion (metaphorical or real) is chasing us. In that case, just run. It’s what your body wants 🙂

Stuart McDonald

I Choose…

I Choose

I choose to be seen, heard, accepted, loved and chosen…I commit to do the same.

So, International Women’s Day has been and gone. Lots of articles and videos on great women leaders, carers, adventurers and survivors – which I didn’t read. Of the myriad offerings, I watched one video and read one article on domestic violence. I have a very few observations to share from that which I have either witnessed or experienced:

1. I agree with those who tell us that emotional, verbal, psychological and spiritual abuse, are abuse. Also that one or all of the above are pre-cursors to physical and sexual abuse.

2. I agree with health care professionals, researchers and survivors that violence of any kind, including those above which you may think aren’t really violence, escalates without intervention and doesn’t ever get better by itself. (For Christians reading this, a ‘God moment’ is intervention…by God!)

3. Domestic violence isn’t just from spouses (of whatever genre you have) or parents of children and teens. Extended family, their friends and parents of adults abuse too, that includes emotional and verbal.

4. Both spouses can be abusing each other, including physically – and both are abusers, and both are victims. Look up co-dependancy.

5. Emotional and psychological abuse of woman over man, is abuse.

And finally a few insights from Brene BrownDaring Greatly – How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent and lead.

When shame becomes a management style, engagement dies.

Vulnerability is based on mutuality and requires boundaries and trust.

Vulnerability is about sharing our feelings and our experiences with people who have earned the right to hear them.

Vulnerability without boundaries leads to disconnection, distrust and disengagement.

We need to feel trust to be vulnerable and we need to be vulnerable in order to trust.

The result of this mutually respectful vulnerability is increased connection, trust, and engagement.

Thanks for your time.