Nothing makes me smile wider than when I hear a perspective or idea I once offered to someone — a friend, a family member, a reader, a client, a child — offered back to me with both confidence and no recognition of where or when they first considered it. The moment the pilot light ignited is a clear and happy memory for me. For them, the energy of it is so internalized that they only know it to be true. The moment they learned it or, perhaps more accurately, recognized it is long forgotten.
I hope those who first introduced certain truths to me, the many teachers whose offerings I don’t recall, also smile when they see things I now know in the space in the center of my head, in the movement of my cells, in the pulsing of my heart. The things I’d forgotten or rejected until I watched them lived with conviction or heard them said using the words I could hear in the right moment with the right amount of clarity.
They are mine now because they were once given freely and with love. They are yours because you are open to seeing and, like me, hungry for truth.
The cycle continues as long as one being is willing to share with another.
It’s in vogue these days to be critical of most people’s frequent use of and strong reliance on smart phones. Even in the broadest sense, it’s a hot topic. The careful balance of power between modern technology/science, human interaction and intention, and traditional (even ancient) beliefs in our modern society comes up more and more frequently in the media and among those in my circle.
The Huffington Post recently published a column by Hector L. Carral that went viral, called Stop Saying Technology Is Causing Social Isolation. I posted it on Facebook along with my story below and asked for comments. As expected, people had things to say. So, I’m posting the link to the article here, and after that you can read my little personal story below if you like. Please feel free to comment or send me your thoughts. Happy typing!
A few years ago, after just moving to Seattle, I took my then-two-year-old son to the beach for some fresh air and a break from the temporary housing. While there, I received an important and potentially volatile email from a client requiring an immediate response. I sat in the sand, typing on my device periodically while also responding to my son when he needed me, as I crafted my reply.
A fellow toddler, his mother and his grandmother wandered over and started playing with Henry. I politely said hello and returned to my task. They played with him for a while and I took little breaks to interact a bit and make sure my son was okay. But really I just wanted a minute to finish my email so I could focus on him. They stayed for a little, completely distracted by the fact that I was typing away, then walked away in a huff, judging me in full voice for finding “texting with my friends more important than playing with my son” and other ways my rudeness illustrated the technology-driven downfall of humanity. Once they left I was able to finish the email quickly and then focus entirely on H for another hour or two of peaceful midday beach play time.
Modern technology offered me the opportunity to diffuse a touchy professional situation (immediately) for a few minutes while sitting in the sand with my son on a lovely day. Once done, I was free to fully engage for as long as I wanted and needed to. It helped both my son and me have a more pleasant day and I accomplished two critical things at the same time. Without knowing the full context of what was going on (since I didn’t want to take the time to divulge it to strangers) the people around me assumed I was being a selfish slave to my phone.
It’s all about perspective and intention. We use the tools and technology we have to accomplish what is important to us–now much more quickly and conveniently than we used to. It’s up to us to decide what we do with that power.
Thoughts? And before you come to my defense saying these people were just judgmental thingamobobs, etc., know they are not alone in their attitude. Society is already judging me, you or anyone they deem too attached to their technology. It’s not about my little story. My son and I are fine. It’s about the larger themes it illustrates. Thanks for reading!
There are two reasons I’m finally posting an excerpt from my hopefully soon-to-be published book with the same title as this blog.
a) I haven’t been writing about parenting much lately, even though it was one of the main intentions behind starting this blog. When I asked myself why, I realized I put most of my best writing about my son and my own parenting experiences in said book. I decided it’s time to move the veil and share some of it.
2) People are naturally curious and asking me about it. A lot. I understand. In this era of instant gratification through technology, reader patience is short.
I’ve been talking about it for a bit now, and was working on it for quite a bit before that. The publishing process is slow and, truth be told, the manuscript hasn’t found a forever home just yet. So, in an effort to appease, tease and keep the energy around the book moving along that magical path to full maturity, I’ve chosen most of a later chapter to share with you below.
It tells a portion of our adoption story, but more importantly it describes the universal parental struggle to figure out what kind of parent you want to be and what unconditional love truly means. I hope you enjoy it.
Larry sat across from me in an identical soft chair, his one-click video recorder in his hand. The bustle of businesspeople and tourists starting their sunny spring morning in Tainan City in southern Taiwan swirled around us, but we were plastered to our seats, terrified of moving too fast or too soon toward the cab ride to the nursery where our son had been waiting for us for more than ten months. If we are too eager to touch him to prove he’s real, does he blow away?
“What do you want to say?” Larry asked, holding up the camera to begin his detailed video memorializing the day.
So much, I thought. I wanted to tell him how excited I was, how long we’d waited, how many things he’d already taught us. I wanted him to know how I adored his home country and looked forward to introducing it to him. In only four days we’d seen so much of this strange yet familiar place, we began to feel at home. We navigated Taipei’s crowded Shilin Night Market holding a map hand-drawn by the young woman at the National Palace Museum jewelry counter and a list of items to buy at her favorite fried food stall, all written out in Chinese characters so anyone along our path could help if we needed it. We hung on for dear life as the rickety public bus took us to aboriginal Wulai for a hot spring soak and a trip up the mountain in the tiniest train in Asia. Only the day before, we’d spent a sunny morning at the original Confucius Temple across the street from soupy, sweet dumplings both Taiwanese and Western bloggers claim are the best in the country. We wandered into a Tainan tea shop looking to buy a proper set and were invited to an afternoon tea service by a group of elderly regulars who spoke only Taiwanese, rendering our English to Mandarin phrase book useless but reminding us kindness is a universal language. I felt so comfortable in his culture; I had to have spent some time here in another life.
Instead of all of these stories that surely would be told when he was old enough to ask, I said what I’d been saying to myself for months. “I just want to meet him.” I’d only uttered it out loud once before.
The past few months had been both the most excruciating and the most beautiful time of my life and our marriage. Waiting in a bubble of absolute lack of control, feeling a bond with a child on the other side of the world, gaining legal custody even, but not seeing or hearing anything of him for weeks. If I could have given up reality for a constant meditative state, I would have. It was the one place I knew I always could find refuge from all my expectations. My higher self, now a constant conversation companion even when I’m not in the mood for her company, reminded me many times that we don’t live to meditate with the divine. We meditate to help us live in the divine. “Thank you, higher self,” I said, giving her a sarcastic smirk…
…Larry and I were slowly realizing that we wanted to parent largely differently from how we previously believed we should. We wanted to allow our son the freedom to learn and explore his own truth in his own way and in his own time. I still didn’t know exactly what that meant, what we as parents would look like, or what choices we would make when the time came. Would we fold like a lawn chair when the shit hit the fan? I only knew our child and our family would be so different from those we understood that we would be required to throw out most of what we thought we knew.
Our trip to Henry neared and the nesting process was full of all the expected fear and excitement, but mostly curiosity. My mantra held true. Who was he? What were his preferences and quirks? How would he change the dynamic of our home? Would he get along with our beloved Pepperjack, who by all accounts was resistant to the mere suggestion of competition?
We were already in love with him. The stories and photos provided a small sense of his personality. We knew he was easily amused, easily frustrated, a showman, requiring a lot of human interaction and not afraid to speak out to get it, a good eater, small but freakishly strong. And more than once we practiced our new skills by checking in on him during meditation and sleep.
There already was a recognition of his energy, that we knew each other previously, that we were becoming a family in this lifetime to accomplish significant things. We are coming together to help keep each other in check and open up to what is to come.
“Your child is special,” I heard over and over.
“I know,” I responded.
“Okay,” I said. Deep breath. “What do I do?”
Silence. For now.
When you are truly open to a new idea, a new way, but don’t yet have any vision or certainty about how to live in it, the universe eventually shows you what you crave. When the student is ready, the teacher appears. With impatience and a haunting sense of responsibility, I sat back and waited for my new teachers to appear.
My friend Sally’s daughter is a very sensitive, very gifted, very connected healer and human being. I don’t know her well; I believe I insulted her the first time we met. We were the only two energy healers participating in a promotional open house for her mother’s new company offering chair massages, healings and other kinds of group energy sessions to companies and organizations. Sally asked her daughter to lead an opening meditation for the practitioners. She was a teenager at the time and I was in my late thirties and, I’m ashamed to admit, my ego set my jaw in a familiar clench as she explained how she didn’t do what “other healers” did and mixed and matched techniques and such. Rather than seeing her youth and pure intentions, I saw a whippersnapper trying to set herself apart from the only other energy healer for the day, and doing so inaccurately. When the chair massage therapist I was sitting next to asked me what I do, I said, perhaps a little too loudly, “I don’t rely upon only one technique either.” She avoided me the rest of the day, but as I caught glimpses of her work in the area next to mine, I knew she was a bright light to be reckoned with. I knew Sally understood what it’s like to be responsible for such a human being.
After a healing trade beside her warm suburban pool, Sally gave me the simplest and truest parenting advice I’ve ever received. I was bemoaning my self awareness that I truly have no idea what I’m doing, especially since we have no idea what kind of development issues Henry might have or how he might be behind when it comes to walking and talking, and neither the parenting classes we took at the adoption agency nor the books we’ve been reading really address that too well. Plus, there’s the whole bonding thing that we hoped wouldn’t be too difficult.
When I stopped, she said, “The only thing you really have to do is love him unconditionally. The rest will come in time.”
Unconditional love? That’s all? Then what were all these parenting classes for? I got this, I thought, and relaxed into my post-session glass of water and glints of sunshine reflecting off the pool.
By the weekend, I was already questioning myself and checking this new information against all I’d learned. Quantum parenting. Clairvoyant motherhood. Nature Mama. These are fantastic aspirations, but what do these grand designs mean when your child takes his first steps or vomits into his fruit bowl? If the universe we’ve created is a meticulous illusion created by us to allow for growth, then the small moments have to mean as much as the broad philosophies. If our reality is just a reflection of our own energy and beliefs, then with every interaction we potentially impose our version of reality onto our children about everything from food to sexuality. Our beliefs about others, but also our beliefs about ourselves. How we treat others, but also how we treat ourselves. Ultimately, how we love ourselves. These things determine how we treat our children. Somewhere at the end of this internal tirade I recognized the bare truth: I am only able to love my child as well as I love myself.
“Do you love yourself unconditionally?” I heard.
I considered it, but I already knew the answer. “I have happiness, peace, love and gratitude,” I said. “I’ve healed so much, forgiven so much. I know my intentions are good. Does that count?”
“Sure,” she said. “But it doesn’t answer the question.”
Unconditional love. I’ve felt it. I feel it every day from my husband. I knew it was possible. I’d had glimpses of it, moments of perfection and absolute knowingness. I’ve walked on the clouds, crawled in the dirt, swam through the seas and sped to the stars. I’ve felt as small as a molecule and as large as the universe at the same time. I’ve sat in meditation and suddenly lost all feeling and sense of the chair beneath my body or the walls and ceilings around me. I’ve experienced both the bright light of all and the peace of endless space. I know beings who exist in a realm beyond my human comprehension but are with me the moment I need them. I am part of a collective consciousness that emanates from a source of love that knows no bounds. I have felt the reasons why, and they have nothing to do with who I am or how I live and everything to do with the fact that I am. You are. And therefore we both are worthy of love.
These are lovely words and magnificent experiences. But when my higher self asked if I loved even my big butt, tendency to come across as a know-it-all and non-producing ovaries, I couldn’t say yes.
I know unconditional love. Yet, I still believed this universal truth, creator, source energy, Spirit, whatever God is and whatever love these things may offer comes only from without. I sadly confessed that I believed there were times when I deserved more of its love than others.
The tears came then as oceans of memories and regrets. Reasons I remained unworthy. False humility masking internal self-flagellation as I held lifetimes of misdeeds in my heart like Scarlet As, reviewing flashes of them like a horror movie, refusing to take them off for fear of repeating.
The greatest knowing can arrive in less than a moment, and not less than a moment before you’re ready to receive it. In a flicker, the tirade ended, the movie stopped, my brain was quiet, and I knew the only karma we keep or feel the desire to resolve is the karma we believe still exists. At the point it no longer serves you, you must let it go. I knew as well as I knew anything that those I’d wronged have long since forgiven me and now are too busy spending lifetimes resolving their own misdeeds to worry about mine. Even if they haven’t, it wasn’t their forgiveness that was the key to my salvation. It was time for me to forgive myself.
And so it was. Just like that. Well, first there were multiple lifetimes of growth and recent mountains of self-discovery and healing. Then there was forgiveness. And then unconditional love.
I could see straight through to the answer to my questions. I saw that it’s not a matter of whether I love myself. I am love. It’s not a matter of finding God or even determining whether God exists. I am whatever I believe God to be or not be. I don’t need to go somewhere to find the light. The light shines from within. How do I know? Because I am. How do I know Henry, no matter how he comes to us, is a piece of perfection right here on Earth? Because he is.
Larry and I clutched hands the entire cab ride to the nursery, and not only because driving in Tainan is like navigating a congested demolition derby track. I still had no idea what I was doing or what kind of mother I would be, but I felt more comfortable with the uncertainty of so much as long as I had the certainty of what mattered. Somehow I knew that Henry would tell me how to be his mother, if I only loved him.
We sat in the receiving room for two hours before Henry arrived. He was sick with bronchitis, drowsy from medicine and thoroughly confused about who these two nervous, smiling white people were. When the nurse put him in my arms a wave of pure love and compassion washed over us all. Nothing else mattered. He was my son, and he was absolutely perfect. I was glad to finally meet him. I wondered what he would teach me first.
Comments and conversation are always welcome below. To sign up for updates on the availability of Laugh at the Sky, Kid, go to www.laughattheskykid.com. Thanks for reading!
Each father is as different as their own story and the children they’ve chosen to have in their life. I know some fantastic ones, including the one I share my life and parenting privileges with. In honor of Father’s Day, I’m offering the reasons these fathers are so great.
You are strong. You look your children and the world in the eyes whether you are standing in the center of your talents or on the edges of your vulnerabilities.
You are serious, but not for too long. Your natural silliness will not be contained. You’ve learned laughing with your children is not only loads of fun, but an elixir for you and for humanity.
You are boundlessly supportive. You sincerely wish your children a joyful life lived true to who they are, full of purpose and passion, even if it takes them on an unfamiliar path leading away from you.
You know love. You allow yourself to feel it, receive it and share it with your children in every moment of your time together, and even when you are apart.
You notice. You see when they are in pain. You help when you are needed. You smile when they’ve learned something new all on their own or they do something clever or kind when they don’t know you’re looking.
You play. You go all in, every time, even when you’re exhausted, even when you’ve been playing the same game for two hours and the minute you start to walk away your child asks yet again, “Daddy, will you play with me?” You show them how to commit to a storyline and stick with a Lego project even when it’s tougher than usual. You are a playing machine, because you know that’s how they learn and grow.
You share. When you were a boy, you probably fought your siblings or friends for food, toys, control of the TV and attention. You learned to give up the fight when it was futile and to share because kindness was easier and made everyone happy, including you. Therefore, it is perfectly okay when you make a snack for yourself and your child climbs onto your lap and asks, “What are we having?” It just makes sense that people are drawn to their magnificent light before they notice you. It feels natural to share your highest quality time with them. And when they love Peppa Pig but not Top Chef, you snort with Peppa together.
You refuse the recognition. It bothers you when people, society and the media celebrate you and other fathers for changing diapers, for doing half the cooking, for taking off work to go to parent-teacher conferences, for learning the dance routine, for knowing where the band-aids and the fabric softener are, for smiling and laughing and being present with your children…for being a parent. “That’s the job,” you say. “And it’s a pretty cool one. Hold your applause.”
You are sensitive. You cry with them. You hear what they’re saying even when they’re not talking. You empathize with their childhood dramas and angst. You listen without judgment and support without fixing. You empower them to find their own solutions and open your heart so they know you’re in this thing together as long as they need you to be.
You aren’t perfect, and that’s okay. You will do and say things as a father that you’ll regret. Take a deep breath. Give your child a hug and tell them you love and accept them exactly as they are. Then do the same for yourself.
It’s in your eccentricities, foibles and gifts that the father you’re meant to be, the one tailor-made for your child, is found. It is in your most challenging moments that your children will learn how to face them, learn from them, let go of the past, move forward and love themselves unconditionally. This is when they discover that manhood isn’t all about control, power or being stoic and sturdy no matter what. There are lessons and strengths found in allowing yourself to be vulnerable in front of them, in forgiving yourself for your imperfections, in showing your true self all the time and being gentle with yourself—and with them—through difficult growth periods. Please, never forget that.
Thank you and happy Father’s Day to all you magnificent fathers. Feel free to share this with the great fathers and father figures in your life.
Control. It’s a supremely human response perfectly suited to our seemingly chaotic world. I have compassion for the many souls, including myself, who feel a strong desire to clutch at it in times of change – those “growth periods” that tumble our realities until we don’t recognize them. We each deal with uncertainty in our own way. It’s not unusual to find me scrubbing the bathtub or mopping the kitchen while waiting for an important phone call.
On some days, my son could easily feel the scratches from my grasps. On some days, it takes a hundred deep breaths not to string him up like a puppet and force him to act and be exactly as I would like. Or, at minimum, shower him with loud NOs and ultimatums until he bends to my will when he displays behavior I don’t like or understand. I guess I could. It’s always in my power. I am his parent. But I don’t. And hopefully I never will.
This is a difficult parenting style for many to understand. Even me sometimes. There is a fast growing number of parents like my husband and me exploring this way of being as a family, as well as organizations and information that support it. (Clicking here or Google-ing ‘peaceful parenting’ and ‘unschooling’ will give you a taste.) I happen to know several parents who embrace these ideas even more fully than I do, and I’m inspired continuously by them. Despite my description of the tougher days above, our home is relatively peaceful and happy because we’ve chosen to parent peacefully. That said, I don’t deny it can be difficult. As a way of maintaining my own enthusiasm, I’m offering some reminders below. I thought you might want to peak over my shoulder.
Being calm and patient is not easy for most kids, especially young kids, and it’s not synonymous with “well-behaved.” Outside of the first and last 30 minutes of every day, my five-year-old son rarely sits quietly for longer than five minutes at a time unless he’s strapped in a car seat. That includes story time, family game time and meals, especially if we’re at a restaurant. How can he possibly ignore all the new stimuli and people to pay attention to him? And why would we want him to?
New stimuli, new people, new discoveries, adventures, experiences, lessons, play, challenge, failure, success, creative expression, broken hearts and the rare broken bone. That’s why he’s here. That’s how we learn. The fact that his curiosity and high-energy disposition don’t lend themselves to quietly coloring for hours is not his fault. As long as he’s not doing any harm to himself or anyone else, we support his exploration and wild expressions. Even when it’s inconvenient or messy. Even when it’s annoying as hell or downright embarrassing. Even when it pushes the boundaries of acceptable child behavior or makes guests uncomfortable.
Clearly, not everyone agrees with our choice, and it’s not just the lady glaring at us in the cheese aisle at Trader Joe’s. (Reminder to self: It doesn’t matter.)
A recent Psychology Today article (click here to read for yourself) about how France responds to ADHD asserted that fewer French children are diagnosed with and prescribed drugs for it partly because of greater awareness of environmental factors that affect behavior like nutrition and underlying emotional issues. My child does not have ADHD, but it’s an issue I follow with care. I involuntarily nodded my head while reading this until I got to the line that asserted the vastly divergent parenting philosophies between the U.S. and France could be why “French children are generally better-behaved than their American counterparts.” The author goes on to say that it is likely French children behave this way because of their parents’ strict structure, rigid limits, clear family hierarchy and low tolerance for emotional outbursts. In the last few lines she criticizes American families for too often allowing children to control their household, often by crying. Thank you, dear author, for a perfect segue into my next reminder…
Our child benefits by having choices and a reasonable amount of control over his own life. Control and authority are not powers I take lightly when it comes to parenting. They aren’t currency that is earned, given up or given away, and they aren’t worth fighting over continuously simply to appease any desire to quash challenges to said authority, my own ego or external expectations. My son is, above all things, a human being. He is an equal member of the family. He deserves to be just as empowered in his own life as any other human being. Lessons are more impactful when he learns the consequences of his behavior not just from those I impose on him, but also from his own experience. It may be difficult for those supporting a more traditional parenting style to see from the outside, but giving him a measure of freedom and a say in our household is not the same as handing over control. Listening and addressing the source of the behavior instead of imposing more rules or punishing him for every misstep is not giving him the keys to the kingdom.
My authority comes from feeling confident and comfortable enough to allow him some power over his body, time and choices. My empowerment comes from knowing he feels empowered and offers me the respect I’ve also offered him. Our home is more peaceful because we’ve chosen to parent peacefully.
We need to remind ourselves every once in a while why we do what we do. Parenting choices are as complicated and varied as humanity – much more complicated than the relatively simple declarations I’ve offered here. There’s always more to say. But for now I just needed to give myself a strong reminder and a good talking to. In those difficult moments, when my son won’t stop stabbing his fork into the dining room table, when he’s decided to scream everything he says for a day, when I feel my clawed hand begin grappling for relief through totalitarian control, I will read this again.
I will remind myself why we’ve made the choices we have and why we’re worthy of them. I will remember our children are shining lights full of eccentric beauty, wisdom and love. They deserve the freedom to soar.
Want to know when and where you can get Rebecca’s upcoming book? Sign up for updates at www.laughattheskykid.com. Thanks for reading!
In this first week of 2015, as we anticipate the next 12 months and all they may offer, I wish you a year filled with growth, joy and whatever it is you would like it to be filled with. But in case you prefer more specific blessings…
May you always have privacy in the bathroom. (Parent shout-out.)
May your children always be as sweet to you and others as they are right before they drift off and right after they wake up.
May you and your whole family sleep an uninterrupted 8-12 hours every night, including on Sunday nights, and not feel guilty or like you should be doing something else when you do.
May your meals taste rich and decadent but actually contain the exact amount of calories required to chew them.
May you learn to love exercising and find a physical activity that holds your interest enough that you do it frequently throughout the year.
May you have nights (or days) out with your most special someone often enough that you are comfortable going to a movie in yoga pants, hiking until you’re covered in desert dust, or eating buffalo wings and playing trivia.
May you have many wonderful, trustworthy caregivers who are always available so you know your children are happy and well cared for when you do.
May you find that thing you lost two years ago but could never figure out where it went, and it’s not damaged at all.
Beside it, may you find a $50 bill…that you don’t need because you already have all the abundance you require.
May you discover some thing, some place, some idea or someone that is entirely new and makes you see things differently.
May you be truly and delightfully surprised at least once.
May you find new energy and enthusiasm for what you do every day. If you don’t, may you easily and quickly find something that brings new energy and enthusiasm to your life and purpose to your soul.
May you feel the ocean-deep and cosmos-wide support of a strong universal community—affectionate friends filled with laughter, family filled with unconditional acceptance, cities filled with friendly neighbors, countries filled with helpful citizens, planets filled with open hearts and open minds, and everlasting love from all.
May you have at least one moment when you know to your core you are a vital part of an intricately intertwined and unfathomably beautiful matrix of souls and lives that offers a reason for everything and only has the greatest good of all at heart. May you therefore be filled with peace, awe, clarity and empowerment. May that carry you through your darkest days.
May you always feel heard.
May you always feel understood.
May you always feel safe.
May you always feel honored and respected.
May you always know you are deeply loved—by those nearby, but also by the power/source/being/God/universe/Spirit/light that exists within and all around you. May you know true love of self, and know you are worthy of it.
Above all, may you regularly lift your face to the sky and laugh with pleasure just to be alive.
Many blessings to you and yours. Bring it on, 2015.
Want to know when and where you can get Rebecca’s upcoming book? Sign up for updates at www.laughattheskykid.com. Thanks for reading!
Our family woke up this morning talking about death and taxes. It sounds depressing and stressful, and I’m not going to lie and tell you our exploration was all purple pansies and smiley faces. But it wasn’t sad.
My husband Larry and I had been up a few minutes talking about some financial planning we needed to do for next year. We both are self-employed and have to plan ahead a bit when it comes to reporting and paying taxes, and we were thinking ahead to adjustments we needed to make to prepare for 2015. Scintillating morning bed conversation, I know, but it was sweet and intimate in its own way—filled with hope and excitement for what’s to come and shared responsibilities for helping it happen in the most graceful and connected way possible. But as we continue this relatively new exploration into being completely self-employed, talking about money is never without some level of pressure.
Soon our sleepy-eyed five-year-old son Henry climbed onto our warm, messy bed and we happily suspended our discussion. As Henry gave us both morning “boops,” or bumped noses as the rest of the world would call it, Larry asked him how he slept and what he dreamt about.
“I died,” he said. “So did you and you. In water. Ahhhhh!” He mimicked the sounds of a person drowning, though I know he’s never seen that on television or in a movie.
Larry and I smiled to each other. I know this sounds extreme and scary, but this wasn’t the first time he’s told us of vivid dreams and memories of some sort of death. Often he remembers us, or at least a mother and father, being there too. He rarely feels afraid after experiencing them—more a neutral memory than a premonition—and he always describes them very matter-of-factly.
“What happened after you died?” Larry asked. “Did you go somewhere?”
Death has been more present for our family lately, as it has been for so many of us. Only a few weeks ago, Larry attended the funeral of a good friend who was diagnosed with terminal cancer earlier in the year. She was only a year older than us. The funeral was a meaningful celebration of her life, as well as an opportunity to check in on our priorities, experience the universal cycle of life in a profound way, and reconnect with some good friends who had drifted.
Henry contemplated Larry’s question quietly, like there was something he was considering saying but couldn’t find the words. “I don’t know. Don’t ‘member. I’m hungry.”
Henry ate his breakfast quietly at his favorite spot along the kitchen counter while Larry and I continued our financial planning conversation. We talked of tasks to be done before the end of the year and new and potential client work. We both admitted we were worrying about it all a little more than was helpful.
Twenty minutes later, I was still in get-it-done mode.
“Wash your face, please. Shoes. Jacket. Backpack. Time to go to school,” I said as we finished our 14th car race along the step to the dining room. I made a quick note to myself about starting the computer with our account records on it as soon as I got home, and we walked out into the wind and rain.
“Mommy’s car! Mommy’s car!” Henry said excitedly. It is the much older car of our two and we usually don’t drive it unless we have to, but there was no reason not to, so we got in.
“Mommy, Bubbles!” Permanently inserted into this car’s CD player is the first disk of the What Color is Your Bubble? series for kids. His friend Alison talks him through some simple energetic and meditative exercises. We hadn’t listened in weeks. I turned it on and Alison began the second exercise all about setting and changing your grounding cord.
We pulled up to the stop sign at the end of our street, lists of numbers dancing in my head, as Alison asked, “What does your grounding cord look like today?” I chose not to look, instead imagining the spreadsheet I had in mind. Then I heard a voice from the back seat.
“What’s your soul doing?”
I turned Alison down, not sure I’d heard correctly, and I looked at Henry in the mirror as he asked it again the exact same way. He looked directly at my reflection with clear, calm eyes.
“What do you mean, Sweetie? You want to know what my soul is doing?”
It was a simple question. A profound one. One I have an answer for. An answer I’ve heard over and over and know to my core and beyond. As I thought of what words to say, a calm came over me. In an instant I was in my body, connected, confident, clear. The top of my head tingled and suddenly the driver’s seat of the “old car” was the most comfortable place in the world. All thoughts of money were gone.
The answer that quickly and easily popped into my head and heart also was the simplest and most accurate. “Henry, I believe my soul is in this body right now so I can learn what I’m supposed to learn.”
He was silent at first, but his gaze never wavered and his ears and heart were wide open. Then he started to talk and explore the notion in his own way. As we continued the conversation over the next couple of minutes, concepts and energies flowed between us like an easy stream of water. Love, peace, growth, clairvoyance, healing, sharing, family. Most of it never made it into words, but we did talk about how we all chose to be together in this lifetime. He spoke quietly about how when he was a baby he wasn’t in our family yet, but then he was.
“How do you feel about that, Henry?”
And then it was done. Less than three minutes from start to finish.
It didn’t take an hour of meditation and energetic cleaning. It didn’t require any practice or body position and wasn’t specific to any belief system. It didn’t even take the whole second track on the CD.
With one question asked by my greatest teacher, together we refocused, shifted perspectives and got to where we needed to be for the day: What’s the big picture? What’s the “why” behind what you’re doing right now? Behind it all? Why are you worrying about these practical things when the greater good, the longer path, the lessons, the love is all that really matters?
Perhaps Henry had tried to get us there first thing in the morning as he remembered his dreams and previous lessons. Death and the afterlife are bigger than taxes, despite their mutual inevitability. But today the cycle-of-life, universal-plan reminders that came with our friend’s funeral weren’t enough to bring us home. Given a second chance, Henry intuitively knew what to do. It was so simple. So clean and perfect. And it worked.
By the way, Henry wanted me to ask you something.
What’s your soul doing?
To find out more about Rebecca’s writing and coaching services, go to rebeccagifford.com or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.