April 24, 2013 – Day 31
Choices…and the Roads We Travel
Physical/cognitive update: Now that Jess seems to be medically more stable, we can push the boundaries a little bit at a time. He writes every morning in addition to other cognitive activities, does some light physical work (sometimes standing and doing a few dishes is just the thing, other times a walk to the pond and back), and we are doing plenty of whole brain communication activities.
For my birthday, we took a 30-minute walk at a park. It was the longest physical activity Jess has done since his injury, and he did very well. However, he was very tired later in the day, which showed him how he is going to be recovering for a long time. This situation is so odd…we are beyond ecstatic that our son is alive, with his mind and body and spirit intact; but we are facing a long process of recovery to get him to independent status again. I am celebrating and thanking the universe every day…but I promised updates for those of you who are following his progress, so I will share with you the next phases in our journey. While his brain is re-regulating, we must be conservative in his activities, but since he is so present and alert, we can also work on the more subtle parts of recovery, or the emotional/mental/spiritual components. And this seems to be where the real work is.
My brave boy has given full permission, more than once, for me to publish this post. He wants others to learn from his example. I understand the desire for others to avoid the pain that he is going through, to learn from his experience and hardship. I feel we are getting into the thick of things now.
Jess had an emotional day yesterday…already keyed up because it was my birthday and he so much wanted to lavish attention on me (but I would only allow him to do very little things), he spoke to his academic advisor from UCF in the late afternoon. There, like the other days when Jess has to face something college related, he was reminded that he has lost all of the progress he made this semester. And that he won’t be going back for some time. Indications are that his timeline for full independence is Fall of 2014. We will be taking baby steps before that, testing the waters with an online class, then a couple of classes at the community college that will transfer. Build success early, creating a strong foundation for future growth.
But when the reality hit him once again, he had a breakthrough of emotion; grief, anger and frustration. All so normal, and welcome. He needs to be feeling his feelings. He is in this situation because he did not listen to his inner guidance, his feelings. He shared in a very vulnerable moment yesterday that he had been so homesick at school that perhaps he had found other ways to come home and be with his family.
We talked about it some more today, me asking some gentle clarifying questions. Jess did what he thought he should do; go away after senior year to college, make his way into the world as he transitioned to adulthood. One would think that the unconventional life our family has led would give him unconscious permission to follow his own path despite what the culture tells him. But he internalized this message and felt he must do what was expected. A year before he would leave for school, he and I had a heart to heart to talk about his readiness for school. The inner guidance I was getting was that he should take a year off and travel and work, kind of a breather to get clearer on what he wanted to do. He entertained it for a bit, even exploring living in San Luis Obispo, where we almost moved back in 2009. We explored the idea of him living with a dear friend there who thinks of Jess as a boy of his own. It would have worked, maybe. But then Jess changed course and said he wanted to go to school. My desire to honor his feelings and allow him to make his choice preempted my trepidation. I felt he wasn’t quite ready.
His first semester was a rough one; he fell in with a partying crowd and lost motivation. His reports on the phone seemed to indicate that he was doing fine in school, but certainly that illusion was shattered over winter break when his grades came and he was genuinely shocked. I watched him as his beliefs about himself as a capable young man crumbled into a dusty heap around him. We did a lot of inner work that winter break; what had he been doing, what was he thinking, what prompted him to want to check out, to be numb? He realized that he had been grief-stricken and was trying not to feel it. Not only did he miss his family so much, but he missed his sweetie, too, who had gone to a college far away. He was trying not to feel.
I believe that we know a lot more than we think we know. My years of training and personal work have shown me that we know what the good choices are, even if they go against convention. We know inside of us what the real truth of a situation may be, what path to take when faced with a crossroads, what to do to create miracles in our lives. I know this to be true, and I have seen it and experienced it as a daily reality. But when we try not to feel, try not to know, try to block the small but shining voice of inner guidance, we can get into trouble; we can make choices that lead us further and further away from the truth of who we are, further from the special and unique life we may be meant to live. I have experienced the consequences of not listening to my inner guidance, and it was very painful. I don’t want to do that ever again, and I hope I don’t.
But when you’re dealing with a young adult, that transition between making choices for your child and them making their own choices is tricky to navigate. As a good parent, I want my boys to make choices and feel the consequences of them; this is how we learn about the world. This is how we learn to be responsible adults. If we are not allowed to feel the consequences of our actions, we never have that feedback loop that teaches us: “Don’t do that again.” That feedback loop is precious information, and the way we receive it is through our feelings. Disappointment, anger, sadness, happiness, pleasure, or pain…all feelings generated by the feedback loop of experience. If we aren’t feeling our feelings, we are depriving ourselves of the feedback loop…and then we can make choices that hurt us, and hurt other people.
Jess’s choices led to him hurting himself rather than others. But it can go another way; recent violent events in the US, India, and elsewhere (there’s always something) illustrate the extreme lengths a person can go if they are not listening to their feedback loop…”if I do this, it will hurt others, and that is not okay.” The more we distance ourselves from our feelings, the more we can numb what we do to other people and ourselves. Jess is learning that his feelings are so important to listen to. Our inner guidance will tell us if we’re willing to listen to its wise counsel.
And as Jess NOW continues to feel his feelings, each time he cries he is washing away a piece of the obstructions that prevented him from wanting to feel before. Each time he cries he is releasing some toxic build up in his body, and opening the way for more healing to occur. Each time he cries he becomes more himself. It is hard to witness, of course. But the wisdom of his body is taking over, and my compassionate witnessing is the right thing to do. I love my son so much, but I cannot take away his pain. And I shouldn’t. I will support him to the nth degree, every way I can, every way I know how, and if I don’t know how, I will find someone who does. I will walk beside him, carry what I can…But this is his road he is traveling, and he must travel it on his own.
Start at Day 1 HERE
Jess’s Medical Fundraiser, ends May 1! If you want to be part of this special young man’s recovery support community, hurry!