Without sounding too presumptuous, I know that I speak for a lot of families impacted by a disability when I say that life is complicated. Some days it just sucks. There’s very little that can be classified as carefree.
On the weekend, I took some time to try and figure out how things got this way. It was sparked by the recent passing of my father. Somehow death has a way of shaking things up.
I tried to think back to when Ben’s brother was born. Jan and I were so young. When he came into the world, he was clean and pure, having knowledge of absolutely nothing except, perhaps, Jan’s voice.
As he grew and became old enough to listen, we, his family, his teachers encouraged him to believe that he could become just about anything they wanted to be.
I expect that’s similar to what plays out in many families.
But you know as well as I do that as kids grow older, and life gets more complicated – they get in with the wrong crowd, they are bullied at school, they get pregnant – that “hopes and dreams” conversation becomes very different.
And it changes to include all kinds of boundaries and rules, and punishments, and the need to ask for permission.
Don’t believe me? Think about how many times this past week your own actions were based on (perceived) conditions or limits, or because you needed someone’s approval.
Things like …
How did your life go from having no constraints at birth to a world governed by them?
You see, little by little, our language becomes filled with the things we can’t do, or won’t be able to do, or not allowed to do.
Our lives become dictated by what others believe we need to know or who we need to be. It’s very gradual so most of us don’t notice it.
Over time, fear and limits and conditions increase our awareness of what’s lacking in our lives and that becomes all that we see (most of the time).
Most of us have a perspective of ourselves and of others that is limiting. We tend to repeat behaviours that we’re surrounded by and carry around these learned styles of behaviours.
They do nothing for us, yet we can’t seem to let them go.
There is such a strong pull to keep us in the life we know since it’s well established. What we need is an awakening of sorts to help us recognize that our lives don’t have to be as limited as we perceive them to be.
When Ben was born, I felt as if someone had decided that life as I knew it was over – that I would never experience joy and happiness again. Talk about limits and conditions!
Suddenly having the responsibility for providing 24-hour care was suffocating.
But Ben’s “never take no” attitude eventually showed me how to bust through those limiting views, though it took nearly 20 years to realize this.
Here are 3 attitude-busters you can practice to stay focused and create something positive.
1 – Never stop believing in a future that is bigger than the past.
It took me a long time to figure this one out but it is so motivating and so life changing. It starts with feeling that you’re worthy of dreaming big.
You do not need anyone’s permission to help your child achieve his/her hopes and dreams, no matter what their level of ability. So go find out what they are if you haven’t already.
Ignore that learned voice of internal judgment that we all have where we look to conditions of what we can be (or what your child can be) and what we can have. That voice is limiting, it’s oppressive, and it will sap your energy.
2 – Continuously ask, “What’s the most I can do?”
None of us get a choice about taking that next breath. It’s involuntary. What you do get to decide is whether you will live your life by default (what the experts decide) or one that you design.
If you look at the leaders (not the political kind), the war heroes, the sport champions throughout history, they all have one thing in common. They all asked themselves, what’s the most I can do? They didn’t ask, “What was the minimum they could do and still win the Super Bowl?”
If you continually ask what’s the most you can do, your life will change, expand, become fuller, freer, and draw you closer to the person you are meant to be.
As Mother Teresa wrote, “Give the best you have, and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”
3 – Make Love a part of your life.
It’s what all of the world’s religions have at their core. Give love and accept love. Let those around you know how much they mean to you. If you do, it will build a greater awareness of who you are. And make you available for greater things.