How special needs parenting prepared me for a global crisis

By Tanya Savva

Raising a child with special needs has given me so many invaluable lessons, opportunities and experiences. I’ve jumped through hoops more times than I can remember. I’ve begged for mercy, pleaded for one more breath, and emotionally lost my mind. Each moment has shaped me and slowly carved out a new version of Self, allowing me to cultivate a unique perspective of who I am, how we fit into the world, and how I perceive the human experience – It is a perspective where I know pure joy, and deep suffering.

One where I understand love and light, bathed in shadow and darkness.

One where the polarity of life is so clear that there is nowhere to hide.

One where energy speaks louder than words.

One where there is no room for bull shit, only Truth.

One where the veil of illusion was dropped so my heart and Soul could lead the way.

Special needs parenting opens your heart to a way of living many are unable to truly understand. I’ve seen, experienced, witnessed and felt every spectrum of human life – no stone has been left unturned. I’ve been thrown into a cauldron of fire on many occasions and wondered if I’d come out alive, let alone thriving. I’ve been smacked in the face with the reality of death and experienced suffering so deep that I’m still finding ways to release the trauma from my body.

I’ve felt incredibly isolated and disassociated from friends who are raising neurotypical children. They’ve been invited to ride the conditions of societally constructed journeys through raising, educating and entertaining their children in sheltered ways, fulfilled social, financial and relationship goals and traversed through life seemingly smoothly with minimal awareness of the full spectrum of life.

I was heading down the same path as an adult. But Mackenzie had other plans. She threw me off that path and demanded I forge a new one. Through her needs, I was gifted new eyes to see with. And through my role as a special needs mama, I started to live in a New Way.

While the world is coming to terms with this New Way of life that demands a reduction in human contact and connection, awareness of political uncertainty and an awakening to the numbers of people that die every day from environmental diseases such as heart disease and cancer. This New Way has lead us into social isolation, much needed forced rest, loss of freedom, lack of access to services that were available at the click of a finger, altered occupational performance, significant financial pressure, obstruction to routines and an inability to carry out activities that cultivate purpose, pleasure and presence in the community. And while many are feeling incredibly unsettled in this New Way, I feel like I’m sitting back watching the frenzy unfurl wondering what all the fuss is about.

What most of the world is perceiving as a New Way – an unfamiliar and uncertain path – has been my reality since I became a mother over 11 years ago. Being a special needs parent has invited me to stay present and grounded and given me to the tools to welcome the change with a sense of awe and wonder so I can meet this global crisis with softness, acceptance and reverence in my heart. Rather than fear the unknown I’ve asked questions like, “What can we learn from this?”. Being a special needs mama has:

  • minimised my social interactions and allowed me to love my self fully and be comfortable with my own company
  • required self-isolation and allowed me to view my home as a haven rather than a prison
  • understand the medical system and the pressures it’s under, not just now, but always, and feel deep gratitude for our health care system
  • impacted on my ability to do what I want, when and where I want, so learnt to celebrate every moment I have
  • shown me that no matter what I put in place I am never in control and I can’t be certain about what the next moment holds, but I can control my breath, my health and how I react to these situations
  • that joy is an inside job and if I let external factors dictate my happiness, I have relinquished my power to a force beyond my control, and I’d be a fool to do so
  • changed my ability to engage in work in a way I was brought up to believe was the only way and forced me to find a New Way to create, serve and earn that fulfils me deeply and makes a difference to the lives of others
  • shown me a way to deep presence and stillness, where nothing is more important than right now
  • has made me capable of living within a tight budget, always within my means and never without anything I truly desire
  • that despite external circumstances I can remain internally calm and this allows me to gather enough information to empower me to respond from a place of awareness rather than react from a place of fear
  • and given me the tools and resources to cope with the full spectrum of life including trauma, unexpected change, suffering, fear, and pain

It’s given me a new perspective. And welcomed me to this New Way.

I am aware of many who are seriously impacted by this global crisis. I empathise and fully validate that so many are experiencing a very difficult time. I can’t say that everyone and everything’s going to be OK. Maybe it’s not. Many have lost their lives and their jobs. Businesses will crumble. Livelihoods in shambles. Serious physical and mental health conditions from the chronic fear and stress will likely rise over the coming months. I know of many special needs parents who are not ok right now.

I’ve questioned if my non-reactivity to COVID-19 is coming from a place of ignorance, or from heart-centred Truth. I’ve sat in compassion for my personal experience and allowed it to be as it is. I’ve meditated, journaled, had beautiful conversations, rested well, eaten well and kept my nervous system in a wholesome and grounded state. And I’ve expressed compassion, love and empathy to those who’s beliefs and experiences are vastly different to mine.

There is no right way to respond to this. Reacting isn’t one of them.

My hope through this time is that you find moments to sit and listen to your body. To feel anything that’s there and let it rise to the surface to be felt and expressed. This is a time for all of us to be open to the light and dark. It’s a time for everyone to drop the veil of illusion and invite their heart and Soul to lead. It’s time to drop the BS and speak your Truth. It’s time to tap into the infinite source of energy to express our highest desires, no longer conditioned by a contractive society that strips away your authenticity and creativity. Even when it feels like it’s all been taken away.

Maybe it needed to be removed to entice you into this New Way.

Because from this seat of non reactivity I see an opportunity to practice compassion for everyone’s experience.

I see a desire to connect with our neighbours in a way we’ve never done before.

I see a portal to step into this New Way of living where rest is paramount to our healing.

I see a window open up which invites creativity to become alive.

I see a foot slam on the brakes to stop us running to the next external distraction to consume our over-indulgent mind to evade the feelings that are bubbling inside our hearts. We have sensations – we need to feel them.

I see courage firing up in the pit of our bellies to have conversations that have been suppressed for too long.

I see a beautiful opportunity to sit in silence and listen to your internal dialogue. It’s time to get to know your Self a little better and deal with the shadow aspects of ourselves we’ve been avoiding so we

can tap into our highest Truth and live in full integrity.

I see a possibility for people to better manage their finances to live within their means and eradicate astronomical debt which forces us to rely on a system that has us believe we need to work in a certain way, under certain rules, away from the things that matter to us most, like family and rest.

It’s asking you to realise that death and suffering were ALWAYS there, you just chose not to be aware of it.

It’s demanding that you remember that change is a part of life and your resistance to the flow of life is what impacts on your joy. Not the change itself. It’s asking you to be more receptive to the transient nature of life and be open to all it has to offer.

I see an opportunity to tune in and be anchored into the awareness that the only thing you can control is your breath. And in taking control of your breath, you can ease the busy-ness of the mind, and ultimately change your reality.

I see an opportunity to develop a relationship with your nervous system and notice what it’s telling you before it triggers chronic disease.

I see an opportunity to stop and rest, deeply. Where stillness becomes the new norm, and busy-ness is scoffed at.

There is so much more for us to endure here. And so much more to feel. Can you be open to the possibilities, rather than consumed by the limitations? Can you step into this New Way with childlike inquisition and ask, “What can I learn from this?” Can you allow this catastrophic and unexpected moment in time allow you to calm down and slow down enough to give you a new perspective?

We’re being shown the Truth. We’re being shown the full spectrum of life. Don’t let this be a lesson that doesn’t result in the change we need to see in this world. Tanya is an author, Wellness & Life Coach and speaker. She’s passionate about empowering mothers to reconnect with the essence of their true Self. Her book ‘The Adventures of Kenzie-Moo’ tells of her blind daughter’s adventures in a caravan and all the things she ‘saw’ without sight. www.tanyasavva.com
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