My husband and I recently had dinner with friends we had not seen for a while. They commented on how youthful we seemed, how positive we were, and how lovely our life had truly become. I reflected deeply on this (as it had touched me), and realized just how hard I had worked to create this life. And I mean hard! It took a very conscious effort to find the just-right balance when choosing a lifestyle that would be able to fuel my soul and support my ability to live whole-heartedly in all my roles. Including my role as a mother of a child with special needs, which as you all know, offers it’s challenges emotionally.
I’ve been on a seeking journey ever since I woke up to the fact that I was burning out. In yoga, it would be referred to a path of Jnana (self-inquiry). My life is definitely not for everyone, but I think perhaps I’m on to something here….
Rule#1: Love fiercely
I’ve always worn my heart on my sleeve, so this comes quite naturally to me. I love with my heart and soul. I reach out, extend myself, and I help when I can. I am fiercely loyal to my people, and deeply value communication.
Where loving fiercely has been most helpful for me is perhaps within my own marriage. As we know, raising kids, let alone a child with special needs, brings out all your differences and certainly tests your marriage. I fight for us even when my instinct is to retreat because I think it comes easier for me and I feel that it is perhaps part of my soul contract. In fact, we both play important roles in helping each other grow, and my husband has taught me some of my most important life lessons. One of them is to allow love.
Rule #2: Allow yourself to be vulnerable
I can honestly say that I consider myself one of the bravest people I know. I have never shied away from trying to reach a goal. I still experience fear like everyone else, but I accept that fear is part of it and refuse to let it stop me. As my Italian Nonna used to say, “if you no try, you no get”. Besides, you can always get back up and dust yourself off if you fall (and I have fallen a few times).
Working through your fears requires you to be very brave, and to be brave, you have no other choice then to accept that you will be vulnerable. If you can’t master this, you aren’t really living. (I recommend reading Brene Brown’s work on vulnerability for inspiration).
Rule #3: Adopt an attitude of contentment
I believe strongly that we have the power to alter our moods by what thoughts we allow to have floating around in our heads. Just like we can choose what to eat and put in our bodies, (to a certain extent), we can also choose what we put in our heads.
I used to find some of those motivational coaches on social media so cheesy (and trust me, some of them really are selling cheap drugstore psychology). But if you find the right mentors or gurus, it can really teach you how to turn unhelpful thoughts into realistic thoughts. I aim for realistic, and not false hope. This is so important for moms of children with special needs because our realities can be unchangeable.
I try to wake-up every morning by making the choice to be grateful (or at least open-minded) for my life and the experiences I will encounter. I won’t lie…it is no small feat! I have come to realize that if I see the challenges as learning experiences for my soul’s ascension, I can be appreciative. What I mean by this is that I believe that if one master’s challenges in this lifetime, the soul no longer needs to learn it in the next lifetime. Who the heck wants to come back and go through the same stuff!? I don’t know about you, but I am mastering this shit now!! But seriously, the alternative is unbearable for me and leads me into a downward spiral.
Like anything, it takes practice to adopt an attitude of contentment. But the rewards are truly practical for moms living through tough things.
Rule #4: Consider eating a primarily plant-based diet
I choose to eat a plant-based diet out of my deep love and respect for all animals. I am happy to see that our Canadian Food Guide is now supporting eating more plant-based foods for health reasons as well, but that is just a bonus for me. Having 3 horses here at home has increased my awareness around the purpose of animals, respect for all life, my appreciation for natural and simple living, and awakened me to a “do no harm” lifestyle. Did I love the taste of meat before? More than all of you put together!! I’m Italian for Pete’s sake, so no judgment here! But now, animals are no longer ingredients for me. They are my soul mates and I support them living a full happy life.
It might sound crazy, but eating a primarily plant-based diet has had an amazingly positive trickling effect in all areas of my life, including my family. We all have grown from it by talking about our values and who we want to be in this world. Even though I am in excellent shape now, have nicer skin, and my iron levels have actually gone up (for real), I actually choose to do it because I personally feel that the time has now come for people to make a shift in consciousness and reach new levels of spirituality connecting us to all life! This gives this momma of a child with special needs so much joy and strength!
Rule #5: Create your own “coven” of soulful and wise confidants
This has become such an important priority in my life. As we get older, studies show that our social circle diminishes for a variety of reasons. Finding and maintaining true connections with people when you are a busy mom of a child with special needs is even harder. I have chosen to invest my energy in choosing soulful friends whom share the same energetic vibration as me, as well as similar life values. We are all a little kooky, perhaps even square, but we truly believe in magical things. I don’t have many friends, but those I do have are 24k gold (as Bruno Mars would say), and have become my chosen family. Their love, acceptance, and support are priceless in my life. I wish this for all moms of children with special needs.
Rule #6: Engage regularly in activities that invoke passion
In my free time, I only commit to things that make me feel joyfully alive because there’ s a big chunk of my life that is obligation and responsibilities. Like Drake once said, “everybody dies but not everybody lives”. It took time for me to work through complex feelings of guilt before I could indulge in passionate activities, but I cannot deny how essential it is for me, as a mom of a child with special needs, for keeping up my caregiving stamina. Besides, my time is limited and so very precious. For me, it’s all about getting out of my head, being in the moment, and experiencing a soulful adventure. And yes, horses are high up on my list!
Rule#7: Stay disciplined throughout challenging times
I know this to be true of myself, and perhaps you can relate…When life is going smoothly, I do everything right and apply all my self-care strategies. As soon as life becomes a bit more challenging, I have the tendency to put those self-care strategies on the backburner because I feel like I need to frantically make everything better. Well, it bombs and gets me into trouble every time. I know now that even though I might feel like I need to go into a self-preservation mode of rest or break from my self-care activities, if I don’t force myself to keep up my healthy soulful routines, I won’t be rested at all, and I then I am the one who might break.
Rule#8: Practice acts of karma to connect to your divine self
I am a big advocate for using yourself (quirks and all) and your life experience as a therapeutic way to help others. We all have something we can share to offer some sort of insight or help for someone going through something we might have experienced and learned from ourselves. It fills my soul with sheer joy to volunteer or do pro bono work when I feel someone can truly benefit. Especially moms of children with special needs or even the children themselves.
Honouring all my purposes is honouring my connection to all that is! It doesn’t get more satisfying than that!
I hope I have planted a seed (or 2) in your soul so you can take only what might serve you at this time in your life, and step into your power.