“I think the spiritual trip in this moment is not necessarily a cave in the Himalayas. It’s in relating to where we are at, it’s in relation to the pollution, political, and all that. It’s part of a package. The aim is to be where you are, as honestly and consciously as you can.” ~ Ram Dass
Ram Dass talked about suffering being grace and that we have to live through it.
For me, parenting has been an incredibly spiritual journey, but not the light and beautiful one you might picture. It has been a hard lesson in suffering and letting go to get where I am, honestly and consciously.
It’s been a journey that I have continually resisted.
You see, I never planned on becoming a mother. I loved working with children and families—it was my passion, my calling, and my way of being of service in the world. I worked all the hours I could, for the absolute love of it, and when I wasn’t working, I volunteered in yoga retreats for teens or at the homeless shelter.
I also played, jumped out of planes, rode motorcycles, and lived on a canal boat—I lived every moment to the full. I loved to be the helper, never needing help for me, but giving and giving, and even in my darkest periods I gave more—it filled me with joy, light, and gratitude.
If you feel like crap and life isn’t going your way, go to the homeless shelter and see how little some have. Go to the hospice and learn how precious this wonderful life is, and listen day in and day out to the awful traumas some have been through, the worst acts of abuse from children all the way through to grown adults.
And then, two weeks after ending a brief relationship that has shown too many red flags, I found out I was pregnant.
I wholeheartedly believe in a woman’s right to choose and have always thought that should I find myself here—especially at 35 with life so filled with freedom and feeling perfect—I would choose to have an abortion.
However, Ahimsa—do no harm—was a yoga lesson that I lived by. I found out that despite the challenges I felt, it was something I could not do. Not now, not in this moment. Consequently, I chose to continue the pregnancy.
Twins. I knew this was going to be a challenge. A single mother, no close relatives, or a father around to help on a canal boat. But I’m nothing if I’m not determined and resourceful.
A big transition I never expected took place. I could no longer give help, but I needed to ask for it. I fought it and asked for only the bare minimum of help, despite having a traumatic birth and caesarean section, I stayed on a boat, lifting coal, emptying toilets, and filling up water tanks. It took its toll, but I battled on, determined not to ask for more than I could get away with—I was humbled and grateful for all the help I was given.
Before six months were up, I returned to work part-time. Childcare cost more than my wage, but still I refused to give up my work, my identity as the helper, and the professional woman.
Tax credits made a mistake and for three months, we literally had not one penny to live on. I fought, I loaned money, and I was grateful for those people who helped. But still, I disliked and resisted help. I battled to stay at work.
I won, but at a cost.
Exhausted, traumatised, and stressed, I continued on through more trauma as chicken pox almost killed both of my children—one through going on to her lungs, and one from a rare reaction to the antibiotics. I still barely stopped for breath, taking a few days of annual leave, and then carrying on as normal.
Nights and nights of no sleep gave way to feeling tired, drained, and exhausted, but I refused to surrender. I would go from nights of no sleep, being with my children all day and all night, seeing no adult for days on end, to work, back to the childcare, and my only break was the drive to and from work.
Still, I resisted.
Still, I refused to ask for more help than the bare minimum and if I did ask, I refused that it would put me off asking again.
Then, one day, a chest infection in one child turned into pneumonia, a lung collapse, and a year of being in and out of the hospital on oxygen and IVs. I fought to get the right medical care, three times, sitting through a night where nobody was sure if she would make it. Traumatised, exhausted beyond measure, trying to be consciously and honestly were we were at.
I failed miserably at the “honestly.”
I took my annual leave and got sick once, but many times I’d go from a week of no sleep, monitoring oxygen all night long, caring for four-year-old twins all day, straight into days at work, and nights monitoring breathing, week after week.
I was offered a sabbatical. I couldn’t take it financially, but also, if I’m honest, too much ego rolled into my work. I could stand and train a room of people and feel in control and strong. At home, nothing was within my control, often at the mercy of whichever hospital we found ourselves at, hoping and praying we could make it through the night.
My guardian angel was obviously a tough love kinda’ one, or maybe I was so stubborn that it had to be hammered into me.
Six months into this, my little boy twin starts to have seizures—rare, unusual laughing seizures—almost always caused by a brain tumour on the hypothalamus. Now surely, I will learn to let go of my ego, surrender the role of a helper, of who I was at work before becoming a mother.
But no, I limp on, feeling like I’m failing now at all my roles and so exhausted I cannot consciously or honestly live through this moment, but just hold on by the skin of my teeth, surviving from moment to moment.
And then, one fateful day, a big seizure sends us all into the hospital. The next day, four months ago, at the time of writing this, we were told to isolate at home. COVID-19 is here and my children are both extremely, clinically vulnerable.
It took the threat of taking away both of my children if I continued to hold onto this ego identity of who I am at work to get me to listen. To honestly and consciously live in this moment. To learn and explore who I am when I’m not the one in control—the helper, the one with something of value to give.
For four months, that is all there has been: me, my twins, and the odd socially distanced visitor. I have had to give up who I was holding onto. I’ve had to not accept time off work, but ask for it.
It’s a hard lesson for me.
Part of me is still torn, as I hear of the amazing work my colleagues at the hospice are doing. I want to be there and help. I hear of the suffering of those impacted by death during these times, and I want to hold their hand and help them through. But the truth is, my children need me here. They need me to help them through and to truly be here. They want me to let others do the helping now, to sit back, and live through it.
You see, sometimes we have a role, and that role is who we think we are. To let go of that is scary because if I’m not that, then what is left? Who will I be? Perhaps without that role I think I’m worthless?
We live in a world where stay-at-home moms are not valued. They ask, “Is that all you do? How do you fill your day? She’s just a stay-at-home mom?” And yet, it’s the most important role we could ever have, to be a mother, a teacher, and a guide to new souls, shaping the next generation to walk this earth.
But it took me COVID-19 to realize that if I didn’t want that role, it could easily be taken away from me. I had to allow myself to surrender to it, to slow down my days, to give up my ego and identity, and be honestly and consciously where I am at now. I had to see the grace in suffering, to let go, to trust in life, and believe that something would catch us, with no idea what that something might be.
Ram Dass also said that if you want to be free, feed people. If you want to be enlightened, serve people. I had to let go of my ego and surrender to doing that, for my children. I had to give up being holy and just be a human mother.
Our teachers come in many forms, and mine has come in the shape of my children, and in the shape of a virus that is set to change the world.
If you sit consciously and honestly where you are at, what has COVID-19 taught you?