Sunday, July 17, 2022

How to Love

     I'm writing this week to clarify, for myself, the kind of work that I am training to do as a life-coach or mentor for neurodiverse adults. The question I want to work through is how to avoid the trap of getting caught up in results. That is, if someone comes to me in any kind of distress, how do I avoid wanting to fix their problem, and getting discouraged when they don't take my (most wise, of course) advice? How do I remain always open and creative in helping them to find the answers within themselves, and patient enough to let healing and growth happen a step at a time? I know perfectly well that change can't be directed from outside oneself. If all we needed was to be told what to do, then Google would be all the counselor any of us would need. There is no new good advice under the sun, all the wise words have already been said before. So why are we all still so screwed up? 

    What has helped me to change? Yes, it's the things I've learned about neurodiversity, about how to self-regulate my intense and hypersensitive nervous system, about mindfulness and examining my thinking, about how to rebuild a new and healthier self-concept and vision for my future. But before I could make use of any of that information, a couple of things had to happen. First, I had to step back and confront my real self, and the great difference between her and my fantasy self. The hermitage made that possible for me; for others, the pandemic, or some individual life crisis, will have brought them face-to-face with their inner reality likewise. The second is that I had to find teachers and mentors in whom I could recognize both my own struggles and real, meaningful progress in turning those struggles around. Here I want to call out, especially, the brilliant Kristen Carder of, but I have also been validated and inspired by others who are living good lives with ADHD, autism, giftedness, or any combination of neurodiverse traits.

    So this is one of the most important things I know I must keep in mind: I've got to keep it real. My own healing started with unmasking with just my own mirror and my confessor, looking clearly at who I really am. It continues because people like Kristen Carder, Amy Richards, Jennifer Harvey Sallin, Chris Wells, and others have been brave enough to unmask publicly, to tell stories about themselves in which I recognized myself. Because what holds me back is not that I don't want to change, and it is not that I don't know what needs to change. It's that I don't know what change I am capable of. Change is slow and gradual, and never happens without setbacks along the way. When I didn't know I could change, I could never be motivated to keep trying and failing. Now, I know that failing is not a problem, it's just a part of the process. But I only know that because some people have gone before me and shown their true, messy, vulnerable selves in public. And that is what I have to do, too. I have to resist the temptation to show up as a Guru, as a Wise Old Hermitess, as somebody you should listen to because she's got all her sh*t together. No. If anyone's going to listen to me, it's going to be because I've been a hot mess just like them, and have found solutions to some of the problems they still face; and if they're going to unmask with me, which is an essential part of the process, it will be because I'm still a moderately lukewarm mess. 

    There are helping professions in which the helper unambiguously serves the client. A surgeon isn't there to encourage her patient to knit his own gaping wound together, right? But my vocation isn't like that. My vocation is not to help, but to love. My vocation is not to tell anyone what to do, but to listen, to mirror the other's heart and mind, and to tell my own story so that they can take from it whatever seems likely to work for them. The first steps to healing were to see clearly and then accept my own brokenness. My vocation is to love my clients to acceptance of their own brokenness. Because if I get caught up in helping them, then the love is conditional, it gets to be about me and measuring my performance as a coach/mentor ... and anyway, it doesn't work.

    My vocation will always be rooted in the unmasked transparency of solitude, and always bearing fruit in love. This is how the grace of God gets through, and if anyone is "fixing" anyone, it's God. So, dear God, grant me the grace to keep my ego out of your way. Amen.

††† PEACE †††

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