Mafe Maria: Personal stories by autism parent mentor, Maria Stultz

Creating space through contractions

Just like a menstrual period, yet not exactly with the same frequency and predictability, I seem to experience cycles of contractive energy… They manifest primarily by a very strong need for space: physical and emotional. I find myself wanting to be alone, still, and silent. Mostly still and silent. Yet, mothering a four-year-old Sagittarius so demanding of my attention and company can drain so much energy on a daily basis, it feels suffocating when I go through these highly introspective periods. Recognizing the existence of the cycles and getting to a point where I can manage them without using unhappiness has been a process… One I still have not figured out. But this morning I learnt something very important; something inspiring; something I want to try right now…

In the past unhappiness has been an immediate response as soon as I breath the contractive air and recognize that my space has gotten smaller. You see, I used to judge it, and I used to blame myself for it: “Oh shit! What happened?… I dropped it!… I lost it!… Who did I judge?… What did I do?… How did I effed it up this time?”. It took me a while to understand that I am not always to blame for when these contractive periods happen. It helped to hear Dr. Sue Morter explain that sometimes your body (not just the physical one) goes on cleaning mode. After a peaceful, perhaps joyous and expansive time, your body comes off survival mode and, YAY! It pulls out trash (trapped energy from past experiences) to get rid of, because you’re ready to take it. So that perspective was helpful. Opportunity! Cleaning House! Not a bad thing. Not a mistake. Not something I did wrong.

Then, my own intuition informed me of the beauty of contractive periods. Think of a baby in his mother’s womb, a flower bud before it blooms, a dandelion flower shut down transforming into thistle, a caterpillar in its chrysalis… It’s dark and tight there. It can’t feel spacious and comfortable. And yet, that’s when the miracle is happening. That’s when metamorphosis is taking place. That’s when birth to something new is brewing, and oh for sure coming. And that perspective was even more helpful.

So slowly I came to change my mind about what contractions mean. But a problem remained… See I could relax and be still and silent, and meditate for days and process insights, and love all of that… If I had the space. If I did not have to provide for a child’s every need for 10-hour stretches without help. And most specially, if my need for space couldn’t hurt my child. That was the biggie: Believing that I couldn’t be anything but happy in front of Joaquin was SO HARD. It took a few episodes of unhappy awareness to realize that it was okay to allow my emotions to exist in the same space with Joaquin; that there was something for him and me to learn from that.

So the last belief remained. Up until this week I no longer judged my contractions, no longer judged myself for them, and no longer believed that they needed to be repressed for Joaquin’s sake. The next piece of the puzzle was the belief that I didn’t have the space I needed. “I need space, but I don’t have it”.

And I started feeling this sharp pain. This red, fizzy, heavy thing that exploded a million times in my heart and when I spoke to Joey and Joaquin to “create space” moved to my throat and suffocated me. And it came out a little angry.

And a new pattern started emerging… Joaquin’s cry for “MAMA BE HAPPY!” every time I wasn’t. Every time he felt it in my voice… Those words, that pout, outwardly expressing even more discomfort than the one I was experiencing in my contractive environment… Like a powerful chemical agent causing the red balloon in my heart to fizz up and attempt to explode as words in an angry nuclear mushroom.

So this morning it exploded. I couldn’t hold it any more. And I found myself yelling something like,

I don’t want to be happy!
I can’t be happy!
If I could, I would be happy!
Leave me alone!
Let me BE!
All I can do right now is to survive, walk, breathe, not explode… Just let me do that… Let me be what I am… Don’t demand any more from me.
This is all I’ve got today. I can’t be ___ right now!… I can’t just switch it. This is it. This is me right now. Let me be here!

And immediately after he pouted and left the kitchen, I realized that “mama be happy” is perhaps a mirror of the voice in my head still telling me to change because I believe that there is no room for contractions. One more layer I had still not peeled… The belief that although I welcome the contraction and I accept my need for space, “reality is” that I can’t create such space in my life. So, mama be happy, because there’s no room for anything else here.

And then I looked at my desperate words, the words that have been in my heart wanting to explode and snap back at the belief that I can’t have the space I need. They were so perfect!… I realized once more how this little child is such a magnificent catalyst of change in my life. Fishing those out and forcing me to SEE THEM. So that I could realize as my friend Brandi suggested yesterday, that it is ME who doesn’t allow the space I need. The two angels I live with are so generous and understanding and have done all I have requested to let me have the space I crave. It’s me who won’t take it. Me who’s afraid of retreating inside and stepping in the cave I have wished I could have. Because they’ll think I don’t love them. Because what kind of a mother and wife does that? Because why can’t I get it together and be always available and welcoming to their words, touch, and questions? Why am I becoming so sensory challenged lately around my husband and child? What is wrong with me?… And why can’t I stop using anger and unhappiness to create a boundary behind which I can have the vital space I need?

This morning’s explosion made me see something. The point of this blog I want to remember…

I CAN have the space I need. No matter how many active cats live here and how much noise they make.

I can CREATE that space by communicating clearly and peacefully my needs. If I can just ditch the guilt every time the situation arises, I could always explain to Joaquin (and Joey) what I am feeling and the thing I need to do (or stop doing) to take care of myself.

Just last night Joey and I were talking about Joaquin’s need for space and how it manifests in his interactions with people, and often in his aversion to such interaction. He’s grown a lot in this area, but for over four months now, he hasn’t wanted strangers to talk to him. So we’ve coached him to peacefully explain “please don’t talk to me”. And he has appeared to be challenged by physical touch with people different from Joey and I. At the park, when children are running around him he confides in us asking for validation / protection: “They won’t get you”, he announces as he touches his chest (tr: I don’t want them to touch me; I don’t want them in my space). I used to think this behavior expressed fear. Today I’m seeing it so similar to my own need for space, and I am contemplating the idea that my recent need to create such space for me might be of value to Joaquin. As I learn how to do it without recurring to unhappiness, Joaquin will learn how to do it too, and he will be more empowered to take care of himself around people.

So a few minutes after our episode, I called Joaquin for breakfast. As if he already knew what I had discovered, he seemed very comfortable and forgetful of my explosion (as if he knew that the words didn’t have him for a target). After breakfast I talked with him. I introduced the concept of “mama’s recurring need for space”. I told him what it feels like and my intention to go for it without using unhappiness. I gave him examples of how I may ask for space in the future… “I may want to speak less… I may be more still… I will answer some of your questions, but when I’ve had too many, I’ll tell you ‘no more questions please’… I will remind you nicely”. Reminding me nicely is something I’ve often wanted him to do when he expresses what he wants from me (e.g. “Don’t call this shirt; call it a mac”).

Very exciting to see what happens. Very liberating to watch us both learn this new thing of creating our space, taking care of ourselves lovingly, expressing it peacefully, authentically, and without fear of how it is received by others. My guess is that I’ll figure it out, and it will be transferred to Joaquin immediately. Brandi said this is a biggie for me and she could feel Joaquin’s energy getting ready for something big to shift. I feel it true. And right now I feel the bigness of how it will also affect Joaquin. Thank you my little Buddha for helping me see, always.

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One comment:

  1. On , brandi wrote:

    breathe in- yay! breathe out- yay! wonderful little buddha boy. beautiful post!
    loving that i found your blog : )