September 2, 2019
BEING DIFFERENT IS A GOOD THING. It offers up an opportunity for diversity, inclusion, connection, new friendships, and growth.
A friend posted this, and it made me think about something very near and dear to my heart: My oldest son.
As the father of a son who was diagnosed with Asperger’s at the age of 11, and type 1 diabetes at the age of 10, watching this short video really hit home. My son wasn’t only shunned and ignored all throughout Junior High school and High school for being different. He was emotionally and verbally attacked. He was abused. He was ridiculed and treated with cruelty. He was ostracized. As this was taking place, many of the kids joined in, or simply turned a blind eye, not wanting to take the spotlight from my son and shine it on themselves, becoming the new punching bag for unhappy, angry, confused kids who only had the desire to destroy others, instead of building them up. Nobody should have to be treated in this manner. Not ever.
When I observe people showing kindness, patience, and acceptance towards others, it affects me. It reminds me of how cool I think that is, and inspires me to do the same, regardless of who it is. When I observe someone sticking up for, or protecting someone else, who may currently be incapable of doing it for themselves, I am impressed, influenced, and inspired to remember to always to the same. Nothing is more impressive in this world to me, than one human being looking out for another, especially when they have absolutely no obligation to.
My son made it through those rough years. He survived. He is almost 24 years old. He has been working full-time at the same place for almost 5 years. He is responsible, reliable, dependable, and accountable. He is highly intelligent and hyper-focused, and extremely capable of valuable contributions to anyone he chooses to spend time with. He learned throughout the years, however, from his experiences with thousands of kids and even cruel strangers in public, to build up a wall for protection from the cruel and unjust of this world, to be careful with who he trusts and let’s in, and where he spends the majority of his time.
As a teenager, he was strong, all alone, and entirely by himself. Of course, he had us, his family-but at that age, kids usually have a deep desire for meaningful connections and friendships. As his father, had I known back then what I know now, I know I could have done more for him, and been there for him in ways he really needed, but back then, I didn’t have the experience or wisdom of life to guide me. Honestly, I was so self-centered and focused on my own happiness, or the lack thereof, that I was incapable of giving him all he truly needed at that time. As it turns out, all of that had a purpose.
My son was always different from the other kids he grew up around. We are mostly taught to conform and be the same as others, in order to fit in, not draw attention to ourselves, and to be a part of a group which will protect us, if ever we need it. My son was never really the type to conform, or to fit into a box which others wanted him to live in.
Ever heard the term, “Think outside of the box?” Well, I am pretty sure that from a young age, he realized that there is no box. From the age of two, until he was almost five, he wore a batman costume with a cape. We thought it was cute, and since this was our first child, we also thought it was perfectly normal! Honestly, I still believe it was. Who doesn’t want to wear a superhero costume, and assume the identity of our own idea of greatness?!
The first five years, it didn’t dawn on my that he may be different, just normal. When he was at the age of 11 to 14, I listened to some doctors, and I was made to believe that he was broken, not normal, disabled, and in need of something to fix him. I am now ashamed and embarrassed about this, and wish I hadn’t been so quick to believe everything they told me. There was also purpose in this. I now know the truth about my son: He IS different, and I am proud of that, and I am incredibly proud of who he chooses to show up in the world as, each day. He is absolutely perfect, just as he is, and has been since the day he was born, just like all of the rest of us. He is also highly intelligent, incredibly focused, predictably dependable, and an incredible example to me of what resilience, inner strength, emotional fortitude, and a growth mindset look like.
Against all odds, he has excelled in so many ways I never thought would be possible, because I really believed what the. “educated folk” were telling me about him. Under the direction of doctors, I had him put on multiple medications, which dulled his mind and his senses, but made him more controllable and malleable for the staff at the schools he attended. At the time, I was already on many medications, myself, and so I had the belief that this was normal.
It seems as though, in reality, this HAS become the new normal, with so many of us on medications under the direct supervision of doctors, with the promise that a pill will solve all of our problems. All any of those pills did to me and my son was deaden our senses, make us more controllable, and dis-empower us from living a life we deserved.
Luckily for my son, his mother wouldn’t have it! After about a year of counseling, medications, groups, and constant supervision at the schools, she insisted that he be removed from the care of the doctors and taken off of the pills immediately. She pushed to have him removed from the reality he was currently experiencing, and made sure to constantly and continuously push him out of his comfort zone and into a new life of experiencing new things and exploring future possibilities. He was removed from the Special Education program at the schools and mainstreamed into regular classes, where the real social difficulties began; however, being off of the medications he was on and being mainstreamed into the regular education classes with no supervision, he had the opportunity to think and learn more quickly, and practice building skills such as greater self-control, social skills, discipline, discernment, and so many others, that he never would have been able to learn or practice had he stayed on his current, advised plan.
He never complained much, and usually just did as he was told, and excelled at whatever he put his mind to.
THE SECRET OF THE UNDERGROUND FORREST:
Radhanath Swami, in his interview with Tom Bilyeu, found on Tom’s YouTube show, IMPACT THEORY, told a story of an experience he had with a friend of his in the Redwood Forest, in California. He described how he and his friend go there once a year to unplug from and temporarily disconnect from the busy, distracting, fast-paced life which we all live, and reground themselves in the beauty of nature, through the practice of forest bathing. To their disappointment, they happened upon a group of people, who were being given a tour of the forest by a forest ranger. Quickening their pace, in order to avoid the energy of the crowd, they tried to hurriedly get past the temporary distraction, but Radhanath Swami overheard the ranger mention that he was going to tell the crowd the, “Secret of The Underground Forrest beneath them.” Having been a teenager in the 1960’s, and having a proclivity towards secrets, he asked his friend if they could stay for the story. They were both glad they did.
The forest ranger explained that some of the trees in this particular forest were over 2,000 years old, and had endured some of the most devastating, destructive storms, ever to pummel our planet. He described that in order for them to have enough strength to endure not only the strong winds in the forest, but also the incredibly destructive storms, they had learned throughout the years to rely upon one another, by reaching their roots out as far as they could towards each other, eventually intertwining the roots, deep in the earth, supporting one another and using one another for the support they needed, in order to survive and weather the wind and the storms.
It is in this way that the human brain works. As a thought happens, neurons, which look identical to the roots of a tree, reach out and connect, intertwining their roots with one another for strength, stability, and support. Electrical impulses are used as communication, and when the neurons are touching and intertwined amongst one another, the communication happens more effectively. When the thought is repeated, more and more neurons reach out and connect, also intertwining their roots, allowing for support, communication, strength, and stability. If fact, so many neurons are recruited to this repetitive thought, that the other thoughts weaken, and eventually die off, disappearing entirely. Only the strongest survive. It is true with trees, and it is true with thoughts. This is also true with us humans, and together, it is more likely that we survive well.
THE TRUTH OF THE LONE TREE:
A tree by itself, in the middle of nowhere, is a miracle, in and of itself. To be the only tree to have survived among the many possibilities of trees, speaks to its strength. You see, it has no support system. No other trees were capable of surviving the elements. The elements are against this tree, all along the way, and the battle is on! Storms rage, wind destroys, and through it all, this lone tree learns to dig its roots deeper, to create stability and strength for itself, knowing that reaching out to connect with others is not an option, and it is only through having a strong and deep foundation that it will survive.
The other fact about the lone tree that must also be examined is this: To stand alone is dangerous. Sometimes, due to lack of proper nutrition, they simply snap in half-seemingly for no reason at all, on a bright, sunny day with no wind or weather; however, we all know the real reason it finally snapped in half. If it had been a part of a larger network of trees, sharing the support, nutrition, strength, and vitality, the lone tree would have survived for hundreds and maybe even thousands of more years, thriving, instead of merely surviving.
It has been studied and proven that we are all better off in a supporting, kind, loving, safe, strong environment, where we are able to get appropriate feedback, adjust our beliefs and mindsets, and progressively, constantly, and consistently improve our lives through connections with others. This is true for EVERYONE.
My son is like this lone tree. He is a fighter. He has known struggle and defeat. He has experienced heartache and sorrow. He is relentless. He has learned that failure, mistakes, and pain, are a normal part of life. He has also chosen NOT to be a quitter. Quitting has never been an option for him, and I am so glad. He knows pain, just like we all do, but he has known more pain than most, and has become stronger, wiser, and better because of it. Looking back at his life now, I am able to finally see how is was all necessary to happen and unfold just as it did, to turn out as beautifully and magnificently as it did. There was purpose behind all of it.
There is a short movie on YouTube called, THE BUTTERFLY CIRCUS. In it is found one of my favorite quotes of all time: “The greater the struggle, the more glorious the triumph.” This doesn’t just remind me of my eldest son. It reminds me of us all.
We all experience the pain of things happening to us in this lifetime. We are all victimized by this life through experiences, circumstances, unfairness, and the unjust acts of angry, abused, ill-mannered people; however, suffering is a choice, and how long we remain a victim is entirely up to us, since how we choose to believe, think, speak, act, and respond, is entirely within our own control.
All these years later, I discovered a word that has quickly become one of my main mantras in life: PRONOIA. The meaning is basically this: The Universe was designed from the beginning to conspire on our behalf.
One empowering belief, that is in alignment with PRONOIA, is that this life is continuously happening FOR us, not TO us.
Everything in life has a purpose behind it, even if while going through our difficulties and trials, we can’t see it. Life has a way of unfolding, naturally, and it seems like the more we try to control the outcomes, the more surprised we are by them, because they never turn out the way we want them to. Through the idea of pronoia, and some incredible life coaches, mentors, teacher, and my own parents, and especially through my wife and all of our children, I have realized that I can’t control anything but myself, and even that proves to be difficult a lot of the time.
My oldest son’s life experience, up to this point, has been painful, but so beautiful. He is one of the greatest, most beautiful, meaningful highlights of my life, and a constant example of incredible strength, an indomitable spirit, resilience, and hope. He has many talents, one of which is editing video content, and video content creation, which I am not really good at, yet. Together, we are beginning a new project for the goodinthehead website, including video content and a podcast show, which is set to start coming out monthly, January of 2020! I am so excited to spend time with my son and learn all I can from him, because the truth is, like trees, we are stronger when our souls and energies are intertwined, and I think it is highly probable that I need him more than he will ever need me.
The point behind sharing all of this is as follows: Sometimes we see trees out there, all by themselves. Planting seeds of kindness and acceptance all around them can help. Some trees are actually up-rooted and removed from their locations, recognized as valuable because of their uniqueness, beauty, and strength. These trees are then relocated to a better place, where they can be well taken care of, benefit greatly from the nutrients in the soil which so many other trees feed off of, intertwine their roots within the underground matrix for added strength and support, and truly thrive from and through connection.
Reminder to self: In a world where we are all trying to fit in, look for the ones who are daring to have the courage to be different, or simply different because that is who they are. Befriend them. Be kind to them. Build them up. Look for and seek out commonalities, and traits or interests you may have in common. Treat them with the same acceptance, appreciation, and love that you would want others to treat you with. Connect with them, build an environment of trust with them, and practice learning to better THRIVE, TOGETHER.
By doing so, you may be unknowingly throwing someone a lifeline. You may be saving their life. You will make a much larger impact than you know, just by reaching out and being kind.
When we add value to others and build them up, we naturally become more valuable. When we do this consistently, we vibrate at a higher frequency, and attract people, situations, circumstances, and wisdom into our lives, just as consistently. It is uncomfortable, at first, to reach out to strangers, but when we show a sincere interest in them and a connection with them, it gets easier. Not everyone will want a connection with you, or be ready to do anything but lash out in pain, but that is okay. That is normal. Keep at it. It gets easier. Connection is a learnable, attainable, practicable skill that can and will benefit us all.