I think though, in my typical-atypical-fashion, I might like to twist this topic a bit and try to think about it and explore self-care from another angle.
Perhaps self-care is not just about a thing we do – but it is also very much about the thing(s) we do not do – or do later – or do with support – or do differently… and the ability to do this (or to not) is intrinsically connected with love and acceptance.
Perhaps it is also connected to holding space… for ourselves and for others.
I love the metaphor of holding space. To be honest, I am somewhat mesmerized by what I see in the richness of possibility that exists in the multiple interpretations of this concept.
I am so powerfully drawn to the liminality that I can get quite lost in existential meanderings when I contemplate the idea(s) of holding space…
I suppose… H and I have been indirectly talking about holding space for others as we are processing the loss of my father, who died in early March. The past few months have been a time of intense loss filled with powerful emotions – but as our family is moving forward, I have been considering how we might honour this space that was filled by my father.
I have two other posts on my blog that are about my father (aka Papa). Interestingly, one is about acceptance and love, and the other is about limit setting, so I suppose it is natural for me to be considering him when I am writing of Acceptance, Love, and Self-care.
I think I miss my father so much in part because I miss being wrapped in that feeling of acceptance. I feel badly for my children that the strength of his acceptance and love is now missing for them… and… I feel badly for myself.
But I am finding my way… and I am seeing how connected acceptance and love are to self-care… and how Papa shared that as such a gift for others in the way he also held space for others.
Holding space is a way of demonstrating acceptance and love – and it is crucial to building a positive sense of self, and self-understanding that is partnered with feeling deserving of self-care.
When we demonstrate that we value other people, they can more fully appreciate, understand, and value who they are… and then they are supported in extending care to themselves and beyond.
Perhaps this is the opposite of shame…
I think perhaps for me one of the most profound things has come to me in my efforts to support H. When we knew things weren’t going well for my father, H was in tears and said, “You know I am really going to miss Papa. You know there’s going to be a hole in my life – there’s going to be an empty space…”
And it was one of those moments when I paused… thinking please let the words come to me.
And I paused another beat…
And then I responded, “You know, H, you’re right – there is going to be a space there – a space where Papa was and now he wont be there – and that is going to leave an empty place in our lives and in our hearts.
But there is something about that space that is important. We have an opportunity to consider that spot – that place he held… and now it’s empty…
We get to decide what to put there.
And part of that is choosing something that will be honouring of Papa.
And when we put our energy into that place I think in that way he lives on.
If we do something that would make him proud or that would make the world a better place, then we use that energy that would have been there – and we make it into something that is good.
I think that is what a legacy is…”
When I think about my father, I am reminded of so many things, but I am perhaps most moved by the way he was deeply, deeply accepting of people… and welcomed us all to the table, or the comfy chair in his study – to just sit quietly, or to bounce around ideas or possibilities, or to argue the finer points of philosophy or politics or the education system… or to get a kick in the butt …or to just get some much-needed words of gentle guidance and encouragement.
He was someone who was completely willing to entertain lofty goals and outrageous dreams… and then help lay down a plan to make the almost impossible a reality.
I choose my steps and move forward in a way that I hope is honouring of my father… now the tables have turned and we are holding space for him.
Recently I have been talking to H about holding space in another way…
We were meeting with friends and I asked ahead about how we might best support their son, who is also Autistic and is the same age as H. I wanted to support H and this other young man by understanding what we might need to know about how he communicates and how best to connect.
The response of this family was that they appreciated being asked and suggested that people always do better when they are met with an approach of holding space.
This modeling and these opportunities for H to be aware of and honour the support needs of others, also has embedded within it the powerful message that his own needs are valid. It is empowering to for H to understand ways that we respectfully honour limits and pay attention to self-care for ourselves and for our friends and loved ones.
We are honouring space… place… pace… with this message:
You matter and we acknowledge you and make space for you – we hold it – we make sure others see you there – we give you room to be involved at whatever level is working for you in the moment – and whatever that may be – we accept and encourage it…
And if it changes… if it is different later – if you need less – or if you find you are seeking more – we don’t hold what you needed before against you… and we don’t use it as a measure of what you might or might not need in the future.
The message is: I accept you in this moment exactly as you are…
You are welcomed…
I see you… you are whole…
You are enough…
I hold space for you…
I watched my son with this other young man. I witnessed his capacity for acceptance – and for holding space in a way that seemed so like his Papa.
I think perhaps this is a bit of his legacy. My father, H’s Papa, would be proud.
Though his absence is deeply felt, my father’s default to love and acceptance helps me to now hold space for myself and H and others. Papa’s legacy is found in the way H and I move through life now, and holding space for him is a way of caring for others and for ourselves…
And I am grateful…
30 Days of Autism is a project designed to fight stigma, promote civil rights, and increase understanding and acceptance for those who process and experience the world differently.
© Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism (2015)