I fell completely, madly, hopelessly in love today. I’d met him before, briefly, a couple of years ago, and while mildly taken with him then, it was nothing compared to what I experienced today. A drop in the ocean. A grain of rice in a paddy field. A grape in a vineyard. Today, I fell hook, line, and sinker.
He’s cute. He’s blonde. He’s constantly smiling. And he’s two.
I can’t say that I miss not having kids. Occasionally – very, very occasionally – I wonder what it might have been like. But it’s a fleeting thought, one that doesn’t last very long. It didn’t happen. End of. I’m a firm believer in what’s for you not passing you and being a mum obviously wasn’t for me. Given that my levels of patience are questionable at the best of times, it’s probably best that way. I have no regrets.
But this little man is adorable. And he has Down Syndrome. He’s not a Down Syndrome child – he’s a child who happens to have Down Syndrome. And that’s not just semantics. Down Syndrome is a genetic condition caused by the presence of an extra chromosome and this third copy of the twenty-first chromosome has an amazing effect on the world. Some it repels, most it draws closer.
Many years ago, in Alaska, a friend of mine whose son has Down Syndrome, was telling me how another parent of a child with DS had asked her if there were ever times when she wished her son was normal. Why, she answered, somewhat surprised, sure he if was ‘normal’ as you say, he’d be someone else.
Today I got to experience those amazing eyes, that infectious laugh … and the hugs. And the uncomplicated, unadulterated joy of being. And for a short while, I managed to be completely present.
Last night, in Belfast, I listened to Eckhart Tolle, a German-born Canadian resident who has been lauded as the ‘most spiritually influential person in the world’. I read his book – The Power of Now – many years ago and have recommended it or given it as a gift to friends over the years. And while I liked his message, I never really took to him. Quite irrationally, I never really liked him. But today I do.
Far from being the tall, ramrod straight, officious, imperious German I had imagined, he’s a short, hunched, lovable chap with a mischievious glint in his eye. He sat on stage looking strangely like a cheeky schoolboy who knew something none of the rest of us had yet grasped. And over the course of 90 minutes or so, he let us in to the secret.
He talked to us about egos. About how our mental commentaries turn neutral situations into marked unhappiness. About how we merge reality with a fictional image of life that we make available to others via social media. He talked about our thought-burdened sense of identity. About the illusion we have that in order to hold our life together, we have to think about it all the time. About how our thought forms give us our sense of self.
And he told us of the gap that exists between two thoughts – the space where one thought finishes and another has yet to start. That stillness. That awareness. That presence. And he said that if we looked into the eyes of a baby, we could see how they look at us without thinking about how much they like or dislike us, about how our glasses look, or how many wrinkles we have. They have yet to form thoughts so they look and they see and they’re in the moment, in the now. [And if we didn’t have a baby to hand, we could do the same with a dog.]
And today, when I was enjoying the hugs and the smiles and the love from this little miracle, I finally got what Tolle was on about. Today, when we were out and about, everywhere Finn went he radiated joy. He lit up the restaurant. Random strangers drawn to him came over to say hi. People passing us in the village turned to smile. It was magnetic. And for a while, as people engaged with him, they were present, completely present. It was quite something to behold.
This week, I’m grateful to a two-year-old for the laughs, and the smiles, and the unconditional love. And for teaching me how to be present.