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2015 Grateful 16

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.

Down2But 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.

Down

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.

Down3

2013 Grateful 1

It’s hard to believe that yet another year has passed. This is the last of 52 posts in the Grateful 2013 series, an idea inspired by the inimitable BMcD a couple of years ago. Had you told me then, Biddy, how much my life would have changed as a result, I’d probably have laughed in something approaching a quiet disbelief.

I’ve waded through shelves of self-help books in my time and recognised a common thread in the importance of giving thanks, of being grateful. Admittedly, I was a little skeptical when it came to believing that the more I give thanks, the more the universe responds. But now, two years later, I am living testimony to the fact that it does work. Life is good – damn good.

This year has been one filled with old friends, new friends, old new friends, and new old friends. To all of you who have touched my life, no matter how tangentially, thank you. You may never know the difference you have made. Even those nasty encounters with meanness and pettiness served as a stark contrast to the kindness and support that was much more visible and as a reminder of all that is good about human nature.

I thought I’d wrap up this year by sharing some quotations – words of others who have so beautifully captured my wish for you all in 2014:

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.Epicurus

Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.Ralph Waldo Emerson

Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.Eckhart Tolle

Go raibh mile maith agaibh go léir.

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