Logically spiritual

For the longest time, I pushed back against “logic” and “order”, “structure” and “form as though they were the very enemies of my being. Since my Asperger’s diagnosis, I’ve been compelled to review that attitude and flip it on its back, which has been interesting in the extreme. I find it was a case of protesting too loudly…pointing in the opposite direction to myself…since I love these very things; they are the core part of me, my default setting.

So why the push-back; why have I worked so hard to destructure my life and my attitudes, to undo life’s corsets, to be the bohemian and to pursue the role of “artist” as a life choice, not just a vocation? I have chased after “fluid” like my life depended on it, for years and years.

Two theories spring to mind; one is that it is to divert attention from my core self, to distract attention from my secret sanctuary where control reigns suppreme, to cope better with the crazy world outside and to hide my eccentricities (which are real enough…) beneath a patina of artistic sensibility.

The other is that I have resisted what I am because “what I am” pointed straight back to this distinctly Asperger’s way of doing things. It pointed at a truth I was not yet ready to embrace. I was fooling myself as much as I was fooling other people.

Plus, I had made my home, more recently, amongst those who call themselves “spiritual” and that seemed to be all about throwing over the structures of this reality to embrace something more fluid, less tangible, far from empirical. Ironically, those who are spiritual so often act as though they want nothing of logic whereas those who claim logic seem the most illogical of all.

I am aways baffled when people prickle so at this word “spiritual” as though you had announced yourself a “born again” christian in an atheist’s society. People start treating you as though you believe in Father Christmas or the Tooth Fairy; as though you have lost credibility in their logical eyes. Yet, to me, spiritual is as logical as it gets since it allows for an acceptance of everything that we think of as reality, all in one vast box of creation, with an underlying intelligence that helps explain the inexplicable and which enables it to work slickly and with purpose, like the very best of machines; making sense out of random chaos and seeking out patterns, which is my absolute forte. To me, it speaks of the ultimate structure and containment; albeit much of this, as yet, outside the comprehension of our limited human minds. So why the big fuss when we drop this particular word bomb?

Yet when I delve this territory, I find myself far from alone, in Asperger’s land, considering that there is more to life than what “seems” to the empirical eye. From Einstein to Mozart to Tesla (all speculated to be Asperger’s) and many others besides, I discover that they only ever found more proof of God in all the detail; perceiving “proof” of a different kind to the conventional in all the sheer complexity they grappled with in their earthly lives and as they tirelessly pursued their obsession for knowledge with the extreme hyper-focus that is an Asperger’s trait. The more they looked and looked and looked at all the detail of their material reality, the more they discovered that all roads pointed back to this spiritual perspective.

Others have more recently taken the angle that there is nothing more logical than a spiritual perspective….since we are all, truly, spiritual in that part of ourselves that accepts a reality without separation and the understanding that we are just a tiny part of something far vaster; a mere droplet in an ocean we barely understand. Those who deny such an approach to life are wholly illogically, in my view, for where is the proof that we are broken, at odds with all things and the very epicentre of of our own universe in which material possession is the only god. It is a confused and disoriented version of “man” that has created such a world and I find plentiful logic in my spiritual perspective these days, though (in company with the best of those that do likewise) I really struggle when it comes to putting all this into words…which is no big deal for me since putting things into words is something I struggle with anyway, given my Asperger’s. My best shot at it is always in writing, not speech, which is why abstract, spiritual material has become the lifeblood of my longest running blog here and yet its audience remains niche and I most often feel I am talking to myself.

Yet, turning this around, perhaps it is this very trait of struggling to find words for the sheer complexity we are party to, in the inside of our heads, that makes the person with Asperger’s most open and likely to consider a reality that includes a creator or, at least, an intelligent consciousness that runs through all material things. We perceive things that others seem to miss and a lack of words to describe what we perceive does not mean that we are wrong; we know this well (on many counts) though, once more, we lack the words or sometimes the confidence to express this truth out loud. It is something that has fed into the propensity for the most gifted Asperger’s individuals to blurt out breakthrough hypotheses which prove to hold water, for all they shock and astound those who considered themselves the most logical people of the previous paradigm. Yes, I said prove….logic…for all some of these ideas were scoffed at for being sheer inarticulate madness, delusion, the ramblings of a crazy person to begin with. We are natural born paradigm breakers since we find logic in illogical places, drawing those places into logic’s widening net.

My new-found friendship with logic, structure, organisation, containment is already paying me dividends as I enjoy a wave of returning back to myself that had eluded me for many years. No longer berating or turning my back on the “control freakish” part of myself, I listen to what it has to say and find solutions to long running problems that had kept me stood there, the rabbit in the headlights of a world too externally chaotic for (you guessed it) words. Filtering through to all aspects of my world, from the organisation of my domestic day to my finances and the way I engage with people, the new way I am approaching my work rhythms split between more creative and intuitive aspects and those parts that long to graze through the outpourings of these pursuits with a red pen poised for editing, I am finding this play-off of my soft and harder parts a delight since it leads to a far happier environment…on the inside.

34350549770_82e92a724b_o.jpgSo funny that for years my long-running metaphor, pursued though the imagery of my art and in my blogging, was the analogy of feeling like a butterfly caught inside a glass box. Now, I discover (perhaps perversely but not from the perspective of a person with Asperger’s) that I quite like my glass box, as long as it was me that put myself there. It affords me a window on the world and keeps my inner sanctum more pristine than it would otherwise be and these traits are important to some with Asperger’s. “Out there” is far too much risk of being sucked into an air conditioning vent, of being eaten by a large bird or damaging my delicate wings on the branches of a tree in a sudden strong wind. Here, in my Asperger’s bubble, I get to see out yet to be the control freak of all I need to engage with and this affords such strength to my methods since I can relax enough to explore my inherent gifts without consistently wondering how I will brave a world in which I have to be other than myself, all my energy expended in that pursuit and not upon exploring what I truly and uniquely have to offer. I find I am the support I was always seeking, I am the sides to the box; a truth that offers a degree of self-containment that always felt lacking before.

And the more I contain myself, the more I feel at liberty to explore a sideless reality within which I am but a droplet…

There is nothing wrong in this choice to be the introvert and the hermit, honing a comfortable world that best suits me; this has been the big admission of my year and it allows me to make this hermitage permanent and portable (no longer somewhere I was always expecting to have to surrender at some point or if I go “outside” to be amongst other people), thus open to all my ingenuity when it comes to making this the most comfortable place for me to be, always. Like the tortoise, I take this inner world with me wherever I go and can retreat to it at a moment’s notice. I can use my innate resources to redecorate my world to be most conducive to my best efforts as a fluid and creative thinker, a creative liver, a creative artist…..those fluidities held securely like water in a cup, which is much preferable to spilling it all over the table. Yet my perameters are solid, I have structure I can rely on and it comes from me. I have returned to the self-containment of childhood and it feels like the home I had long wept for, after years of being shoe-horned out by the expectations of “society”. One of the greatest gifts of having accepted my Asperger’s traits is to own that this is how I am and how I must be in order to thrive so there’s an end to all discussion about more normalising alternatives (which comes as such a relief).  I gain the most expansive version of reality I could possibly have access to, a world with no limitations…safely encompassed by the chosen edges of myself. There is so much sense to all this; one could even say “logic”.

Posted in Consciousness & evolution, Menu, Personal Development, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pigment of life

Pigment has always been about life, to me, and exploring it has been my way of exploring life in a way I could relate to, perhaps cope with, more intimately than dealing with life itself.

As a child, it came to me simply, in hand held blocks that excited me more than just about any other thing. Easter eggs and other childish preoccupations were willingly swopped for huge tins of coloured pencils that thrilled me with all their potential and, as I arranged their rainbow colours into order, I noticed not…at that early stage…how they were far more pristine and radiant than life itself, though perhaps my focussed obsession with them tried to tell me so.

Later, my choice was watercolour since it was as portable as my desire to slip all I possessed into a bag and carry it on my shoulder. Yet the pigment was always less than life; washy and faint, like some elder-persons memory but not yet for me.

Many years of exploring oil paints took me very far into an old paradigm; one I had to get to know as a child born deep into the twentieth century. At first, I applied it in daubs, thickly, robustly then, as I approached my maturity with it, I came to understand that coverage did not neutralise what lay underneath. Hidden layers had a way of speaking even when not seen; yesterday’s flaws asserting themselves, wanting to take part in the present, insisting that they did, so I tried to use that; to make the best of it by owning it as “true”. Like someone admitting to their own imperfect past, seeking beauty in what had been “mistaken” before, I allowed these under-layers to come to the surface but only where I said so; where it added to the beauty of the now. This became arduous, a game of control, so I spent many hours perfecting that control, steadying the hand and squinting at my canvases. Where layers of the past asserted most artfully, I sometimes used sandpaper to abrase it though, inviting it up to be seen, like someone plunging and analysing their depths might bring up choice parts of their former life to mingle them…poetically…with the person they had become. It became like an addiction to psychotherapy; useful in its way but always anchoring me to what had been, tying my leg to the ground.

With time, this became laborious, too deliberate, a new obsession of its own so that bringing up layers became more consuming than working on the now. Life began to feel like artifice, wishing for mistakes, even expecting or encouraging them only to make things more interesting “later”; as someone might live a wild youth in order to have something to entertain their friends at dinner when life became dull. While this had a degree of satisfaction to offer, to the creator, the overseer of it all, the one who loved to show their adeptness at tidying up messes, troubleshooting challenges, emerging from wrecks, it often made a mess of the picture and, like a god frustrated with their own experiment in “life”, I almost gave up; leaden with the pointlessness.

In fact, I did…for the longest time since I had started.

So there, in my story, I came upon a stumble in my artistic life; a pregnant pause or, at times, it seemed to be fully aborted. It felt like the historic times we are all in presently…a wheel stuck in a sticky groove and little desire to continue the journey, or definable sense of where it is all heading to. Had I done it all, explored all possibilities; had it all become a pointless, self-gratifying mess?

But then the joy of pigment, somehow, kept asserting. What was its point, I told myself logically, and yet there it was; without any reason for it, I still desired it and it drew me forwards.

The first time I added gouache to my box of colours, I missed its potential because I painted like I had always painted; in blocky daubs, thickly, expecting to be able to hide away what went beneath, thus with all that old carelessness, the expectation of dubious beginnings and laborious endings. Only now, instead of beauty where these oh-so rapid layers formed, the paint being just so quick to dry, the pigment became pitted and seemed dead, like the craters of the moon; its colours matte and lacking in all the complexity that took eons to create in oils. This threw me back into nostalgia for the old ways, for all that I had felt done with just a moment before; this new paint the “convenience food” that would mimic the banquet of the old life yet I wanted none of either; sought something that had yet to reveal itself and began to loose faith that it  could ever exist. Unhappy with these results, and the return to the exposed old patterns of how I had always worked with pigment, which felt so desperately retrograde that I couldn’t countenance the predictable grind of their cycles of sacrifice and hard-earned progress, I put it all away again and left it, perhaps forever.

Yet something…unspoken, unspeakable still, a life force, some original spark without name…brought me back and there I was, back at my desk one sunny September morning, when new beginnings are least expected. Only, this time with a different mindset, one that was prepared to learn from the pigment, not impose what I thought I already knew.

Oddly, at first glance, what showed itself was a little like what I knew about oils but also about watercolours. It was like…though not like…either of these things; perhaps more than the sum. I could block out and I could daub, or add water, achieving fine detail, painted thinly; a whole new paradigm to be learned, familiar…yet unexpected. (I liked this) its colours remained true; not the alteration of themselves into serious drabness on drying or maturing. It was more playful, somehow, than the “grown-up” pigments that had consumed my adult years; which both excited and terrified me. I pushed down the thought “its a young person’s paint” and continued on with my playing, remembering how from a long time ago. It was the best of both worlds I had explored before and yet it was its own thing.

I could layer…yes…but, with new paint or water added, I could also blend a day later, though the paint had dried almost as soon as applied (there is such speed to life now…taking only moments to do what took days, weeks or months before). Life had picked up pace, decisions had to be handled on the spot and yet they were also fluid since nothing had to be owned this way forever and ever amen. Things could be turned around….only not so much through hiding but by incorporating, which took a different mindset; one which cradled all you had been and would ever be, finite and infinite, in the palm of the same creator’s hand.

Most of all, I realised this…that there was no hiding what I did; not really. For though the paint was quickly dry, adding water to my brush would reanimate it (oh water, eternal source of life and silent messenger of frequencies). Layers may go over the top but they would also mingle; turn muddy if I let them. So, I had to take ownership for what I did, accept responsibility, both there and forever; had to newly make this commentment in every moment, there being no hiding under carpets anymore. Karma had just gone “instant”. I had to be prepared to incorporate all of my layers as one, even as I put them down and before I added what had not yet even been conceived of. There was an honesty, a truth, asserting with every brushstroke…and a chance for mastery to assert, for the conscious creator to emerge, stepping up to all I knew I could be in the matter of living “as it happened”, without convenient blindspots, and instead of dumping down whatever suited me, as I had before when I was reliant upon those old-style guarantees that meant I could always shrug away my mistakes, disowning them. Now, I would have to be masterful; and this would call upon all I had ever learned, still asking more from me. I would be compelled to rise to the task…at last…and I knew that I could; that I was ready for the graduation.

This would have to be an “evolved me” stepping forwards now, one that was both painstaking yet speedy, flawed and yet aware, complex and contradictory and yet incorporating, forgiving. I would have to hold all these many things in the palm of my hand without dropping a single one of them and yet, even as I did this, I knew I could blend away any harshness, merging stark contrasts into new collaborations of diversity. Here, less (pigments, details, layers…) would often mean “more”; achieving the beauty of simplicity, I could sense that so now to achieve it. And a patient me, a tolerant me; this is what I felt being called forwards. Right away, I needed to cease delivering such harsh judgment upon what was working and what was not, based on old methodology and outmoded measures of accomplishment; in fact, be hanged, all thoughts of “the right way to do things”, there is no map or tradition here but there are other gauges. I could always get somewhere worthwhile by being prepared to see what new thing emerged, my mind fully open to the collaboration of what I do not yet know with what I thought I did.

And it is all new, as yet…for, as I write these words, I have hardly made a stoke of this new paint on my new work surfaces; new and taut yet textured, similar but not really the same as my old canvases, which adhered, beyond practicality, to the nostalgia of an earlier time. These modern, practical, wholly satisfying surfaces arrive pristine and ready for my newly evolved strokes and, though I know not where I am heading with them, I feel all the expectation of one who senses they are gestated into the first stage of delivery into newness; a topsy-survey slide into a whole other era that will have more to tell me about life than any that came before it; even, perhaps, for several thousand years or more. So I simply hold my hand out, poised, and leave my mind wide open, prepared to start over…

honey-fangs-UjcwVv_Tj44-unsplashWith this, my exploration of life through pigment continues, the best way I know how…through the deep inner process; the trial and error, hands-on tutorial that defies words, reveals in small flashes of inspiration, carries on the wings of the thrill of those moments when beauty shows itself and I sense my small part in it, having guided the brush. At last, I understand how this has little or nought to do with anyone but myself; for we each have our own process and this happens to be mine. So, though others may applaud or appreciate, compare or relate, the only real measure of our output is how we feel as we survey our own picture, stood back from the canvas of life, the harshest and most forgiving of all critics and the one who must live with the effects…or start again, trying different ways.

So begins my new painting process and my guide, pure and simple, is the sheer relish and excitement with which I newly approach the task. The fact that I am wanting to take part once again, not held in all the suspended animation of not knowing what, how or why, is the most significant of all.  Yes, even though part of me still resisists with the “you can’t teach this old dog new tricks…I’m too tired” mantra. Underneath the resistance, I know I’m “in”, even if I have to learn this new pigment of life, master its ways, handle its foibles. Like the first shoot of spring (on the first day of autumn; oh paradox), I have pushed through my stalemate and am surveying the pre-territory of the decades to come.

Posted in Art, Art metaphor, Art purpose, Art technique, Art transformation tool, Consciousness & evolution, Life choices, Life journey, Menu, metaphor, Painting, Personal Development | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jane Eyre – nineteenth century Aspie woman

Poster-ImageYesterday, I was at the Blackeyed Theatre stage production of Jane Eyre and, from the front balcony seat looking down onto the stage, I saw something so new yet just so obvious about this well-known character that I had missed across all the many years of our intimacy. Very much water has slipped under the bridge since I first turned the pages of Charlotte Brontë’s novel; turning them, I seem to recall, avidly and compulsively beneath my bed sheets, probably in the dead of night and the very early dawn of another summer night spent reading. A whole other deluge of water has passed since the several years that I spent beating all the life out of it through the over-analysis that comes as the pitfall of studying for A levels and an English Literature degree. My professor, I recall, was overly-fixated upon dredging up repressed and coded feminist, and probably lesbian, themes from all our nineteenth century literature and this one especially. By the time I had finished my degree course, I was so weary of annotating books with a pencil, mining them for academic hypotheses that bled them into husks of their former glory, that I read all-but nothing of substance for years afterwards.

But Jane Eyre…she always stood there stalwartly, remaining just out of sight in the shadows of my nostalgia, held there by all the fondness and familiarity that I reserve only for a relatable characters, real or fictional (its all the same to me). She was someone I understood and who may well have understood me; one of those rare beings who felt like friend or compatriot in this oh-so mysterious life. I had travelled her story, felt all the tumultuousness of her passions and yet grasped, more than most, the twists and turns of her rejections.

And there it was, so obvious to me now; she was the oh-so obvious Asperger’s woman stood on the stage before me. Her lack of social ability plus the unnamable qualities of distinction that make others reject her for no logical reason except for a feeling of her being different to them in some unfathomable way, even as a baby…resulting in such a strong dislike from her aunt and cousins that they treat her like some sort of creature on whom to practice their cruel behaviours. Then her sudden outbursts of animalistic rage, her bluntness, the passive logic of her arguments, her extreme self-sufficiency, the lack of emotion in her delivery of information or even in the midst of tumultuous crisis, the robustness of her stance on right and wrong, the cut and dried inability to step forward with Mr Rochester once she realises he has told her an untruth for all she forgives him on the spot, the burning of bridges and walking away so abruptly and with little practical preparation for the “real” world outside….familiar, familiar, familiar!

For all she is a long-running “popular heroine” in some female literary quarters, she is a character who has been equally disliked or even loathed, right from the outset of the book’s publication. Harsh criticism pelted from the sidelines and continue still (such strong reactions she provokes); reviews that talk of her coldness, her inhuman behaviour, her impassive and unrelatable, a-typical behaviour. Me, I never had any of that problem so I didn’t realise…at the time…and not until my studies shouted down my innate response, turning the way I was “supposed” to read this story into more of a thing to do with having to relate to others, including those who marked my work! Not that everyone disliked her but they still failed to get her as I now do and as I think I did as the child on first reading. Back in the academia of my young adulthood, the traits I have listed were made a meal of – yes – but twisted into something to do with Victorian repression of female traits, the need to remain covert when you harbour passions such as these, the suppression of feminine power to the point of poor Jane “having” to seek other outlets for her emotions, resort to the invented-on-the-spot knee jerk positions of an era trying to break out of its corsets; nobody mentioned autism.

Maybe this is why, in my younger years, I mistook myself for some sort of repressed Victorian born into the wrong time, caught up in girdles of behaviour that locked me away into a sanctuary of myself except…oh confusion…I was the one who seemed to have put them there. So, in line with my cultural entrainment, I sought to loosen my own girdles and to become more like those around me; which took alcohol and a whole lot of bending of my own comfort boundaries, all of which got me precisely nowhere; except to send me into a rebound, firmly and decisively back to myself, which is where I find myself (at mid-life) after so many years of pretence. Just like Jane, when she returns to her even-more tumbledown, burnt out home at Thornfield, to be with the one who “gets her” just the way she is and to make for herself the simple life of joy that, perhaps, not everyone would relate to. I had been fighting my own state for decades; my innate “wiring” had made me thus and there it was, plain as day, for me to see from the overview…enacted on a stage; Jane Eyre, to so many women a role model and literary friend and to me, a taste of myself.

So (much like Asperger’s itself) it had taken me most of five decades to see all this and (not for the first time) the somewhat surreal experience of sitting high in a balcony looking down on it enacted on a stage made it all the clearer…somewhat like my last theatrical epiphany, early this year. This was apparently why I pounced on these tickets without a moment’s hesitation, as the second outing for my women’s group, five more women I had just met through my introversion quirks, all of whom were sat in the row beside me. Had they had this same epiphany? No, since they are not Aspie’s as far as I can so-far tell, nor had they (it turned out) had the long-running acquaintanceship with Jane Eyre that I had had. But they enjoyed it anyway; in their own way and I was mostly content to be there having this private, inner layer of experience; no difference there to in any other situation of my life. I am starting to see how friendships come in different depths and colours and I can accept them all just so long as my expectations are realistic. Perhaps a close friend will come along soon…though (I read just the other day) we do better if we don’t make this the be-all-and-end-all of our Aspie lives since it is certainly, in no way, a “given”. Perhaps this is why we respond so intensely to fictional and virtual friends wheresoever we find them. As an undiagnosed female with Asperger’s, literature served as my greatest teacher and soul companion for many years; and finding people I can communicate with exclusively via the written word has been the greatest gift of the internet age, bypassing so many of the difficulties of face-to-face misunderstandings.

Jane could so easily have been my close friend; for we would have “got” each other. The deep passion, the often cool exterior…we were bookends made for each other; and that ending…finding her quiet place with the man whose wild ambitions have been reined in through his very brokenness, yes I get that too for I have found that quiet place in my world with my slightly battered man who is a tadge on the spectrum. Is Rochester on the spectrum? I think so…this is why he found Jane so refreshing to talk to in a world of NTs talking gibberish; why he drew her to his fireside for frank intimacy and no holds barred conversation. I relate to that too; the deep joy of finding this match in a man and of them gleaning this same click-into-place match in you, via the very quirk that makes you like no other partner they could be with; the pearl beyond all pearls. For we are rare enough to have to stick together, types such as us…no complacent “plenty more fish in the sea” attitude will do. I think this is what made my skin tingle when I first read those infamous words “Reader, I married him…”; no less so yesterday when they were delivered on stage in a pool of stage light….who says we don’t feel things profoundly! But, for me, this was no mere romantic notion but a matter of thriving and of soul survival in an alien world since souls like ours need to be together to truly BE; they truly need that “other” who relates and I am reading that truism again and again in my current binge upon Asperger’s biographies. I think I sensed that all important Asperger’s life-hack being delivered to me the very first time I put Jane Eyre down on the side of my bed; like a glimmer of hope…one day I will find my person and then I can just be who I am. It was the light shining at the end of a long arduous tunnel (though I had yet to travel its length); a promise on the wind, drawing me forwards. How did Charlotte Brontë know; was she also on the spectrum? I have yet to even go there with the thought…

So, though I could go deeply into the academic topic of whether I believe Jane Eyre had Asperger’s, presenting “evidence” hither and thither, scouring the book with a pencil in my teeth, I will resist and leave that to others, linking two excellent articles (below) that I unearthed as soon as I got home from the theatre. One is a blogger with Asperger’s and the other, more studied, article (whilst an excellent read) is, you can tell, from someone approaching autism from the academic angle, not someone who knows what its really like, from the inside. As I read her words, though I hear what she says, I can already feel myself switch off as though the harm she does as she rakes through the experience of the novel is all too much like what was done to it by those seeking clues of Victorian repression and feminist themes.

Rather, my response was “its obvious” and, from that place, I never felt more certain that I am right, which is quite enough for me. Asperger’s traits do not benefit much from “being studied” in this highly objective way; which somehow misses the whole point and certainly the beauty of them. Finding peace with this has been one of the true gifts of realising my own Asperger’s traits…I now see them all about me and it feels profound to realise I am not so alone, that they are part of “real” life and that they are endearing, useful, valid and not broken foibles. More, that heroines and people we admire, individuals and literacy characters we have held up as role models have worn these traits…and worn them well (and to hell with the naysayers). Those who are least likely to accept neurodiversity in real life are just as likely to reject them literature but that is their loss!


Related:

“You Are a Strange Child, Miss Jane” – Autist’s Corner

“On the Spectrum”: Rereading Contact and Affect in Jane Eyre” – Julia Miele Rodas

From Elizabeth Rigby in The Quarterly Review 1848; the quote used to open Rodas’ article. Spot the autistic traits, and the neurotypical disdain, disquiet and suspicion around them, if you can…

We hear nothing but self-eulogiums on the perfect tact and wondrous penetration with which she is gifted, and yet almost every word she utters offends us, not only with the absence of these qualities, but with the positive contrasts of them, in either her pedantry, stupidity, or gross vulgarity. She is one of those ladies who put us in the unpleasant predicament of under-valuing their very virtues for dislike of the person in whom they are represented. One feels provoked as Jane Eyre stands before us—for in the wonderful reality of her thoughts and descriptions, she seems accountable for all done in her name—with principles you must approve in the main, and yet with language and manners that offend you in every particular. Even in that chef d’oeuvre of brilliant retrospective sketching, the description of her early life, it is the childhood and not the child that interests you. The little Jane, with her sharp eyes and dogmatic speeches, is a being you neither could fondle nor love…As the child, so also the woman—an uninteresting, sententious, pedantic thing.

Another Brönte revisitation blog (2018) in my collection – To Walk Visible…At Last . My childhood love of the Brontë’s has since been cast in a new light via the Asperger’s realisation. It throws up, somehow, my blunt-speaking Yorkshire roots (my longest running stretch of ancestry of many hundreds of years comes from very close to where the Brontës lived) including my blunt spoken yet deep feeling (posthumously realised) Aspie mother who was of that Yorkshire stock through and through. For me, there is a deeply recognisable quality…a kinship…running through it all.  I feel like I know where I am with it and this came off the pages when I was that girl curled up in my bed, paperback always in hand.

Posted in Biography, Consciousness & evolution, Fiction, Life choices, Life journey, Literature, Menu, Personal Development, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Going “nowhere”, reaching beyond “the point”

We are just back from a long weekend away to a place not visited for quite a few years; 21st December 2012 was the last time we stayed there…”that date” so many of us hovered over, poised in high expectation or cynicism (its all the same). No wonder I recall the date and that it felt like some sort of impromptu review to go back there; to ask, where have we got to since then and where are we going? Whether or not we believe in the Mayan calendar, in the birth of a new era or even that 21/12/12 was the key date (though the fact it became such a focal point at the time “gave” it an energy of shifting sands), there’s no denying we have been in unchartered territories since. My trip seemed to want to say something on this topic; to spur me into making a review. So how did it do that; what did it have to say?

Just five minutes back at home and it’s almost as though I have never been away, every time. Yet, as I do the self-assessment that takes place as the more familiar sounds of everyday life permeate my head on waking “the morning after” (mostly, traffic…) there’s one resounding feature, one corner, of the place that stays with me still; resilient and strong.

Ruins 2.jpgIts a feeling (paradoxically) captured by part of a church opened up wide to the sky; beautiful ruins that were opposite our windows for the last four days…once again, just as they were last time (to a point, only last time they were just out of view behind trees, tucked behind the intact part of the church). In fact, I had laughed out loud when I first realised that the Airbnb that drew my eyes so compellingly in this small village location, causing me to drop, like a hot stone, the alternate booking I had been poised to confirm (in a completely different town!), turned out to be right next door to the cottage where we stayed at the end of 2012….which is what first claimed my attention. In fact, it turned out to be, literally, the house next door (I didn’t find that bit out until we got there as there are four similar cottages in a row). Clearly “it was meant to be” since this was all quite unplanned.

Ruins 1.jpgThis time, we couldn’t have been more close to those ruins if we’d tried, so they were there when I went to sleep (I could feel them…as though they hosted my dreams) and the first thing I saw as I opened the curtains, beyond the porch of the far-more intact St Bartholomews, which had been the attention of a long-running Victorian refurbishment project…but not these ramshackle relics. No, these beauties, at a glance in half-light, could have been a sprinkling of Rome, an Acropean fragment transported to English climes, their thick pillars marked with the hints of spiralling patterns, their rounded arches like bridges held up to the sky.

Yet, for all they were so patently there, I didn’t visit them until we were about to leave; didn’t even want to, somehow, and the one time we tried in the dark, our footing was too unsure on a rickety path to risk a tumble in that place where night sky is actually allowed to be, so we vowed to go back in the morning, before driving home. Somehow, I hadn’t needed to be so close to them until that moment of saying “thank you for being there” to them, so obvious was their presence, holdings space for something too often missing from the modern landscape. Yes, a little pointlessness, a touch of lost direction; almost a hint of the same maverick non-conformity “outside” the walls of tidy convention that is my way and my happy place…

Quay.jpgIn fact, this whole place was a marker for more than one theme of that ilk, being a place that is, in more ways than one, going nowhere. At night time, just before bed, we would get the urge to walk along its dark streets, eyes drawn to the cosy amber light pooled around windows and doorways, down to the quay where the moon reflected on the water and just stand there, breathing it all in. The availability of “land” was withdrawn so abruptly, without fanfare, that it seemed quite commonplace just to stand on the edge of a minuscule wall and sense (not even quite see…) water’s fluid motion “down there”; more animated with gentle rhythms one night and as still as a mill pond the other. Above and so (clearly) below, the first-quarter moon restated this plain truism that, in life’s busy-ness, we forget; then, a whole complexity of stars that light pollution turns, more often than not, into the simple cartoon we make do with back home…a child’s bedroom ceiling to this grown-up reminder that we are are but a dot in a sky of many.

This uneventful removal of “the point” of walking somewhere, there being nowhere to go, served as deep therapy as we dressed up warm like excited children, leaving comfortable places “just” to be somewhere that had no other reason except that we wanted to experience it before bed and while we can, having nothing like this back home.

This place, with no point, drew no traffic after dark so we were free to amble down the middle of the road, the only other trespasser a cat and, somewhere around us, a pair of owls in some sort of animated dialogue or territory war, yet even that sounded benign. This lack of compunction, of timetable or point was so refreshing to the soul, I could have bottled it…would have, if I could only find a container big enough. Instead, I sucked it into me as though with a broad drinking straw, promising….faithfully…to return sooner next time.

And yet the place itself, revealed in daylight hours, had lost some of its point since last time. The tea shop we fondly remembered, from times visited with the kids when they were kid-like and our previous dog, was no longer there; turned into more rentals, it looked like. In fact, most of the place had the air of somewhere turned into a series of “holiday lets” (stickers in windows) for outside visitors who don’t even try with each other, knowing they are “just passing” (how odd to be almost shoulder to shoulder with someone, unloading your car, and him blanking you so studiously, as though you’re not even there…the woman with the toddler fractionally more receptive to a nod and a smile). These places, with their passers-through, quickly lose their heart and soul; though, along the road to the quay, we looked in at one family…on two nights…where a white haired couple chatted earnestly with a young man, about my daughter’s age, and it was a pleasant illusion that this, at least for a night or two, was the norm…without a flickering TV screen on, dominating the room. Perhaps I was kidding myself; perhaps I just wanted to.

The village had also lost its famous “smokehouse” where, once on a long-ago visit (in pre-vegan days) we went to collect great slabs of smoked stilton to gorge over as we played family games around a kitchen table (which was my daughter’s thing back then; she organised long-running events around a theme and we were held captive to her imaginations for hour after hour….oh happy times). Now, a blackened-out building stood where those propped-up signs and the unmistakable smell once invited crowds in to gather armfuls of smoked fish, meat and cheese, cured to traditional methods…now all-but lost. Its owner had, apparently died quite unexpectedly, an untenable inheritance tax bill ruining the three-generation family business, then the building burned down. A sign of the times…

Without those two landmarks, which I had imagined in my head the whole time I had been planning this trip, I felt vaguely disoriented, like this place was a pretender to the title of the place in which we had once made such happy memories. But then I knew I was there once we walked the headland, in those unmistakably chill winds from the North Sea. The last time I walked that headland was on 20th December, 2012….one day before we left; the end of an era (in more ways than one) as I had had front-centre in my mind all that day. The rain had been so relentless and horizontal that I would lose my dog in seconds unless he was on a short leash (and the rest of the family tucked away around the cosy fireside because it hadn’t seemed fair that they all get soaked to the skin). Yet it had been a catharsis of sorts to rain-pelt away all the crud of a broken paradigm I was just so willing to let go of in one almighty, almost biblical, moment of release. I was calling to change, hollering it with all my might (had turned abruptly vegetarian just one week before; which felt like the thin edge of the wedge, a show of willingness to break with hard-fast tradition, even where it meant inconvenience). Those gusty edges and the inability to see clearly where firm ground was, where water of uncertain depth lay below, had felt so apt to me that day for we, none of us, knew where we were headed.

YINYANG swans.jpgThis time, the most striking thing I witnessed was a pair of yin-and-yang swans in most elegant flight together, round and around, clearly enjoying themselves, for all the wind was so keen against my neck and head, while their dark-feathered youngster slurped noisily and unattended in the reeds closeby. My birds of this era; birds of remembrance that we come from the stars, that oddity can be beautiful and “normal”, that we are more than one species in one oddly-proportioned form, that we are magnificent whether grounded or airborn, can be abundantly responsible yet still do things for the pure rapture of being alive…both graceful and formidible all at the same time. Yes, these birds in evenly matched flight were my welcome clue as to what we can still aspire to be.

Most of all, this time, it was the oh-so peaceful yet oddly void nighttime walks that left most impression; the pitch dark and sense of going nowhere reflecting something of where I am now, long settled into the new era and yet (still) quite clueless as to where we are all heading. They reminded me how I needed to be contented with that, to make it alright to just put one foot in front of the other, enjoying the odd pool of light…

Dark cottageThe nights were so dark and syrupy, quiet to a fault, that we would lose ourselves in the softness and tranquility of them, the absolute silence and surrender of nothingness, until the next pool of amber light spotlit some sort of jewel of domestic life through a window (though mostly unpeopled scenes of furniture and lights) as we walked the deserted lanes. From our own window, there was no other house to be seen; only the churchyard and this was the same view, pretty much, that we had had the other year. It even struck me as a metaphor for how I hadn’t got so very far in all these years…and yet, though seemingly “much the same”, just being those few feet to one side of where we stayed before had altered the whole perspective of my view of everything (yes, that is what the last few years feel like…everything, sort of, the same and yet indescribably different). Because, last time, the church and its restored tower stood full thrust, squared in our view, and now these ruins were more assertive; so much so that they held my gaze, even my energy’s attention, as I slept. In every respect, this house seemed to suit our preferences “more” than the one we had stayed in before, for all they were ostensibly the same; its aesthetic, proportions, all the little details more closely matched to the way we like things…just as my life now, more nearly, matches “me” much more closely than it did a few year ago; in ways subtle yet just so important since they alter everything.

Ruins 1When we finally got to those ruins, the morning we were about to leave, there it was again; the feeling of a spirit that knows not its full potential now released to play with the container, a bird opened out to the sky from the cramped cage where it had spent all its life yet not fleeing but staying to perch, singing, on the roof. The only paradigm that is known…challenged, in ways that can seem momentarily destructive, disorienting, almost sacreligious; implied wrong doing. Yet oh so beautiful when you see beyond the erosion of “fixed” human intentions towards the merger with something else long-lost and abused that has grown to love its limitations in some wierd and wonderful way.

I have always had “a thing” about churches “released” back to nature and the sky; broken cathedrals, ruined abbeys, chapels with windows blasted through or with clear panes replacing all the fussiness, that overwhelming human desire to “tell stories” in coloured cartoons made of glass. We had had our fair share of stories that weekend too….of course we had…travelling with a teenage daughter and visiting elderly in-laws whose views are poles apart from ours; and yet we had quite deliberately steered away from those trigger topics (the B word, for instance…), keeping to the softer paths, adhering to no particular signposts except for the simple desire to spend quality time together. Keeping away from the oft-travelled highways, focused on common ground in between, did us all some good.Ruins 9.jpg

Akin to many of the places I’m attracted to, this place had clearly seen grander and more political times, when church and power made their homes here. Royalty had left its mark (the remnants of a castle) and dark intrigue had more recently followed  (a boat takes you to a “ness” where cold war experimentation took place; as ever, I had no desire to go there). Now, it has lost those trappings and is all the better for the relinquishment, yet softer somehow for having been around the wheel of fate and fortune, still bearing some of the scars. It knows better now and is the master of such fickleness; more than willing to crumble into a collection of quaint trophies as a quiet backwater. The best it has; the feeling of being allowed to let go of what everyone else is so strung up about. I found myself quite jealous of the air of detachment that permeated the village as vegetables and knitting craft got sold like it was “just any other day”, every day.

Ruins 10.jpgHere in the churchyard, those once stridently assertive, grandiosely thick pillars of human intention now reached “only” for the sky (not some lofty point of ambition at the top)…and there was simply no stopping them. Where arches remained, they simply leapt from one post to the next like the strides of a giant cloud-hopping across the green…and the place was so very green, like a merry dance between bricks and foliage. Moments of embellishment still asserted themselves from a bygone era, if disjointedly so, leaving them pure somehow, like pleasant words disengaged from tediously rambling sentences. The whole scene was over-watched by two holly trees stood guardian to the ruins. Even these were almost completely without point, their leaves mostly smooth (an epigenetic trait in response to a lack of environmental pressures, I read; nobody…no grazing animals…had apparently bothered these trees for some time). Rather, they seemed content to play hide-and seek with each other in this Eden made of crumbled-down stone, one male and one female, returned to some sort of balance we could all use the reminder of.

Just imagine how our own epigenetic traits could respond to a lack of needing so many sharp points in defence of ourselves, if we only gave them the chance to know such an environment…how we could all become more rounded, less guarded, in less than a generation.

Ruins 8.jpgThe whole place was so easy in its harmony and simplicity; and (now I’m home) reminds me of that part of me that I can go to quite regardless of what the outside world would have me drawn into; all those spaghetti junctions and sharp-edged “steel and glass buildings” of intent we make of our world. It is where I tune into, where I can divert my footfall towards, when opinions would have me join sides, when signs try to insist I must walk in a particular direction, towards some outcome or other (and never for just the view). When it all gets too much then here, in this small crumbling corner of this apparently purposeless place, was a reminder of something else I have access to, inside of me. A reminder that, far from having no measurable credentials, it has the most resounding of all since it liberates me to the big big skies beyond such cares.

Ruins 12.jpgWe bypassed the actual church on this visit; well, we were out of time and, besides, it would have detracted from the pure magic I had now installed in my heart as the take-away of this whole trip. I read that it has exceptional acoustics, so much so that composer Benjamin Britten and other musicians have long sought it out for that very reason and yet what are acoustics if not the desire to hear one’s own voice amplified back to oneself, louder and more resilient than ever? What if the alternate longing is to surrender that self-righteous voice…just for a time…and open-up to something else; to let wind and rain and other parts of Nature’s timpani make their so-called random cacophony, or to hear nothing at all and be refreshed by that beautiful silence? How about listening for once instead of always having to know best? What if it is in the spaces of silence, in the questions not answered and the not knowing where we are headed that we find ourselves again? I felt I knew myself somewhat better for my few days, for all I had written not a word…as though my words, like conversation on a headland, had simply got carried away on the wind.

As I settle back into the relentless noise of where I live, on a road where everyone is always going somewhere, which is an energy my body registers long before I wake and long after I fall into exhausted sleep each night, I hold onto that feeling as the treasure of all treasures. The nearest I can get to describing it is a sense of having remembered the value of “going nowhere”, of reaching beyond “the point”…or at least, any place or point that we yet know of. Because, when we enter into a new paradigm, all our measures and markers shift so dramatically that we cannot be held in by them anymore; we simply have to look beyond them…

The place we have just been, though it has “lost” a few things in recent years, is doing quite well at holding onto something even more precious than old-paradigm stuff and, perhaps, more necessary for us all to hold onto in the coming era, when momentum and making ourselves heard above others is deemed to be “everything” and we are all recruited for the fast-track ride to “somewhere” even before we are born. No, we are only fully buckled into that seat on the crazy ride if we agree to it; can all, if we want to, find other places and spaces where we abstain and retrain ourselves to the resonance of a contrary void of potential, with other things to say about liberty and balance, about unknown places and unlimited spaces. I am now a little more freshly reacquainted with mine.

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Seeking the warmth of “new” friendship

Of all the themes that has been on my mind this last year it is my sense of frustration over the lifelong quest for the “warmth and reciprocation” of in-person female friendship that mostly hangs in the air, unfulfilled. This is a quest where I don’t seem to have got very far on this planet of people from whom I feel distinctly separate in my, now diagnosed, neurodiversity (for all I now understand it better). Because, what I mean here is genuine intimacy, not all that on-the-surface showiness of familiarity that I see all around me. Rather, something much more like a glowing hearth fire I can draw close to in the form of another person and that person, likewise, to mine so that we can bathe in the warmth of trust and intimacy, without all the need for pretence. Its part and parcel of the longing to be seen as I am, to be accepted and loved without need for alteration. It’s the burning desire not to have to put on a front or use filters to make myself accessible and relatable to other people.

This may strike you as ironic given that those with Asperger’s, like me, are thought of as so cold, distant and not particularly good at relationships…but my experience is that women Aspie’s are full of love and deep feelings, we just don’t show it in the same way as neurotypicals (NTs).

More than anything, I suspect we don’t want to become part of all the fakeness that we see in so much NT behaviour, being far more straightforward than that (and we just cant do all that role-playing, stance taking stuff) and so we hold back….often withdrawing from the whole game rather than take part in what isn’t our way. We would rather wait this one out on the sidelines than play by rules that strike us as nonsensical and which would have us pretend to be what we are not, which goes against the grain of our logical mindset. So we become the classic loners, the ones deemed to be happy all alone, content to be watching the rest of the female population wrap arms around each other, operating (even in their mature years) in warm and gushing packs of females who like to be part of a crowd. As is typical of anything you are not part of, when you are not part of this it can seem like the whole world…every social media page and coffee shop…is bursting full of such women. We don’t even ask for such a crowd; tending to prefer a couple of really good friends that we can be intimate with, one at a time, but other women seek safety in numbers…which makes us shudder and back off even more. Is it any wonder we are deemed to be loners.

The irony is NTs, can seem so inclusively warm from the moment you meet them but that is really just some sort of mating dance to show off their feathers, a kind of preview…with conditions attached. You get the taster (certain voice tone with lots of up and down enthusiasm to what you say, hello and goodbye hugs though you are virtual strangers, the encouraging semblance of interest as stories get swopped, a cursory eye over what you are wearing and the way you do your hair, perhaps even a compliment though a criticism is just as likely to sound that way since there are hidden meanings in the tone of words). You get through this in one piece, you think, but then you still have to walk through some sort of baptism of fire, a testing zone, to get to that inner friendship core that you’ve been shown from the picture in the catalogue…

This testing zone is the second tier of the performance, the one where your provisional acceptance into the inner sanctum has to be put under duress, your credentials thoroughly checked out. So assuming you have got through the first stage (“what do you do/earn and where/how do you live” and a zillion hidden questions within), which you may not have done, even more chatting, comparing and swopping takes place; with a layer of filters now used to compartmentalise you. Mostly, a series of unspoken cues via body language and the need to obediently adhere to certain invisible hierarchies, like in the case of alpha and beta dogs, takes place. You will be put to the test, trip wires will be laid, opportunities for you to put a foot wrong which will determine whether you are a conformer to these unspoken rules and (you can set your timer to the moment of ejection) if you don’t pass muster, you’re “out”.

As a more experienced Aspie (though this stage may have eluded you as as child) you will feel that very moment when the eyes and even the air around you becomes subtly colder and the person turns their attention to something or someone else. It means you have failed some sort of test conducted entirely in unspoken signals, body language, pupil size and how long you can hold a gaze but, more importantly, whether you transmit some sort of quite particular electrical signal that says “I won’t rock your world or bend your paradigm further than you are comfortable with; I will live within your castle walls”. That test includes the game of passing the conversation ball back and forth (you probably dropped it or held it too long) or conveying, via some unspoken portfolio, that you have enough things in common to suggest you could meet this person’s other friends or family and it not be cringeworthy for them within a structure that says all their friends have to fit like a perfect piece of jigsaw that creates a most particular picture they have in mind. Only, you are the anomaly piece so you are thrown back in the box.

Aspie women are, I suspect, quite familiar with failing this test , even if they know not what they keep doing that strikes them off the potential list without opportunity for a tribunal or a review. So the second or third meeting never happens, you watch other new friendships take off in your presence, almost in an exaggerated way (as if to show you “this is what you didn’t get”), interest around you is markedly cooled down, people are busy, they cancel and suddenly you are back where you started; watching others form gushing friendships that you are never part of.

The thing is (here’s the biggest irony) you don’t actually want to be part of all that gush, the pretence, the fake interest in each other, the very premise that sets up scenarios intended to make others fail in order to expose and make meat of them (and maybe that’s the very signal that you sent out which ensured that you failed the test…) You were a dissenter. Perhaps you forgot to arrange your facial expression into something more neutral when behaviours you saw left you incredulous. You were too honest. You conveyed your reluctance all too clearly and you were sniffed out as a spy in the camp (laughing as that auto-corrected to “Aspie”). Plus, you were a threat to the stability of the group; someone who rocks the boat, thinks in a different way, makes up their own rules, doesn’t conform to norms.

You only ever wanted one thing, the real thing…where is it? Not amongst these people, who look so warm and cosy yet the conditions they have to dance through to keep “in” the fold are painful to behold. Would you trust your innermosts with such people? They do, apparently based on their topics of conversation but then you wonder why, since this degree of intimacy only ever comes back to haunt them when things turn unpleasant; as you probably got to experience at least once or twice in your life, when your intimate shares were turned against you after the friendship with an NT ended. In fact, there is a culture of gathering-in information expressly to make one person powerful over another, holding as they now do the other person’s secrets, like the currency of power; its all too obviously flawed and convoluted for an Aspie to want to take part in. Yes, there are some genuine souls in those groups but they are sold out to that whole dance of behaviours, too fearful of being perceived as different to become too close to you and too reluctant to be bothered with you anyway, because you are “hard work”, requiring them to learn different ways of interacting and to think outside their comfortable box. Maybe you are the friend they turn to in desperation, when they are abandoned or after a crisis of some kind…and there you are, the reliable rock of support in their hour of need…but in fair weather, they often disappear again. If this has been your trend, you may not choose to offer yourself up like that any more…

So any wonder we seem cold; for we have learned many hard lessons about how it goes when we show ourselves too much too soon…as we have a tendency to do, being so straightforward that this is how we are; truthful when asked questions. This trait seems to fit in at the first stage of the NT assessment, when fake enthusiasm and interest abounds but, by the second stage, we are often deemed weird for being too frank, too honest, about interests and viewpoints that set alarm bells ringing and so we are dropped.

What you see is what you get here, we have no time or inclination for any social dances. If we are there at all, in a social setting, then we are prepared to be with this person…with full emphasis on the word “BE”….and so we expect the same back; to be received as we are, not to have to pass muster in some-sort of comedy of manners. We are there to be together, as equals with interest in each other, on a level playing field of interaction but without the games. We bring our heart and you bring yours…it really is that simple, one could almost say logical.

Because we like to get straight to the point then, yes, maybe heart on sleeve is the apt phrase, because we are either inside of ourselves all alone or with someone else wanting to get to know them, and for them to know us….so we show ourselves; we really do (or we did until we lost he nerve after so many hurts). That’s the point, right? There is no other point to friendship in our view. For us, it’s not about survival (we already know we can cope well on our own), we don’t seek safety in numbers, we are looking for a match, an interaction, a kindling of feelings. All this layering of behaviours, the secret codes of nuance, the fake friendliness over guarded sub-layers built like some sort of endurance test coated with sugar; it fazes us and distracts from the whole purpose…of two souls meeting to compare notes about life, to share special topics, to be genuinely interested in each other and to care deeply. For the sum of two to be more than their parts. Isn’t that the whole point of human relationships? I sometimes wonder…

Maybe this is why I’ve had better track record making friends on the internet; where you are expected to get straight to this heart-point, without all the frills. Yes, I’ve encountered some bitchiness, cliquiness and stance taking in internet forums but Im not talking about them; I mean real connections made one person to another through common interest. These have thrown up some of the warmest and most genuine friendships of my life, without which I might give up on expecting it any more. Three of my closest friends are in America and they check in with me often, they ask how I’m doing, they really care and they are spontaneous in their expressions of love (yes, I said love) and all of the above from me to them. We do big stuff for each other, not as transaction but out of wanting to. We can be who we are with each other and we are so important to each other; and yet we have never met!

Perhaps this is because, having not met me in person, my lack of appropriate “secret” body language can’t be judged…there is no test to be taken…so they evaluate me according to who I really am, via those things that I express, which are so much more fluent when I have written words at my disposal (another Aspie trait). Through words direct from the heart,, they regard me as anything but cold or threatening to know; quite the opposite. Its similar to those friendships I have made via my blogging. What l have come to know is that when I am seen directly via the heart, without all the trappings, it is sooo possible for people to “get” me and value me for just how true and unconvaluted my nature is; I am what I am and that’s what they love about me. Yet I stand all alone at a gathering, the one no one picked, which goes to show how much crap is over-layered “in the flesh” of human social situations!

So what I seek from a friendship is truly reciprocal and that is what I have always lacked in my in-person friendships. When I look back to my most recent crash and burn attempts, the couple that looked so promising and the long standing friend (met when our girls were just born) there is a distinct theme in common. They HARVESTED me. I was like a fascinating book the couple couldn’t put down, their questions about things they longed to hear my spin about were relentless but they never met “me” as I am, never wanted to get involved in how I felt inside, my struggles, the elephant in the room of my health challenges, those things that make me often painfully human. There was no asking how I was today, no concern if I had problems, no checking in or asking for updates afterwards; and oh how I long for these behaviours from what I imagine to be my ideal friends. In fact, it was the point when my health issues came up unavoidably, meaning I had to be firm about the way we arranged our activities together, that the whole thing went cold because it simply wasn’t convenient that I was a person with this thing going on. I suspect, I wasn’t believed and was even belittled somewhat for challenges they couldn’t see with their eyes, didn’t even want to try to comprehend with their minds (not one question asked about that part of my life…). There were too many conversations about me behind closed doors (I hate that and it loses my intimacy immediately; I could feel every disgruntled word said as a frequency, though the words weren’t audible, telling me all I needed to know…don’t people know that?). So there it was, exposed to the light; I had been milked as usual but had not been embraced or even half-way met as a flesh-and-blood person. The same with my long standing friend; when I reminisce about our highlights, these were times when I had information to share that was useful to her as a parent (she liked mostly to compare how our daughters were doing…such a limited topic to spend 20 years on, in my view, but it made her feel better in some way) or as someone with health challenges. So I would share and share and she would take note but there was no real interest in me, in how I felt, how I was really doing, what I had been through lately, no warmth or gestures of care or concern to reciprocate ways I constantly tried to draw her out…and, I guess, no surprise, the friendship abruptly ended when its reason for being (our girls) left home. Those same things that still eluded me in almost all my friendships were abjectly missing.

Tragically, my whole lifetime of friendships looks a bit like that; a one way street of entertainment with my quirkiness and humour when I was younger or of emotional support and information from the vast pool of my special interests around wellbeing and spiritual topics as I matured. It was like I did all the work and they came around for a cheer up and a crash course, sometimes (literally) clutching pen and paper in hand for their note-taking…something that has happened to me such a lot, like I was delivering a fascinating lecture or a counselling session to those people I considered to be my closest friends. They couldn’t even be bothered to read my blogs, they told me (though the topics often overlapped); they wanted it spoon fed. Sometimes, I felt like I should have charged for tickets or sent them a bill for my time after several exhausting hours of counselling, leaving them feeling much better and me depleted. I became the plot summary on the back cover, the living lifehack, the research bod, even the guinea pig and then they would take away the best of the best of what I had come up with lately and I would stand there in a cloud of dust on my doorstep as they breezed off with their arms full of booty. I would try to pass off the warm glow that “helping people” gave to me as the golden reciprocation of friendship…until I realised that they gave nothing back except exhaustion and disappointment; the feeling of being fleeced or burgled. I’ve done with being a resource; I’m holding out for the real thing now. Maybe this is another Aspie pitfall, at times when our “special interests” hold currency to certain people who call themselves friends; and maybe its one to look out for if the flow is all one way and if that energy-drain is all that is holding a friendship together.

So, how do I imagine true friendship to be? It has been such a long time in the longing stage that I almost lack the stamina to say. Yet I know it exists because I have seen and heard it depicted, read about it in stories and autobiographies (it can make me cry rivers…) and I now have it with my “big” sister. Yes, it may have been a long time coming but over the last three years since she retired, my sister and I have become so close (though she lives 160 miles away) that it makes my heart sing. We can talk about almost anything, from the mundane to the meaningful and we check in with each other…really check in about how we are doing, following up, thinking about each other in our absence, genuinely showing interest in each other’s projects. We can do this stuff stream-of-consciousness fashion over the internet, which has been such a boon to this blossoming friendship, but also in person; where we are so warm with one another, so open and full of trust and mutual support, capable of being so fun and yet deep at the same time. This is what I want; have always wanted. This late summer bloom from within my own tribe has finally modelled what I am looking for from a friendship with someone who lives close enough for me to see them in the flesh, to sit knees next to knees by the light of the hearth for long chats or comfortable silences; to go on spontaneous outings; to laugh and be playful with yet also serious and deep without all the need for caution and preamble. This, this, this…..is what I want.

But then, of course, I think there is a reason this new phase of friendship has come to pass with my sister other than our pre-existing link as (to start with) not so close family members; and its that we are wired pretty-much the same way. Its not for me to say whether she has Asperger’s but she is self-admittedly “on the spectrum” in some of her ways (oh yes!) and she also has no time for faking it, for social mind games, the jumping through hoops and passing of tests. We are who we say we are and we get straight to the point. We can see, without so much crap layered on top, that each of us has this HUGE tender heart and we treat that with such care, such nurture and consideration, as though it was our own heart, so it is this reciprocity that, I realise, is everything to the kind of union I have sought all my life. There are no hierarchies, pecking orders, rules, transactions…we are so very equal that we defy such a definition in words; almost as though we are the same person. By comparison, NT friendships seem to be more about bumping shoulders together until one party gives way. What we do (ironically, since we are labelled so anti-social) is like a merger, a truth pot, returning to source, Namaste (“I see you…”) in action. It is where logic (since this straightforward heart-merger, without all the tappings, is the very epitome of logical) becomes cosmic…back to where we are all one and the same and yet we have our humanness to discuss together with ever-flowing, ceaselessly growing fascination. We are source split in two forms comparing “what have you got…here’s mine” out of our special interest pots whilst knowing, always, that we are sentient beings who long to be seen in all our complexities, our hurts, our joys; yes, seen as a whole picture, every part included and welcome to show up. We connect through frequency, which is a shared wavelength (we have many telepathic moments, as I do with my close internet friends)…and it travels any distance, flows through obstacles, speaks only truth.

This gives me hope for other Aspie female friendships but how do I make them? I suspect many Aspie women, who are already having to come to terms with their diagnosis late in life (as is so often the case), reach this point feeling as bruised and jaded about friendships as I am. They have lost faith that it can be any different to how it has always been. Perhaps they worry that such closeness necessitates very-much touching and complimenting, gushing and endearments that are not in our vocabulary (nope!), that it would be too demanding of their inner time and need to be alone (no way, we really get this!) or that they have nothing interesting to say that is of value to others (by that same token, I must be a stuck record of tediously weird and self-focused topics). What I suspect, actually, is that we would start to evolve and then model the fundamentals of friendship in some new and highly refreshing ways; that our propensity to get straight to the point would allow us to become closer friends quicker than most; and that we wouldn’t play mind games or manipulate, make up stories or put on fronts and masks, since its not in our remit to proffer falsehoods (what’s the point of that?) nor would we take people for a ride only to dump them on a whim or because of a change in the wind. We would, of course, remember things about each other, being sticklers for details and, knowing how bruised we all feel from “not having been seen” as who we really are for so long, we would absolutely SEE each other as we are, would check in without prompting and would show that we cared, long after the meet-up…in fact, outside of space and time, unconditional of setting or convenience and even if we met only seldom. This is what I imagine…not just for Aspie’s but for everyone that wants it.

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The taking and the giving

Yesterday, I killed a bird and it was quite unintentional. With somewhere to get to and with a rare schedule to keep, I was driving along the winding country lane near my home at the speed of one who knows all the bends when a cloud of swallows rose up from behind the hedgerow and flew as one in a great swoop over the road to the telegraph wire. One lagged behind out of the pattern, hesitated and came lower as though straight towards me and I also hesitated, tried to swerve and, in doing so, hit it as it took the same avoiding diversion. This wasn’t a road for stopping so I witnessed its last movements as a receding view in my mirror, down on the tarmac; yet somehow felt its irregularly fluttering heart, its sun-warmed feathers, in the palm of my hand with such intimacy it broke my heart. I felt sick, all the colour drained from my face and I probably trembled a little, even as I bashed the steering wheel with frustration. I was so angry with myself for not being present as I drove…or at least, not enough to know whether there was another car up close behind if I braked hard on the bend so I had hesitated, assuming the bird was nimble enough to avoid me and there it was, I had done this. My dance with Nature had been out of step for long enough to do harm.

From that point, I felt agitated, consumed with guilt, regret and remorse, as though a heavy leaden weight had descended on my heart, a cup of ink had spilled on the day or like an omen had been shown to me (it was an auspicious day; soon, we were heading off to the airport to collect my daughter, whose plane was about to take off…). Now, I felt I didn’t deserve my day to go well anymore; felt distinctly out of kilter.

I sent blessings to the bird, garbling some appropriate-seeming words in my head to accompany it on its way, wishing fervently that I had better ones to draw on when these things happen; some profound alchemy I could perform in order to restore the balance most quickly. I was struck by the irony that I had ended its life at the peak of its exuberance, that very thing I had been writing about in my post that morning; feeling it rise in myself like a spiralling tailwind in the warm breeze and now I had cut-short the life of its very talisman. I wanted to somehow make recompense to the bird-world though my husband aptly pointed out that I already had as the kites gained a lunch…it was all-but cleaned up by the time I drove back an hour later (Nature wastes nothing). Everything I’m about, that I choose to be, felt temporarily spoiled or hypocritical in the aftermath, like I had failed at it all.

But then as the day progressed, I continued to hear all the relentless shooting sounds that go on in the background, weekend after weekend from late august, where I live….the ceaseless murder of birds reared in the name of someone getting to shoot at them. What I “had done” by accident was a far cry from what the greedy pigs (sorry pigs) that guzzle on pheasant meat washed down by a robust red do, really, so that they can kill “for fun”, which pheasant shooting is really about; no one “needs” this meat on their plate, least of all those who have it. With all the gun-shot, it honestly sounds like we live a mile from the frontline in this typical South of England semi-rural community and it sickens me to my stomach, angers me so much, week after week, but there it is…its legal and its popular.

As it happened, I had been drawn to watch Avatar the evening before (it had been many years…) and hadn’t got around to finishing it so I settled down to watch its second half that evening. In many ways, watching it then felt so timely, now more so than even the night before.  I NEEDED to do a refresher on how it’s all about balance; how Eywa (like our Gaia) won’t take sides… but will step in if that balance gets messed with. Push too far one way and we can be sure she will push back. In these morale-destroying times, I needed to make myself sure of that again; this needed to be revised, made fresh as a visual (thank you Avatar) so I can keep on believing it more strongly. Like a tonic, I HAD to immerse in the acknowledgement that all is connected for a couple of hours, as I truly believe it is, for all it is not widely acknowledged by the masses. I found whole new layers of synchronicity with what I have been learning recently about the incredible interconnectivity of trees and between trees and the rest of Nature in Peter Wohlleben’s astonishing book The Hidden Life of Trees – What They feel, How They Communicate (2017); to the  point that Avatar has already taken on the air of science fact more so than science fiction in the ten years since its release (two sequels are in the pipeline). These connections are undeniable, yet they can seem ephemeral, fragile and we can (collectively) abuse them, pushing and pushing them to the point of extinction. So, in the dominant world trajectory, we are (again, collectively) pushing very hard indeed…but we can be sure Gaia will push back, in ways that may surprise and, yes, alarm us all yet.

And of those doing the pushing, I am doing relatively little of it…in fact, less and less, with each passing year as we adapt our lifestyle to be more in sync with Nature, not less so as is the dominant trend. My heartfelt accident is a far cry from those who kill for nearly every meal (even if they pay someone else to do it) though there are plenty of other healthy options in most developed places, for instance, plus all the harm they do to the planet by encouraging meat production as one of the most ecologically destructive industries yet devised. I suspect it will be those of us who tread most gently on the earth, acting as gentle custodians, not rapers and pillagers, who will ride out this next wave with most grace; because we will be serving as the agents of balance in a world off kilter.

And if we feel alone or dispersed, ineffectual and outnumbered, Avatar reminded me also that what we actually need is a willing turn out, with a forceful desire in our hearts to step forwards as protectors of Nature, in ways large and small, doing what we can with what we have, as with the gathering of the far-flung nations in Avatar (and not necessarily an equal match for the machine mentality in force power). Because, at some point, when we reach a certain tipping point as those prepared to take a stand, we will feel Gaia’s support at our backs, as the agents of balance working with her, and it will make all the difference. As I said before, all is connected…in ways unfathomable to those who plunder Nature as a “resource”; thank you, Avatar, for the spectacular visual reminder of our sentient planet and the hidden “technologies” that outdo the arogance of self-interested parties. It isn’t those of us who feel remorse as we harm that are most out of kilter here, it is those who feel nothing at all!

So, yes, yesterday I killed a bird…unwittingly, with great remorse, feeling sick to my stomach and it reverberated through me long afterwards and still now; just as it did the very last time, years ago, when a robin came from nowhere against my windscreen on a country lane. That time, I also pained and pained over it; but then, looking back, it was from about then that I paid more attention to these and other small birds, treating them ever more thoughtfully, paying close attention to their habits, learning their songs, encouraging them all through my garden by creating a habitat that would enable them to thrive, with food in winter, water in the heat and sheltered places for nesting. Since then, we have attracted all sorts of birds and welcomed one fledgling robin after another, watching them grow up from the speckled fluff balls that find their feet and then their wings in our cat-free haven (one even spent its first day out of the nest in my dog’s plush bed, right next to where we were sitting, unfazed by our presence). Then, each autumn, one always seems to take up position as “our” resident bird, singing nightly in the tree by my kitchen window as I prepare the evening meal…same place, probably same branch, year after year….and on into spring time, bringing back a mate and so the circle turns. Though I already loved robins, I was reminded of some sort of intimacy with birds that I must have lost, after my adolescence, by the gift of that one bird’s demise and, now, my relationship with all birds is one of the most important things in my world, teaching me so very much about some surprisingly universal things. It somehow jolted me out of the subtle state of disconnect I had been in beforehand (a collective phenomenon…convenient but unhealthy) and I felt more aligned after that.

So, we give and we take; and, though sometimes we don’t mean to take or it feels necessary, when done with great respect and gratitude (Avatar once again), it is that all-important point of realising the difference between this and grabbing all we can that makes a person who they really are; a “small” detail which, I suspect, will become far more decisive of our fate than some people have yet to realise in this quite pivotal era we have now entered.

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Exquisite life

Being a mother in the confidence of a young adult daughter is such an opportunity to relive some of those old colours and sensations of youth. Listening to my daughter tearily describe to me, from the airport as she awaited her flight home, the sheer tirade of emotions running though her as she left behind three of the most incredible months of her life and all the intense new friendships she has made working for the summer on the other side of the world, I found myself saying these words to try and help her navigate the seeming overwhelm of it all: “You’re experiencing the ‘exquisite pain of youth’….the reason you feel things so intensely at your age is that even the pain is because you love something or someone so much. I remember that feeling! Yes, life is very intense at your time of life, so enjoy it. I miss it!!”

And I meant it…was caught, transfixed, for a moment immersed in its flavour, carried on the wind from my newly travel-enriched offspring. Back then at her age, as I recall, all the colours and volumes of life were turned up for me too…and I allowed it all in, I beckoned it, without hesitation. It was a sensory explosion and life was a crazy, rich tapestry of ecstasy and hurt…so much hurt. There were so many fixations upon things and people but perhaps, especially, boys who did not reciprocate; in fact (I suspect) if they had I would have run a mile, yet I jumped in with both feet, intensely and obsessively when it came to these one-sided fixations which, I now learn, is an Asperger’s thing. Whether they are one-sided or not (and for my daughter, clearly not) it was this free-for-all, the wholesale “give it to me” wolf howl for experiences to happen that I remember the most. What happened to all that?

As I reminisced out loud to my husband this morning, I found myself describing how I kept it going, perhaps, longer than some…wooing this free-for-all experiential feeling long into my twenties, living as bohemianly and noncommittally as I could, mixing with colourful people who seemed to throw these colours around on their palette just like I did. However, one by one, either because they had attached to some career path that meant more to them or because they were on some other work path that didn’t and which wore their spirit down, those people stepped away from the exhuberant scene I had chosen and I was left all alone.

Also, somewhere down the line, that general exuberance got replaced by alcohol driven behaviours, fixations that were about other things to those that truly excited me. I can recall how, in the early years that we were together, one of the things that most beguiled me about my first husband was the way he would exude so much excitement for a future built on all the riches he planned to “make”; spinning stories about how he would spend his millions on a lifestyle that “we” would be enjoying by now. As exuberant friends stepped away from our circle to get married or “serious” about life, I shortchanged myself into accepting his version of what I once had, which wasn’t ever about being rich in money, but was always about being rich in life. I mistook one for the other, dazzled by the frequency of excitement and not so-much hearing the content; until I was caught up in it all, duped into something that had “seemed” to be what I was wanting but was not. For here was a man who had nothing to offer when it came to exploration and travel, to feelings and colour; he wanted none of that, poo-pooing all I had to say on such matters. My sensory synapses got blunted and then blunted some more until I felt like a mute piece of firewood for the longest time. That was how it had happened…

At the start, all I had ever really wanted was to travel, to meet people, to experience different cultures, to defy the linearity and planning-obsession of life and mix it all up into soundbites of colour and sensation, like a multi-sensory synesthesia painting. I was where my daughter is now, newly back from crazy, eventful travels with a female friend, with that travel bug biting away at my heels and with such misgivings at the prospect of setting down into my first job (which awaited me) gnawing away at my thoughts, when I met my first husband and it all got trimmed away as superfluous.

So, in my conversation with her last night, I also found myself saying “I think you know this by now but only be with people who encourage you to grow and explore…if they try to clip your wings, fly away!”

This is as sound advice as I can give anyone of any age but it applies especially to her age group, as friends “get serious” and partner up so fast that the conveyor-belt mentality is literally all around, bedazzling with promises of a house, a ring, a dog…empty promises without the freedom to experience all you are here to experience. It would have been good advice to me and I still give it to myself (though I have far less need to, these days).

The challenge, at my age, can be finding people who still want to join you on the sensory explosion of life, as you once caught a taste of in your youth. And can it ever be experienced again, once life has blunted off all your most wayward, exploratory nerve ends, whole bunches of synapses filed away as superfluous by the hard “truths” of conventional life? Once life has “taught you” the disappointing and hard practicalities of “the way things are?” Its a hard thing to achieve but not impossible to regain some ground and, there, I suspect I have the advantage as the non-conformist, a-typical Aspie with the built-in synesthesia point of view. Forever, I have harboured this nugget of the wayward, like a handful of that earlier prototype of myself “held back” when life came to demand that I hand it all over; and it has served me well in many a crisis. Because, while those around me started to fixate on their salary brackets, lawns, cars, package holidays, waistlines, where to get their hair or nails done and the plots of their favourite soaps, I was busily having the burnout that returned me back to the rawness of myself. Yes, it was often exquistely painful but a timely reminder and somewhat of a relief, after the comfortable numbness that preceeded it. Those beliefs I once had, that life can be rich, intense and fluid are still there, seeking new outlets as the alternate me I have become (and am still becoming). I am not politely self-limited but exponential, in my own revised viewpoint, beyond convention.

Its made me a far more accessible and useful parent than I might have been. In those glimpses when I still recall the intensity of those earlier times like they were yesterday, I am able to share out that relatability factor with my daughter at the same time as reserving a portion for myself. In those remembered moments of what life can feel like, full volume, as though you had learned none of the jaded stuff to contradict what your heart wants to feel, I can draw back some of those sensations into my own colour spectrum and dip my brush in their vibrancy to paint something new and surprising for my age-group. It mixes things up for me and, though I largely do it alone with respect to my age peers, I newly appreciate how I was always meant to do that anyway. ..that it was always about me, having the experience, and not reliant on other people to provide the subplots. Life is as rich as we individually make it (and allow it to be) and while some would say “you have to grow up…put those ideas to one side” I would argue that there is no good precedent to say so. Really, are those who ever did so such a great advert for the effect? As ever, I prefer to be alone and be authentic to myself than in a crowd miserably “conforming”.

We compartmentalise youth as though its something to be grown out of, put aside…but, so often, we lose such big parts of ourselves and some of the richness of life along the way. With increasing nostalgia, as parenthood brings memories (such memories!) flooding back, I find myself remembering and getting drunk on the exquisite pain of it all in preference to the well-rehearsed stories I had long used to compartmentalise the past in so many grey boxes on the shelves of my memory. Those occassional shards of remembered pain are like a defibrillator sparking my jaded heart back into life; I regret nothing anymore…no, not one single stab in the heart, paired as it was with such vibrancy, excitement and joy to be alive. The full experience range of life “remembered” as in to “reattach” to myself. Exquisite pain sounds, to me, far better than chronic numbness, so these windows into what it is possible to be feel are doing me such good on the roller-coaster ride of parenthood. Though I might not want to do it all again from scratch, I relish the chance to (re)learn the gift of being more fully alive through younger eyes and hope, in the process, I offer good counsel not to give it all away for a song.

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The Path

When life (not just health) “goes wrong”, most of us are happy with the 2 Ps…a prescription and a pat on the head. We seldom ask core questions, of ourselves or our mentors.

Life has become synonymous with pain and we just want to hand it over, to make it all go away.

This fear of pain makes space for paternalism and politics. The system becomes the great father to whom we go for answers and instruction; and, in time, we learn to question at our peril since to question is to rock the boat that provides what we now regard as the source of our safety.

Yet (as perception wakes up, we will be called on to ask) where do we think peril really lies; in the state of our life or in handing over our destiny to the say-so of others in such a wholesale, unquestioning way?

When we do the latter, we lose also our pride and our power. Easy sacrifices since, for too long, we have been taught that these are “bad” or “misplaced” things in the individual.

Pride has been tarnished by association with “ego”; linked to desire for self-preservation…survival; an innately human yet frowned-upon thing, except when managed on our behalf.

We forget that this is also linked to self-love…a belief in ap-preciation over de-preciation; to take care of and honour oneself as a unique creation of the divine.

Appreciation leads straight to personal empowerment since we now appreciate all that we are and can do…and all that we are not and do not resonate with.

patrick-fore-74TufExdP3Y-unsplashSo, at last, we stand up tall in our perfection. In remembering how we are already perfect we also recall how, when we handed ourselves over so freely, we surrendered a belief in our own innate wellness, losing ourselves in other agendas; a murky deluge that has swamped us for the longest time. We bought into a belief that we were broken, flawed, commonplace, ignorant, not deserving.

Now we have found peace; which is an internal thing, an insider job that we do each day though the work is not taxing and which we carry with us constantly though the load is forever light.

Once we are there, our head above water, we seldom get lost again since we have remembered our own unique path; which is part of us, sewed to the heel of our foot by our own divine self.

All of this is a journey on the way towards a new paradigm; one we take many times, in many forms. It is in the getting “lost” for a time that we rediscover ourselves on the bends; by catching those ever-more frequent glimpses of our true self glistening and tall in our peripheral vision (we now look way beyond “the obvious” as we navigate our path) as we turn yet another sharp corner, away from what was not our heart’s destination until, at last, we recognise who we really are.

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Autism and the Age of Aquarius

What does it look like when an archaic version of “the masculine” (patriarchy, power, ego, control, conflict, greed…) gets dismantled and yet, Nature knows, there needs to be some sort of holding pattern for the best kind of masculine traits, through the transition era; plus a rapid process of reacquainting ourselves with what the more divinely orchestrated version of those traits look like, from a long, long time ago?

I speak of logic, reason, literalness, accuracy, truth, justice, protection, principles, universality, orchestration, organisation, orderliness, preciseness, ritual, rhythm, routine, structure, strength, movement, growth, focus… These can be beautiful, necessary, divine qualities in their highest forms and we can sometimes overlook them in our pursuit of all things feminine; the backlash to an era of harshly distorted interpretations.

And who is doing the dismantling? Whilst it may seem to be us (just look about you…the most archaic structures of the world are being challenged and dismantled everywhere we look in “the news”) it is really an impulse of the universe; the end of the piscean age and the start of the aquarian. This wheel of change started turning, oh so slowly, a couple of hundred years ago, picked up some speed in the early twentieth century and started to gather significant momentum from the late 1960s. Even more so from the mid 1980s when the eighth wave gained its first foothold (for more on physicist Dr Carl Johan Calleman’s theory about the nine waves of cosmic impulse overseeing our evolution, seek out my various posts on the Nine Waves of Creation), which I consider to be synonymous with this era of the “changing of the guard” from dominantly masculine into a more feminine and, ultimately, a more balanced world. The eighth wave brought the balancing factor of the “missing feminine” back into the picture and now (since the start of the ninth wave in 2011) we are tasked with “putting it all together” into a whole that includes both aspects as one and in balance.

As the Age of Aquarius (so much more than just some way-out abstraction sung about by 1960s hippies) clicks into its groove from 2020 onwards (to me there is no accident to that mirrored sequence of numbers…20:20 vision also springs to mind) we are about to have to get seriously good at this and, as ever, the real work is an “insider job” which we each get to tackle in the areas of life that have felt the most challenging and demanding of our attention for all of our lives to date. I think it’s fair to say that, if we agree to face (not avoid…) this inner work, we can expect some sort of breakthrough in the coming months.

Did you ever feel like you were born for some sort of higher purpose that you could never quite put your finger on? That’s because you were. Those of us in Generation X were born to this age of momentum and paradigm shift; conceived just as the wheel changed up a gear, so we are the forerunners of this transition age, leading the way you could say. If you are of that generation, you may be wondering why your life has seen so many changes and felt so, well yes, unsettled and transitional over the last handful of years…as though you cant quite stitch this part of your life together with what came before, like they are two quite different lifetimes without obvious continuity. Don’’t worry, it will all start to feel more coherent soon; there are no accidents.

From the mid 1980s, that wheel of change began to get oiled as a whole new wave of change makers were brought into the mix via that next generation which arrived from then into the millennium (and some of us in Generation X are parents to that wave; so we have noticed the shift even more since our children are like a whole other breed).

Meanwhile, waves and waves of those on the autism spectrum began to appear in that same timeframe; which is not to say that they are any more or less important to this shift of ages but to say I suspect they play a key part. There is a theory that autism amounts to “an extreme-male brain” and though I am not comfortable with all aspects of that theory or its blanket application (I’ve covered this in my post for Living Whole and can also direct you to this critique) I concede that, in myself, I am able to equate my autistic traits with a powerfully masculine part of myself…that cohabits with a powerhouse of feminine traits in what is starting to feel like a whole new kind of internal living arrangement to the archaic model that I struggled with before.

From this “world eras in transition” perspective, is it any wonder that autism, which appeared oh-so very rarely from the mid 1700s, at the very start of this age-shifting momentum, and appeared as a handful more cases (enough to gain a name and instigate the study of this bewildering syndrome) during the early to mid 20th century, resulted in a quite a few more us appearing in the 1970s but only got moving like a tsunami from the 90s onwards when the term “epidemic” began to be used in its context.

Of course, the actual amount of autism prevalent in the 1970s slipped under the wire for quite some time since a mixture of misinformation and stigma around it ensured that it was kept out out sight except in cases that were too severe to ignore. Those of us born on the high functioning end of the spectrum in the late ‘60s and ’70s were taught to assimilate neurotypical behaviours to fit in; and the pressure to do so was considerable. I also suspect, given that the trait tends to run in families in a way that means those with it often have exceptionally bright, pedantic, eccentric, technically minded etc. parents and siblings (as did I), we were often able to “hide out” almost invisibly for most of our childhood, especially if we were adept enough at learning neurotypical behaviours to get by in the outside world of school and friends. We were often labeled “geeks” or “shy”, which was socially acceptable at the time. Combined with newly relaxed social expectations during teen and young adulthood (meaning it was now almost expected of young people that they act a little oddly, rebelliously, “colourfully” etc for that first period of their adult lives, in a way that wasn’t known or acceptable prior to the 1960s) we were able to hide ourselves away in a crowd for a number of years, at least for that first part of our lives.

Typically, things became harder for us to cope with as we reached a point of being expected to join the work force and as our neurotypical friends become more typical as they settled down into “normal” life….leaving us all at sea, still feeling oddly different and out of step with the world and its expectations. This is the portion of life that gets hard for someone with undiagnosed Asperger’s and, I suspect, is what is leading to so many people recently, but especially women, discovering that they are on the spectrum as they reach their middle years, as I have done. Self-diagnosis of Asperger’s is at an all-time high, if forums are anything to go by, and no I don’t write this off as a fashionable trend or a catch-all for other issues since I am one of them and perceive traits in common across the floor of these growing discussions. There are some compelling first-person accounts appearing on bookshelves, one of which is Asperger’s on the Inside by Michelle Vines, which I found completely relatable from beginning to end.

And what do I find out about this trait as I become more intimate with what I had denied about myself for so many years? Does it still count as “a disability” for someone who has no significant learning disabilities, who is well educated, articulate and capable of independent living, of passing off as unaffected (I said passing off…) in most everyday situations? Only if I measure myself against neurotypical social mores, priorities, interests, tolerance for sensory chaos, tendency for wilful destruction or failure to learn from precedent and (lack of) scruples do I feel at some sort of disadvantage; since they are at such a right angle to mine. If I stand alone in my own corner of diversity, I find I am more than comfortable with my “different” approach to these things, finding my niche amongst others like me, rare though they are and notoriously difficult to prise out of their tucked-away places. I touched upon many of the challenges I have come across along the path of trying to form relationships with neurotypical people in my lifetime in my recent blog Relationships on the Spectrum on Living Whole so I won’t repeat myself here. What I want to focus on is just how positive I am finding my neurodiverse traits to be, now I look them in the eye and own them. I find myself, and I’m far from the first, wishing that they were more widely distributed amongst the population since the world needs more than a sprinkling of them right now.

What (as ever I ask you to do, being my particular area of hyper focus or “special interest”…another autism trait) we all pull back from the crime scene together and look at the MUCH bigger picture here? And if that sounds like a contradiction since, according to the popular stereotype, people on the spectrum prefer to obsess about all the smallest of details then I say to you it is those smaller details, studied “in the laboratory of me” for over fifty years, that led me straight to this almighty “whole” (in the same way that God is always found in the details). I’ve always had this thing for working at both the micro and the macro levels simultaneously. Ironically, given the stereotype applied to us, many neurotypicals don’t seem to be able to see beyond the end of their noses.

So, if autism is a version of the divine masculine trying to shake itself down and remember what it is all about (yes, still in its learning curve, its teething phase…so I won’t dispute that many on the less highly functioning parts of the spectrum have significant challenges coping with life), what if we step back just a little from the pressing urge to eradicate or control it and spend more time studying it, allowing it, watching and learning from all its positives. As so many of those families that have had the greatest success bringing up their autistic children have learned to do; finding, along the way, that these children come bearing such precious gifts, ones which enhance their experience of life and contribute to their own personal growth. These children seem to come as a package, touching all those that come into contact with them and not least themselves. Then, of course, we are starting to witness the high performers come to light; for instance, environmental activist Greta Thunberg (another big-picture person), who credits her Asperger’s as a reason she feels so compelled to speak out about all the mess she is seeing in the world. Can you honestly watch her in action and question whether the world needs autism right now? Another daringly vocal environmentalist with Asperger’s is British naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham whose “coming out” program “Asperger’s and Me” I reference, with a link to the video, in my other post.

Those on the spectrum are questioners, movers, shakers, speakers of blunt truth; we don’t dress things up or tolerate status quo when harm is involved. These traits empower me and serve as my very backbone when my more visionary, empathic, willingly sociable yet almost hopelessly unstructured side knows not what to do next. Humanity’s more sociable, collaborative traits have always required structure from another source, much like a curious bean sprout requires a trellis to climb (the masculine aspect); the point is, we need to question what kind of structures we hang our efforts upon…are they archaic or do they serve our highest collective purpose? Another string to our bow; people on the spectrum tend to feel an intense degree of connection to the natural world (oh yes!); now, tell me that’s not a much required trait, from some quarter, at this precarious point in our history. Such traits don’t need shunting to the sidelines as “weird pastimes” anymore; they are required centre stage.

Make room at the table for these traits, as I am now doing within myself to a degree I have never allowed myself do before (since I was always trying to deny, hide, sanction or train myself out of them before) and see what arises. As I embark on this inner journey of discovery, perhaps the most potent and profound one I have yet undertaken (though I have embarked on quite a few…), I am finding that my most useful tool is to seek inner harmony at every turn. As that part of me that has learned to be more typical over the longest time, becoming a habit and expectation of normality because I having been conditioned that way and can appreciate the better parts of it, meets this diverse part of me as though for the first time, I am facilitating more and more ways that they can reach out and shake hands across the interface of my core structure as a human being and the results are more than promising. Together, they are negotiating a reboot of sorts; or, you could say, an amicable hand-over into a new administration that mixes the best of the old with the most essential of the new. Now to see how we fare as a collective, doing something similar at the start of this brand new age.

 


Related

From Steve Silberman’s article “Greta Thunberg became a climate activist not in spite of her autism, but because of it“:

“I see the world a bit different, from another perspective,” she explained to New Yorker reporter Masha Gessen. “It’s very common that people on the autism spectrum have a special interest. … I can do the same thing for hours.” Thunberg discovered her special interest in climate change when she was just 9 years old, and she couldn’t understand why everyone on the planet wasn’t similarly obsessed with preventing it.

A visceral feeling of repulsion toward deceit and hypocrisy is also common among people on the spectrum. As Thunberg told the BBC, “I don’t fall for lies as easily as regular people, I can see through things.” She has a particular contempt for the professional propagandists and apologists who prop up the fossil fuel industry and discourage the development of renewable energy resources, dismissing UK claims about reductions in carbon emissions as the result of “very creative accounting.”

”You don’t listen to the science,” she went on, “because you are only interested in the answers that will allow you to carry on as if nothing has happened.”

I am currently engrossed in Steve Silberman’s prize-winning book: NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and How to Think Smarter about People Who Think Differently. So far, I can highly recommend it for a feel of the historical context of this phenomenon; quite essential to appreciate its context in these particular times and the gift that it is.

Posted in Books, Consciousness & evolution, Divine feminine, divine masculine, Health & wellbeing, Life journey, Menu, Personal Development | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mrs White in the study with the candlestick

As I’ve written about recently in my other blog, I badly injured my back a while back, which has triggered off a plunge into some of the worst fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue symptoms I can remember. Yet the very sudden, indistinct way this injury came about has puzzled my mind since there was no obvious perpetrating event. Yes, I had overdone things physically over the course of a couple of weeks or more, but felt fine every time I checked in with myself. We had had a long car journey to go to the hills for our holiday…and should probably have broken the journey but we didn’t. Then the bed was too soft and somewhat weird for us at it had springs, being used to a memory foam mattress that works to support the spine, and so I could tell straightaway that would be a challenge but I’m used to that on trips. We had the usual issue that we are used to sleeping in an electrically “quiet zone” at home as we have an isolator switch but, in the small barn conversion we were renting, there were a plethora of sockets behind the bed, an active alarm system and electric heating under the bathroom floor, the constant hum of a fridge in our sleeping space, the bed was metal and nothing could be switched off without messing up our host’s arrangements except for the wifi router. For an electrically sensitive person, these are triggers galore but then it had to be less triggering that being back home in a busy urban road.

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Sheep in the narrow roads…a typical sight on the hills

Then we had a bizarre second night, given we had gone to this breathtakingly beautiful remote location up a hill, with next to no neighbours for miles, to get away from things and enjoy the absolute peace and quiet. However, two guys came around to our property on the first bright and sunny morning to inform us a car rally was due to take place past our door that very night. I was gob-smacked and indignant at how ludicrous this was and went into immediate trigger over all the free-roaming wild life and livestock that lives on that hill which, sure enough, was littered with roadkill, snapped branches and pot holes in the morning. Potential harm to animals and the natural environment, caused by mindless human behaviour, is always guaranteed to be one of my biggest triggers!

True to his word, 80 or 90 cars came revving at speed past our barn between 1 and 5am and it was horrible; worse than the worst kinds of sleepless nights I was used to because there was no disengaging from it. I could feel it all as though there was a rampage taking place inches from the bed and perhaps the feeling of this triggered some ancient memory of marauders in my cells since it seemed to rouse such intense feelings I could hardly rein them in. In fact I could tell the rally had started, though I had been in a very deep sleep and had no idea of the time, even before a single noise had broken the beautiful tranquility because I felt it like an electric tsunami passing through me long before a single car arrived…and then it came, a minute later. Having surrendered utterly to the beauty of that natural place, like falling into its arms on arrival, I realised I was perhaps even more sensitive and aware than I am at home where the relentless rush of 1am traffic from the city and back again at rush hour, right past our door is, regretfully, the new norm.

So, though I stuck in my headphones and tried to meditate, I kept alternating between surrender and a rush of adrenalin as another car, with a slightly different engine and driving style to the last one, came around the valley blaring headlights into our curtainless floor-to-ceiling glass frontage next to the bed (which normally overlooked a view in which the daily post van in the distance was “an event”), only to round the sharp bend along the precariously narrow lane that touched onto the wall of our house on the other side (we left a light on in the hope they wouldn’t drive into the wall!) and roar past. By morning, I had probably generated enough cortisol in my body for a month and felt utterly wrung out, physically and emotionally…but had rarely-seen family visiting so there was no let-up to be had, I was hosting for the day.

With the perfect timing of a bullseye shot, we then received a kick in the guts notification from friends that very morning (the downside of having to check for messages from my brother was that I received other notifications I could have done without on holiday). More unwanted news came within days when my closest friend, who was already on my mind throughout the holiday for this reason, confirmed her cancer was back (it never rains but it pours).

Was it any coincidence that it was on this very morning after the rally that my body suddenly floundered…and by the next day, I could hardly stand or get around without gripping onto things. A couple of days later, having tried to soldier on with our holiday plans, it all gave way completely and I was barely able to get in and out of chairs, walk, bend, carry, cough, dress, move. It all seemed too exaggerated for the events that led up to it, like it came out of nowhere…an invisible car crash and, of course, my mind went into overdrive trying to figure it out as well as deal with all the challenges and disappointments it presented. The rest of our holiday was pretty compromised and, though the location was just so beautiful I could have stayed forever, the physically challenged part of me longed to get home to my normal bed, a bath tub and things I could reach.

I wrote about all this, the first time, a couple of weeks ago and the account was longer…much longer…but I knew, by the end, it wasn’t helping things to publish those words. Really, all that version was doing was adding snow to the snowball so I used it as an outlet and put it to one side.

Its taken me another couple of weeks to process much more of what I needed to on the inside…a solo task…and start to glean from all this what I really needed to and its ongoing. But, at least, now I am ready to share what feels like the most important nugget of all…

When things happen that we don’t like, it’s so easy to accuse this and that, until it becomes like a proverbial game of Cluedo (known as Clue in N America)…calling out a person in a situation with a particular “weapon”…except nobody ever wins. In this case, was the perpetrator “the over-tired back in the uncomfortable bed with the car rally?” Or perhaps “my own empathy with the emotional punch plus the EMF exposure”? Who knows; do I even need to know? It was what it was and will continue to deliver its plot-line while I seek the reasons why on the outside of myself.

And isn’t it always the case that as soon as you go into rumination, other “bad” things start to attract to that vibration, like flies sticking to a fly paper so that, suddenly, you’re in free fall and with nothing to smile about. That has been my last couple of weeks…even as part of me has stood back, with curiosity, to observe the patterns, witnessing them playing out to their usual “separation age” format. “Something outside of me must have caused this”, we assume whilst overlooking our own part in the dance made for two. And yes, while pain is there, I agree, it is very hard to disengage from all the stories of sorrow and the need to find a cause…such is our human way. Yet pain won’t move along…or will keep coming back…while the entrainment of blame continues; whether that is physical pain (which makes it rather obvious for me) or emotional pain, the pain of life’s disappointments, the pain of feeling let down by others and the world at large.

Well, pain is still here but I feel somehow different about it today. Writing about this now feels more like part of the detox than a whine about it all. I’m not feeding anything or anyone who played a part in triggering this because to “focus on” is to feed (and, yes, sometimes people wish us misfortune or do things we don’t relate to, things happen that don’t seem fair…of course they do) because nothing is so much of a hex on ourselves as our own belief that they can harm us or get under our skin. Of course, there are practical things we need to tackle some times and, to do so, we need to be aware of them but there’s a fine line between seeing what needs to be taken care of in a useful sense and pushing aside responsibilities that lie within to lay blame outside of ourselves, which is to fall into the victim trap that makes us weak just when we need to be our strongest. And, of course, sometimes when things turn out differently to how we hoped or expected, they are doing us a favour; we just haven’t reached a place of seeing that yet…which calls for less investment in a particular outcome than we have been displaying.

While we are human, we have triggers and each of us have our own particular set of them; mine are, perhaps, a little more quirky than some plus I’m a diagnosed HSP (highly sensitive person) which makes me acutely aware but we are all much the same in this regard. Whether those triggers go off is an insider job and, of course, its much harder to prevent when they all seem to want to go off at the same time. Yet being aware of what they are, mitigating the likelihood of them all coming up at once and ceasing the blame of outside things in favour of using them to understand ourselves a little better can be the turning point. When we notice, instead, all the synchronicities that occur (who would have thought the speedway level traffic of my road at home could follow me to that quiet hill in a so-called protected Area of Outstanding Beauty…its too bizarre…but has taught me many things) we gain a sense of what is being brought up for our attention; where we would do well to focus our next layer of fresh approaches, to better navigate this world in a new-enlightened way. Then we gain the sense, it’s all for us; it’s all what we needed to experience in order to understand more of the subtleties and evolve ourselves further (and, perhaps, next time the experience can take a gentler route to attract our attention).

When we start to claw back some of the neutrality we had given away around that particular trigger, we very quickly notice how the triggering event has very different information to impart. This process requires us to pull way-way back to where we can regard this infinitely bigger picture from many angles…so, my advice, don’t be so quick to dive in with all the sad accounts of “what happened to you” that make such a gripping yarn to swop with other people who, no doubt, have their own sad yarn ready to trade with you, because all this does is entrench you in the far narrower view, which is as blinkered as can be.

Its taken, as I said, well over two weeks to get to where I am now getting on top of this…and I’m not there yet since by body has not yet recovered, though it now feels more like having to dispatch the flush of toxins in my cells from “all those old stories of past” than anything to do with where I am in the present moment. The body is always a little slower and will catch up soon when shown the way but the point is to lead with a different angle of your consciousness; to be that change in the way you approach the circumstances that got you there, accepting your own responsibility in all this since you can only ever be experientially taken somewhere you agree to go.

As we get better at this in the individual context, we can only get far better at it in the collective context, which can only mean a world without finger pointing and all the toxic release that only ever comes out of blaming each “other” for our own loss of equilibrium. That’s not to blame ourselves either, but to accept that we are all part of the same experience-scape; so the inner will direct the outer to keep providing us with examples of what we couldn’t see we were fighting against or struggling with inside ourselves….until we no longer do that anymore.

 

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