“The gloves, the mask, it’s a whole production.”

women in animal masks

I had an interesting conversation with M, recently.  He wanted to understand why I was disappointed when a stranger figured out I’m autistic after dining with us.  He suggested I may be ashamed of being autistic.  I thought about it and attempted to explain the concept of masking.  It’s not about shame; it’s pragmatism.

The ability to mask my autism from strangers is a skill I’ve honed over the course of my life.  It’s necessary for survival.  It’s not something used only by people with autism, either.  People with mental illnesses also recognize the need to mask.  Mental health providers at the VA suggest it; a psychologist jokingly instructed me not to get caught talking to myself in the hallways of the VA.  😶 I figure it’s a common practice among most invisibly disabled people.

I also mastered the ability to mask my depression in the process.  The same psychologist I mentioned above was annoyingly surprised when my mask slipped, and she suddenly believed I was depressed for the first time.  I remember thinking to myself how much easier it is to hide depression from mental health providers than nearly anyone else.  They’re trained to look for specific symptoms, which I choose to regard as convenient for me.  (You can’t be black and disabled at the Sioux Falls VA without handcuffs and leg shackles, so naturally, I roll with being black while wearing a shrink-proof mask.)

rabbit masked man

People with visible physical disabilities can’t mask but have the perquisite of being perceived as disabled on sight.  (I doubt they consider it a privilege, though.)  I’ve had decades of trial and error to figure out which behaviors attract ridicule and bullying.  It’s not easy to overcome my nature whenever I’m around people, though.  In fact, it’s exhausting.

 

I stifle the behaviors and motions I’ve identified as unsafe in the company of others.  I try to be invisible at those times.  I suck at remaining still, even though I know it would be helpful.  To compensate, I mastered the ability to rock minutely.  I do it slowly, and limit my range of motion to a few inches in each direction, while visualizing a gear system amplifying the efforts of my tiny movement.

Sadly, I’m fully aware I tend to rock more vigorously when my anxiety increases.  I stop when I realize.  I hate that I often catch myself when some asshole imitates me to amuse others.  Naturally, I’ve also mastered the ability to present both birds at half-mast 3 inches from the face of the asshole mentioned above, while looking unamused.  I consider it a public service.  You’re welcome.  🙃

man in rabbit mask

Thankfully, the human brain can help shelter us a bit from the disturbing lack of empathy in strangers.  Dissociation is another skill when forced to endure extreme discomfort while in public.  Sometimes, it’s all I can do to keep from screaming:  Like when the clock is ticking so sharply, and the person beside me breathes loudly through a congested nose.  Or the overhead lights are buzzing and too bright, the tv is too loud, and the wool fabric on the chair is scratchy on the backs of my arms, while my left shoe is tied more tightly than my right.  And the perfume, my god, the perfume!  /scream

I’m not ashamed of being autistic.  I’m too busy tweaking my ability to pass as typical and well adjusted to waste time feeling sorry for myself.  😂 Plus, there are a gazillion other things I’d much rather do.  Like playing Bach’s E major Partita on violin for some random, yet surprisingly attentive cows, while sitting on the fence in a soggy field.  It’s what I’m off to do now.  ✌🏽

“Sven-jolly? I didn’t say Sven-jolly.”

mother reading to child
The Invisible Story, I presume. Shh.

I’m presently re-reading A Game of Thrones in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, by George R. R. Martin.  I only made it to season 4, episode 8 of the HBO series.  (The Mountain and the Viper.)  I suspect I’ve witnessed too much real violence to find entertainment in (or much tolerance for) the acted versions.

Fortunately, I can handle the novels.  PTSD triggers are unpredictable and nonsensical sometimes.  I read the books before the series, but the actors are who I visualize while reading this time.  Props to whoever cast the show.

My perceptions of many of the characters have changed between readings.  For example, I felt sympathetic to Catelyn Stark ten years ago.  Now, I find her snobbery disturbing and am offended by how she mistreats John Snow.  I didn’t notice these traits a decade ago.

I’m fascinated by the details.  It’s like I’m reading the story in ultra-high definition, this time.  Heh.  I’m studying the writing and pondering all the data extracted so far, trying to build a sense of what’s to come (so I can brace for it.)

I haven’t read or discussed any series spoilers for the episodes I haven’t watched.  I’m curious, but I want to form a few theories of my own before I find out.  My ego can have this one since it’s harmless.  Yay.  🙃  I think the No! I Want To Do It Myself! Mindset was no phase.

That's no moon, it's a space station.

That’s no moon, it’s a space station.  – Obi Wan Kenobi

I knew once I was ready to make writing my career, something else would probably get neglected.  It looks like that something is video games.  I haven’t played Warcraft in a while, (even though my annual subscription just renewed.)  Usually, the guilt of having paid for it already draws me back.

There’s an expansion pack coming out soon, but I haven’t even read about it.  I feel grateful to Blizzard for all the non-violent and funny content they include for people like me.  Ah, well.  It’s there for me if I need it, so it’s all good.  🤪

M has been teasing me for using Game of Thrones words.  Heh.  Yep, I like the word, jape.  Yep, I plan on using it as often as possible in the foreseeable future.  Yep, I adopt dialect alterations based on novels that intrigue me.  Who doesn’t?  I’m off to practice.  ✌🏽

“We? Since when are you a writer?”

mind map conceptualization

We had band practice this morning.  I mostly played the bass and used a drum machine.  It was fun, and a pleasant start to my weekend.  I plan to build a Plex media server this afternoon.  I love such projects.  It’s too hot to go outside today.  M is swimming with friends at the indoor pool.  I declined to join them because the acoustics of all-tile rooms are exhausting.

I trust my persistence, and obsessive tendencies will serve me well in my new career as a writer.  My ego wants to write short-story collections as a novel.  Reality suggests I’ll need a lot more words to convey my story successfully.  I’m going to label it a convenient insight for now.  (Ignoring my ego tends to save a lot of time.)  I’m waiting for my first rejection letter from a submission I sent recently.

I’m hoping it includes feedback but expecting a form letter.  It’s going to sting because I’m an optimist.  But it won’t be a surprise, which helps.  I’ll keep trying.  I decided I’m going to write for the rest of my life, even if in the end, it results in a hopeful collection of rejection letters.  If that’s indeed the case, I’ll still be a better writer at the end of my life than I am now.

Never Gonna Give You Up

I consider it an inevitability rather than a goal.  I look forward to taking several writing courses in the future.  I read differently, and more often now.  I’m building up my mental database with examples of writing I enjoy or find particularly compelling.  I’m noticing varied approaches to unveiling a story.  I didn’t like some of the novels I’ve read recently, but I still learned from them.

Despite persistent issues with anxiety, I’m feeling a more profound sense of calmness overall.  I realize a great deal is likely from working out in the morning.  As when I was a student, it allows me to focus more easily.  Taking breaks to stretch and meditate reinforces this ability.  I also satisfy my overwhelming need to exist mostly in my head for several hours a day.  I no longer berate myself for allowing my brain to function naturally.  I regret it took me this long to embrace my nature.

I discovered I enjoy social interaction when I have the necessary energy and recovery time.  I’ve decided against hoping for others to accept the fact socializing requires epic stamina on my part.  I’m merely going to participate when I’m up for it and refrain when not.  I’m no longer going to feel bad for allowing myself recovery time after interactions, either.  That was just silliness on my part.  My bad.  🙃  I’m off to build my server.  ✌🏽

“You know, these movies are great, but they’re just so emotionally exhausting.”

Growing sprouts

I used up most of my energy before noon, today.  Whoops.  I’m allowing too much news to get through.  I’m battling against an overwhelming desire to isolate, as a result.  I remember when I used to surrender to this urge.  It seems like a long time ago, but it’s been just over a year since I crawled out from beneath that rock.  Life is quite challenging now, and it’s building me up.

Anxiety has been dangling me by my ankle over a pit of doom.  I’m hanging there, trusting in The Force while my body trembles.  I need a Star Wars marathon.  I’m going to do a chronological order viewing over the course of a week.  We’re heading to Denver soon for a short tree planting session.  M is going to play with drones.  I miss the smell of freshly turned earth.

I watched Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, yesterday.  I started from the beginning and watched through Sarah Jessica Parker.  Jim Carrey made me laugh so hard I cried.  I didn’t know he was a painter.  You get to see lots of his works inside his art studio.  I love the show because it’s not only hilarious, it’s fascinating.  I love Netflix.  Heh.

flying drone

I think I may need to include a rest day in my workout schedule.  My muscles feel itchy, which is distracting.  I haven’t quit running yet.  When I step onto the trail, my body starts running automatically.  I roll with it until I get to the first street crossing.  Then I walk for a bit until my mind wanders again, and I start jogging.  It’s a stim, not my workout, so I don’t mind.  It calms me.

I create mashups of songs by Stevie Nicks and ABBA in my head while I run, lately.  Edge of Seventeen mashed with Does Your Mother Know is ridic dope.  I may even try to mix it myself just because I need it in my life.  It’s in my top two songs right now, including Nice For What by Drake.  The creative part of my brain works so well when I’m in constant, rhythmic motion.

I regret pushing to muscle failure in my workout this morning.  I forgot I’m in my 40’s or something.  I don’t feel older; I need more time to recover, and stretching is no longer optional.  I remember when my body could do whatever I demanded without flinching.  I would miss it, but I’m too busy being pleased with what I can still do.  Recovery time and lots of stretching are acceptable.  I practice meditation while I stretch like it’s worth extra credit; (it probably is.)  I’m off to make popcorn for my marathon.  😆 💜

“If you named a kid Rasputin, do you think that would have a negative effect on his life?”

Content warning:  suicide, change

Kickapoo indigenous American woman

 

We lost Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain.  Many of us are feeling the tremor in The Force.  The American Fairytale broke.  Our adolescent nation is enduring the agonizing transition from child to adult.  She’s reeling as she’s forced to change against her will.  The strategies that used to work are unraveling and failing.  Words like accountability, consequences, and future haunt her sleep.

She’s teetering between self-destruction and an unknown future.  The fear is paralyzing.  We all feel it.  It’s like gravity slowly increased when we weren’t paying attention.  The low-level hysteria we’re all carrying around, as a result, fills us with an unfamiliar feeling.  We’re Americans.  We believe The American Fairytale.  We have expectations and ideals.  Violations of our rights shock and traumatize us.  The Fairytale doesn’t include (or allow for) such things.

There’s probably a word for this feeling in German.  It’s uncomfortable.  It siphons our energy.  We’re not sleeping well because there haven’t been any breaks to catch our collective breath.  Every day, things are a little bit heavier.  We think we know what needs to happen, but we’ve lost faith in our team.  We don’t believe in Team America as much.  The horrific wounds from fighting each other are still too raw.

little pigs getting along

Change is scary.  Every time.  We’re too intelligent as a species to trust the unknown easily.  We only need to get burned once to make the connection.  We know we as Americans have something in common deep down.  We have that spark inside us that believes knows we can do incredible things as a people.  We have receipts all over the place.  We’re vast and different, and we know it.  It makes us unbelievably strong.

When you zoom in, there’s always pettiness in groups.  But zoom out, and you quickly realize we’re a little bit of everything.  We can’t help but be a bit arrogant, knowing many others also believe but aren’t American.  We know we’re fortunate in the big picture.  At least, we used to know this.  Now, we’re not sure anymore.  We’re starting to recognize this spark exists in every nation.  We’re feeling all the feels so often we’re exhausted.  So we teeter within our teenaged homeland.

Self-destruction, or unknown change.  The answer seems evident until you zoom in.  We want everyone else to change, except us.  We still want to hold tightly to the hate we’re so used to carrying.  We can’t imagine life without it.  It’s hard.  It requires practice, which means often failing.  Failing hurts.  Every time.  It sucks, and we’re so tired of aching.  But we can’t sleep well, so it never seems to go away.  Sigh.

I happen to be an expert on coping with this shitty status quo Americans are experiencing.  I’m far from alone in this skill, and in good company.  This unnamed dreadful feeling weighing you down is my typical.  While I do feel this present heaviness of being American too, it’s familiar ground for me.  I live here.  I wish I could say there are all sorts of steps you can take to get some relief.  Unfortunately, there’s just one:  Practice.

Practice being tolerant of everyone you encounter.  Treat others as you want them to treat you.  It doesn’t matter how they’re different than you.  They’re alive.  That means they have feelings, dreams, hopes, ideals, etc.  Sometimes they’re not going to reciprocate.  That doesn’t matter.  Walk away.  It’s their problem.  You’re doing your part to change.  You rock.  Change over self-destruction.  Let’s make our spark glow.