Time to speak. Woman+Autism

It’s probably time I spoke, which might come as a surprise to some.

It’s time I spoke about my very very liveable autism. Self diagnosed and late to be recognised, but with a family steeped in autism, lived, academic and working, and a nudge from a friend in the business, I believe I don’t need to go any further.

I am a woman, and women historically slip under the radar for autism recognition, we become super-pilots navigating non-recognition like a boss. Boys are five times as likely to be recognised as autistic. Women and girls often learn basic social skills and fake social interactions, which can mask many autistic traits. We are damn good at it. Women and girls with Autism often try very hard to ‘fit in’. When they don’t, it can make them feel like a failure. We are so good at faking it that by the time we reach out for recognition later in life, professionals refuse to believe we are in fact autistic. But I am tired. And that is what usually happens. We spend a lifetime reinventing ourselves, hiding in plain sight immersed in academic life, family, high functioning, achieving and managing ourselves quite well and loving our children and husbands pretty well inside our manufactured persona. The love is real. And then we burn out.

I wish I had known this decades ago and recognised myself. I wish I could re-visit my relationship with my parents. This blog is, indeed, prompted by reflections on Fathers Day. As an only child with no points of reference and a Mother who, I now realise, was probably also on the spectrum and equally baffled, I did not understand how relationships worked. No point of reference, no compass. We lurched through our lives failing to recognise how to connect, with each other and with others. Dad was trapped between the two of us as we flapped about in shreds on the breeze. I let him down.

I hated how we were and still loved them so much, and they never really knew that. Once, coincidentally after I had become a Mother myself, I thought I saw their car with them in it driving down our road and my heart leapt with love. They never knew that, or how much they were loved.

Sitting with first my Dad and then my Mother as they died following their strokes, waiting for them to die, I was more concerned with being the relative from Hell with the hospitals trying to obtain some kind of decent care for them against sometimes terrible odds, trying to ensure some form of dignity and meaningful care, than with being a “normal” daughter . My rabble rousing got a consultant sacked, rightly so. Would I have done the same as a neurotypical? I doubt it. But should I have done it? When my Mother died the nurse hugged me – I don’t do hugging or touch – and I valued it while giving every appearance of an ironing board. It helped but I couldn’t go with it. How much I wanted to….

When my Dad died my Mother and I became rudderless, no anchor, no buoyancy to mitigate the disunderstandings. We bobbed about fruitlessly. I got jobs, looked after the kids and husband, couldn’t connect with my Mother. Fail. Then she died. And it was then that I began to grow up, to recognise what had been in front of me the whole time. This last year or so has also been instrumental. It was a long and winding road that led to this…

Which is the biggest colour…?

I tuck my four year old grandson into bed and sprinkle sleepdust in his eyes, and watch as he magically, deliciously believes in it. Another night he tiptoes noisily into my bedroom, shimmies down under the sheet and snores quietly, contentedly, until dawn when he wakes with an almost audible “ping” and starts chatting patiently to me until I wake up properly.

One morning he asks me, with a degree of intensity, “what is the biggest colour”. We talk about all the colours, their properties, how we see them, I tell him about my synaesthesia which does not impress him because “we all hear colours differently anyway”.

Another morning the bedroom door bursts open and he re-balances himself after that effort, checks that I am awake (I am) and demands to know which planet we live on. I tell him it’s the Earth. He wonders rhetorically whether he and I inhabit the same planet. He believes in sleep dust but finds it hard to believe we inhabit the same planet. I think he may have a point. I asked him today what his little sister was doing. He ran to find her and came back and told me she was licking the shoe rack. I think this is a good example of both of them.

#love and colours #stardust and sleepdust

Open letter to Boris Johnson

Boris, Boris, Boris

It is time this whole thing came to its inevitable end. Your cocks-on-the-table let’s-see-who-can-be-Prime-Minister thing with the equally unlovely Cameron – although at least he is prettier – has done the job. You got it. You fooled and bribed and bullied enough people to get through that door. You history of lying, cheating, blustering, bullying and gaslighting your way into jobs which depended largely on the money your family threw at getting you into the various places that would help you to do that has been cruelly exposed by the attention you craved and which has let us all in on the poorly kept secret of your inability to do much at all. If you had stuck to writing uninteresting fluffy pieces and books that by and large regurgitated things found elsewhere you could have made your pots of money for little effort and got by. But the ego has it.

When I think of you – mercifully rarely – I see a Giles Coren without the charm. Oh, hang on, that job is taken by Giles Coren. But you get the idea. Able to chuck a few words together, usually in a meaningless sort of way that just covers the required word count in order to get paid, a few chums in the right places to enable entry to some sort of workplace that needs very little effort to find a job, although keeping those job seems to have been a challenge. Understandably. Let’s face it, you are quite simply not very good at much at all apart from keeping yourself in the spotlight and earning money doing things that mean nothing. Oh, that and being unpleasant and venal. Other opinions are available, but you will have to search hard to find them.

So. Let it go. You got the job and proved, if only to yourself, that you could equal Cameron. It has always seemed bizarre to me that anyone would want to do that but hey, it’s your life. Aspiring to mediocrity and failure would not be everyones choice but it is, still, barely, a free country.

What I am trying to say if you haven’t grasped it yet is: resign. Go and play somewhere else on someone elses dime. Go and begat more sprogs (I think that’s your language?), write some more piffle, spaff some more of someones money up the wall. Just do it somewhere else where you won’t allow people to die of your ignorance and bigotry. Don’t let’s hear any more of your offensive, racist, misogynist waffle. It’s so last year.

PS – take Gove with you.

The sense of it all

Most days I think we skitter along the surface of life like the smooth hard pebbles that skim across cold deep lakes and oceans, pitched from the hands of young boys and men in competition with themselves. We dip without sinking, lift without flying, never taking enough water to be wet or enough air to be dry.

Some days, though. Oh some days. On those some days every sense pulses and quivers. Every memory lunges to the front of the head and bursts out singing. A car door clicking shut is Dad coming home late after the pub bringing chocolates, bread and cheese as a sorry, with hugs and the smell of tobacco clinging to his clothes; a mist on the windows is the fog of cigarette smoke in the pub when Dad took us to watch him play darts, the sweaty sweary shouts of the men, the whispers and hisses of the women gathered in the corner gossiping and sipping tomato juice and the odd shandy so they can steer the men home when their man-bellies have been filled with beer and whisky, chicken sandwiches and scotch eggs; an antiseptic smell is the first day of motherhood, lying exhausted, scared, thirsty and overwhelmed with love for the scrap of humanity that just fell out of you, brings with it the violent sting of stitches you can still feel, the savoury smell of blood, the sound of a woman weeping. It’s you, crying with an impotent love that understands that from now on this is it, you will always be that mother whatever happens. the breeze from the window is the sea breeze from those interminable seaside holidays with Mum and Dad who could never understand why you didn’t want to change on the beach and never emerged from the beach hut, why you hated the sand, why the best thing about those days was the sea, the smell of it, the feel of it’s cool rhythmic throbbing on your legs and the way the water changed the shape of everything inside it. The smell of grass is those wonderful days when Dad took you golfing, the walk between holes, the way he played so well and you were always rubbish and it didn’t matter because on those walks between holes it was possible to talk without looking at each other but reaching down into things that would never be mentioned off the golf course. That time you were so tired you wandered back to the car and he found you asleep on the front seat and he just drove you home. Rain, oh that cool, mind clearing rain that is the first day you walked in the rain with the man you would love for more than forty years but did not yet know it, the smell of him as he put his arm around you, the tremble in your belly as he looked at you, the walk back into the dry and out of the clothes and into the next forty years.

The smell of old cats, young dogs, bird seed and hamster hay. Shitty nappies, clean bathed children, baby talc and sweaty feet. Rain on the window, the hiss of a frying egg, the dread weight of the phone ringing, the crackle of the phone line from far away. Turps and oils, the rustle of paper, old books, new canvases, blunt pencils and sharp images, rounded tapestry needles and pointed dressmaking pins, a piano in another room and the sweeping lines of the sheet music on the table.

Oh those days, those glorious days, when there is a memory in every corner, every shadow, every sound, taste, shape and scent, these are days to cling to and put in your pocket and to remember when that smooth hard pebble is skimming the surface again, neither wet nor dry, neither in nor out. Curl your fist over those days and push them deep into that pocket and never let them go, because they are life.

2020. What a year. It has been said before but hey, I need to say it again.

Some who know me will know that the cherry tree in our garden is my personal life affirmer. Each year, every Spring, I have watched it blossom and thought “I made it to another Spring”. It is uplifting and joyful and it was my Thing. This year in the Spring I was not sure if I would make it and in reality it was possible I might not. The tree blossomed as it has always done and as it will continue to do long after I am gone and I saw it and loved it and this time I wondered “will I ever see that again”.   

I still don’t know if I will see next years blossom and truthfully none of us ever really know that although it is much more likely now than it was in Spring, but if I am honest I am happy just to be seeing the beauty of its Autumn journey and it will be a bonus to see next Spring. 2020 saw us lose my beloved Father in Law who died alone in a Coronavirus-ridden hospital and the funeral was socially distanced and sad in way more ways than it should have been.My eldest daughter has just lost an irreplaceable friend and because of her friends existing health conditions she was unable to visit her with her children, who she loved. 2020 is a year of chances and happinesses missed, passed and now gone, they won’t come again. It has also been a time of reflection and regeneration – I know that despite Springtimes close shave I have risen and found things that I love to do that I had not thought possible or lacked the confidence to do properly, the idea that “Life’s Too Short” was brought vividly into focus and I have been reinventing myself again but this time with added vigour, for happiness, not for career or for other people.

I do not know anyone who has not suffered in 2020. Not one person. Not only with health but with loneliness, sadness, grief, isolation, financial worries, job worries, family worries. Whole communities are creaking under the burden of communal loss and anxiety. And in the middle of it all are some fabulous people doing what they can to support and cheer their friends and their communities. Ordinary extraordinary people holding up each other and their families, feeding people, reaching out to people, loving people. Those are the people I look to: my neighbours, my communities. And they do not disappoint. My sons good friend married and that joy was clear to see on peoples faces and we felt it with them; friends have had babies, written books, revamped their and others gardens and allotments, fallen in – and out – of love, joined online communities, opened foodbanks and joined charities. Friends continue to run, cycle, paint, write, call people, write to and email each other, and spread wellbeing;  organisations continue to plan to serve and support people, stuff happens. Stuff happens. And that is what makes us great.

Every morning, each and every morning that I wake up I am filled with gratitude not only to wake but for the people I wake to. Let’s get 2020 out of our hair. It is shit, we are fewer than we were, we will never really get over that but we will remember and will give thanks for having known those people no longer here and will celebrate the people who are.

Never more sincere: Onward and Upward.

%d bloggers like this: