I was inspired to write this post tonight after listening to a song I used to adore in college, Me and Emily by Rachel Proctor. Music for me has always been the most emotional medium possible. I cannot even begin to express the level of emotion that I experience when I listen to music... usually positive emotion, of course, as I listen to music that makes me feel good and that I like, but the opposite can be true, too.
When I was in college, my only source of joy was listening to the Baltimore country stations. Looking back I have often cited this as a weakness, poo pooing my lack of ability to make friends and upset that all I had was the radio. But you know what? Maybe I had more than other people had and didn't even know it. The radio gave me joy. What made me miserable was my feelings of self comparison with others. Had I been able to stop that, I would have seen that living with in your own joy is the way to make your life work. No matter what it is that brings you joy or how your life looks in comparison to others - if it works for you, then it's where you should be.
Going back to tonight....
I was barely paying attention at first. When the the opening notes of Me and Emily by Rachel Proctor came on, however, I was instantly transported to a different land. It's the difference between knowing something intellectually and FEELING it, and oh my, sometimes feeling it can feel good. (In fact, if I could shortcut my brain and access positive feelings more often I'd be very happy. It's only really music that has allowed me to do that.) Anyway, so I was transported to a different land. I saw myself dancing away in the field behind the library at my college, belting this song out at the top of my lungs. I felt myself , back then, feeling the joy, the emotion, the CONNECTION as it filled up my whole body, my mind, my heart, my soul and spirit and I became one with it. I remembered what it felt like to quiver with ecstacy, to let the music take control of my body, and to dance as if nothing else in the world existed (and believe me, for me, at that time, it didn't).
I saw myself at that utility pole in the middle of campus where I used to get the best reception to all my stations, listening to Skin by Rascal Flatts with both an enormous smile on my face and sigh of wistfulness, wishing I could have what the last line in the song so eloquently delivered... "And for a moment, she wasn't....scaaaaared." I remember the exquisite joy of thinking how this wasn't even supposed to be released as a single, but it was so good stations all across the country were playing it anyway.
And that's just with two songs....
But most of all, what I felt when I listened to these two songs tonight was a sudden realization. I DID experience happiness in college. I DID experience joy. I HAVE felt what it feels like to be utterly and wonderfully alive. And it may not look like anyone else's version of being happy.... it may not look anything like anyone else's life....but it is happiness, nevertheless. Happiness cannot be measured, defined or perceived in relation to what everyone else is doing. It is a common mistake we make because from the time we are small, we are acculturated to behave a certain way, think a certain way, and have certain values. We are taught by mass culture the "proper" way to have a life. For most people, their lives will differ from these ideals but maybe in smaller ways. For those of us with disabilities or radically different brains.... Our happiness, our functionality, is going to look radically different. And we might spend the rest of our lives trying to come to terms with this.... We might spend the rest of our lives trying to accept ourselves in the context we have been raised in.
But really, if listening to Me and Emily by Rachel Proctor can make you THAT happy, why would you even bother to try? Why force yourself into a box that is that ill-fitting when you could be so happy if you just accepted that the things that make you happy are not going to be the same as others, and the things that make you upset are not going to be the same as others, either? Why chase an ever changing , fleeting definition of "normalcy" all your life when real happiness is so easily attainable?
True, there may be some compromising, in as far as you want to be able to connect with or integrate with the world around you. But there might not have to be as much as you think. Joy begets joy, if you are truly in the place where you were meant to be.
I only hope that I can remember this and find a way to live it - instead of merely writing about it as it occurs to me. Time...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKU5wkATl9w Video of song
If you like this, please be sure to visit my other website, Accepting Asperger's. A lot of my older writing is stored here, including an editorial I once wrote for the Baltimore Sun. Click here to see it: Accepting Asperger's.
What's it really like to be a 20 something with Asperger's? On this blog, I hope to explore that question. But this blog is not just limited to an audience of people in their 20s - this is for anyone who ever wanted to know anything about autism. I plan to delve into the nature and experience of autism, and examine it from as many angles as possible. I would like to start a conversation between people with Asperger's or autism, parents of kids with autism spectrum disorders, and anyone who just wants to know more. Let's explore what autism means, together.
My goal is to start a discussion on and build a community of people affected by autism - parents and adults with ASD - so feel free to leave your two cents in the comments section of any post. If you're too shy for that, however, or want to speak to me personally, you may feel free to email me at KGoldfie@gmail.com.
Asperger's Book for Sale
Common Scents: Adventures with Autism and Chemical Sensitivity" is the story of a young woman's search for physical and emotional safety as she journeys through the mountains of the Cascades, small coastal towns on the Oregon coast, and out-of the-way towns in upstate New York. Along the way, she experiences things she would never have dreamed possible had she stayed in her Maine hometown, and begins to learn the power of human connection.
Common Scents is the story of the last three years of my life. It gives a gripping view of what it is like to experience the world as someone on the autistic spectrum, and some would say, is an entertaining travel story as well. Because of chemical sensitivities, I engaged on a three year journey for a place I could call home.
Comments from readers:
"The Asperger's element is remarkable. I feel that I understand my son better, so much better. I laughed at this part.... because I've stared at my son in the same way for the same thing." - mother of an Asperger's kid
"Your writing style is SO engaging and interesting. It brings me right into the subject and I always experience a little emotional punch towards the end. In other words, this is the third time I've teared-up reading your work. Kate, you've highlighted ALL the problems with how social skills are usually taught." - mother of ASD kid
"I stayed up entirely too late reading the first 14 pages. I can relate to so much of what you write. I really think you are expressing the true experience with MCS and autism in words that convey the experience." person with chemical sensitivity (MCS)
"Absolutely interesting, insightful and witty. You've blended together your three themes beautifully (Asperger's, MCS and travelling). It seems seamless."