Struggling to Understand an Over-Politicized Nation

Struggling to Understand an Over-Politicized Nation

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My grandfather holding the flag at the very first Flag Day. An Italian immigrant, he loved being an American.

I do not usually talk about politics, but I find myself in a precarious position today. Many issues we face as humans have somehow become political, when they are ethical, personal, or simply in regard to human survival. I believe these issues are; the arts, the environment, education, and health. We as a society seem to have lost the ability to discuss these particular topics, without a party slogan, and without thinking that there are only two sides to every issue – Conservative or Liberal, Republican or Democrat. My feelings on human issues that have been politicized deepened today when an article dropped in my news box about the new open carry law in Georgia.  Though I am a pacifist, I have remained respectful that others do not see the world the same way I do, understanding that guns to some are essential to their way of life. I do not understand why the freedom to own was not enough and that we must have the freedom to be battle-ready at all times, in any place.  I feel this new law leaves the political arena, and imposes itself on the health and well-being of others (health being one of the issues I feel is a human issue).  My fear of co-existing in a state I have called home for 37 years has increased exponentially with this law, filling me with anxiety.  After a 10 year hiatus, I even experienced a night terror this week.

This feeling about the new gun law poked at my thoughts and feelings on the other issues that have been politicized.  Issues that have been tortured in the political arena, to the point that the issue itself is obscured by a party stance. It made me think about how politicization has perhaps suffocated the arts (especially in education), turned schools into testing labs, allowed us to blatantly pollute our world, and further restricted healthcare to poor Americans just to express ones opposition of the Affordable Healthcare Act. While many people are stepping onto the shores of anarchy, I ask: What is it you wish to accomplish? Are we really fighting to defend a way of life that allows all citizens to be created equal? Are we making history of which future generations will be proud?  Are we loving our neighbor?

It is in this moment that my autism stands like a stark, cold edifice in the center of my mind.  I get overrun with feelings that conflict with my logic – How is it I can love humanity so deeply while simultaneously being highly annoyed by people?  I cannot understand why society spends millions upon millions of dollars searching for a way to cure me, labeling me as lacking empathy, while they who cast this upon the ASD population are drowning in their own opposition to anything that does not benefit only them.  Is that not the very definition of apathy?

The world whispers to me in beautiful waves of sound.  The music of the human soul, and the music of the earth’s soul in harmonious counterpoint, express an amazing love for one another.  But people are growing increasingly deaf to this musical dance in exchange for the cacophony of human discord.  And to what end?  What we create here on earth we cannot take with us beyond the grave, so why only serve ourselves?  Besides, the only thing we can really do for ourselves is create memories of us in the minds of others.  We cannot control our death.  All else we do is for others – for humans, for animals, for trees, all life in and beyond our immediate scope – doing for them by way of generosity, love, and the types of innovation that leave a better world than was left by our ancestors. Perhaps I am being over analytical, and I do realize that my honesty here has made me a target for a lashing by those who oppose what I value.  I suppose I will have to just accept that.

I will keep my autism and carry it with me forever, as I would rather live this life misunderstood and tyrannized, than to waste my life pursuing an illusory need to be justified.  I will sing.  I will dance.  I will love others.  I just won’t be so quiet about it anymore.

Stones

Stones

IMG_1298When I speak in pubic about autism, the question that continuously comes up, in many different phrases is “does my child with autism love me?”  It’s a very difficult question for me to answer, because it saddens to me to think that parents feel unloved by their autistic children.  It saddens me more to think that a child must continuously prove their love to a parent through socially acceptable gestures, and that those gestures are confined to the few our society defines.

A hug, a kiss, a smile, a gentle touch, or the words “I love you,”  and perhaps to a few, non-verbal hints given with looks or presence.  Does love, or compassion, have to be delivered in a pre-defined box – I have a heart shaped box filled with candy, therefore I love you?  If I think of you, is that not enough?  What is enough?  What happens when love is shown in such new and unexpected ways?

Perhaps I am asking age old questions that persist even outside of the autism world.  These may be questions no one knows the answers to as they struggle to exchange recognition.  Yet, when put into the autism world, they are burdened with a new layer of strife between parent and child, adding the questions “Does my autistic child love me, or do others in my life just pretend to love me?”  Nothing can rattle a cage more than uncertainty.

I do not possess the wisdom to answer all these questions, but I can tell you a story.  A story of a piece of me so close to my heart, that I have never spoken of it.  Despite the intense vulnerability exposed by my revelation, I hope it gives all of you some solace and understanding.

 

Struggling with Love

As a young child I was clingy with some, yet avoided contact with others.  Contact from others was welcome on some days, and forbidden on different days.  As I got older, this attitude seemed to become more complicated, and I grew distant from those I had allowed contact with me in my past.  I understood hugging for comfort, but not for social expression, like when people hug to say hello or thank you.  I wanted to connect, but only on my terms.  I needed to understand why I was being touched and hold a reciprocal feeling.

As I grew older, I realized others wanted hugs too, but I couldn’t for the life of me read when.  One afternoon, while sitting with a friend who was recanting pain he was feeling with someone at school, I began to feel a vibration inside me.  I recognized he was in pain and needed comfort, but as his need grew, so did that vibration inside me.  By the time he was nearly to tears, I could no longer move.  No matter how much my understanding of his needs became clear, the vibration inside me would not let me comfort him with contact.  To this day, I do not think I have ever hugged him at a time of need.  I just stand there like a tree.

What was worse is my words get all jumbled up.  I struggle to find comfort words, so I spit out “I’m sorry” and then immediately go to work trying to dish out advice that could make his pain go away.  So why can I give words of advice and not words of comfort?  Easy, words of advice come from my highly accessible logical process, while emotional words come from my nearly inaccessible emotional process.

 

A Movie had the Answer

As time went on, and my friends had more problems they needed to unload, I became filled with these intense vibrations.  The vibrations even obstructed my own feelings to the point I had no idea what to do.  I would get sick to my stomach, giving me sensations much like ulcers.  No matter what I tried to do for my friends, I only dished out the advice.  Granted, the advice worked for most of them and they returned to get the advice, but it came at a price.  I became the friend they vented to but rarely the friend they invited to partake in activities that involved emotional exchanges – happy or sad.

Frustrated and wanting to show my emotion on the outside, I turned to my rock collection.  Yes, I said rock collection.  In the movie With Honors (a 1990’s movie with Joe Pesci and Brendan Fraser that I love), the character Simon Wilder collects stones as memories.  When he wanted to revisit the memory, he rubbed the stone to take himself back.  I was fascinated by this idea.

I pulled out my rock collection, and mentally labeled each one of them as a friend I was worried about.  When I was overwhelmed with this worry, I would pull out the stones and look at them, rub them, or hold them.  As my friends increased, and the number of their woes, I assigned little stones to the big people stones, and ended up with stone families.

My love for my friends and family didn’t come out the way people are accustomed to physically expressing their compassion, but I still cared.  Through my stones, I touched them with my thoughts, and cradled them in my hands.  For me, compassion is such a heavy emotion to bear, that I cannot move when directly facing it.  It was the stones that allowed me to be more for my friends, even if they never saw it.  I didn’t need credit, nor did I need my compassion witnessed by the recipient for approval.  I just needed a place to put it.

The picture above is of all my stones, hidden among the decor in my house.  As people pass out of my life, by death or just simply because life takes them another way, my worry subsides and they are transferred from the stone to my memory.  Their stone is passed on to another that enters my life.  In the special cases where the parting of a friend or family member leaves a hole inside me, I take their rock to a place I want to leave them, and I part with it forever.

Maybe stones are not hugs, or kisses, or facial expressions of sympathy, but they are symbols of my compassion.  Compassion that is deeply placed within me and far too delicate to expose.  Perhaps your autistic child, or friend, or relative, cannot show you compassion in the way you wish.  Though I ask you to believe me when I tell you that compassion is indeed there, waiting to be accepted no matter how it may be expressed.

Don’t Be Afraid to Love Me

Don’t Be Afraid to Love Me

ImageDon’t be afraid to love me, I am not so weak and fragile,
There is no need for pity, or to feel you are using me.
I’m not the weak, the poor, or the broken in need of your protection,
Despite the words scribes use in books, your love cannot exploit me.

 

Others were afraid to truly love, they merely played the game,
Pieces of me fell to the floor, kicked briskly by their pride.
The pain I felt they blamed on me, but really it was just a veil,
Made of their fragility, and woven in their jail.
Just because I have a name for what at birth I am,
They cannot stand among the blameless for choices they have made.

Don’t be afraid to love me, to break yourself free of wonting,
Run from your pretend little universe, your propagated image of me.
Inside us all are meandering songs, we crafted in our youth,
The days before accepted customs, subdued our imaginary friends.

The world unbridled invades our hearts, painting their decrees on walls,
Do not let them fool you for they are vandals masked as scholars;
Mocking dreams you once cherished, like pictures sold with frames.
Exchanging your wonder for specters, for them it’s just a game.

Punch out the mirrors reflecting the norm, listen harder to my silence,
The loudest words I’ll ever sing, are hiding underneath.
Start to dance unchained from the ordinary, and I will meet you there,
And maybe for the very first time, you’ll awake to ecstasy.

Don’t be afraid to love me.

Bridges

Imagethere’s this bridge I’m looking for
i don’t know where it goes
but I’m sure it spans the distance
between our shores

on foot’s the only way I see
to trek this life, no short cuts be
who said that building bridges
was an easy toll to pay

my shores are blue and yours are gold
my sun is high and your’s is low
i have 3 moons, you just have one
in the sky when work is done
you see two-thousand twinkling stars
looking up from where you are
but cross the bridge and you will see
a million more including me

trees they reach to touch the light
though they have no eyes for sight
clean the air and shade our heads
as we eat our daily plight

there’s just one lesson here today
don’t judge me by the words you’ve made
just close your eyes and sing this song
I’ve been writing all along

my shores are blue and yours are gold
my sun is high and your’s is low
I have 3 moons, you just have one
in the sky when work is done
you see two-thousand twinkling stars
looking up from where you are
but cross the bridge and you will see
a million more including me

Farewell Catarina, Farewell to Love

As I am a creature of patterns, though there is a vast difference between patterns and repetitious outcomes that slap me in the face. Despite my prodigious optimism, to see past persistant repetitious outcomes, I am mourning the reality that one particular area of my life may be settled into a pattern opposite of what I desire. The area of romantic love.

Despite my best efforts, it occurs to me that the universe has somehow thrust into me a desire to fall in love, but had been too busy to put me in love’s reach. The passion in me feels effervescent, pushing through to the surface, and translated into tender movements that none desire of me, at least not for any reason past their own selfish sensations. It’s as if I am a flower that some desire to watch bloom, but do not wish to wallow in the scent.

I am doused with confusion. Why is the world from which I hear such sweet melodies, filled with such paltry moments? When it comes to love, are people purposefully disguised as mirages?

I fear that my writings of my youth are all too insightful. Perhaps it was insight, not naivety, that led my pen to create Catarina, a girl who thought that her love for music was so great, she would never feel the arms of romantic love.

As I write this, I realize I have no clever quotes to give, or stories to tell. The pain is just to great. So, tonight I play the sounds of love’s departure from me. I suppose I was not built to share romantic love, I was built only to bottle it in song. Should you ever see a melody from me called Farewell Catarina, you will know it is my farewell to love.

I Heard This in the Shadows

It has been a tough couple of weeks.  Love seems outside my grasp, no matter how brave I am or how deep into the darkness I reach.  So, the shadows grew louder, and louder, and louder, to the point that the melody made my nerve endings pulse – like when you have spent 4 hours at a heavy metal concert and you can still feel each beat in your lips and finger tips.On a rare occasion, the shadows carry a few words with the tune.  Haunting in nature, the words come in small, angry mobs, directing themselves toward the one I feel is responsible for my pain.  This time, the words were abstract and vague.  I am angry at no one.  I blame no one.  It just the pain of keeping to myself, and the throbbing of a void.I heard this in the shadows:

Lies can’t protect you, all they do is kick you out
There are no words, gifts were already exchanged
Six inches from you is where I stood,
But the forest has no trees
Passion burned them down
Cause you didn’t put out the rage

I can’t fight or I’ll die
I can’t drown or I’ll live
I can’t be everything you don’t want me to be
But when I’m left to just be, 
I’m visible to only me.


The tune is whispered by voice, and carried by guitar.  Its simple, its sad and stranded on a isle in my mind.  Maybe some day I will be brave enough to share it.  Right now, though, I will keep it close for it is my only companion.  The only painful reality that I must sling over my shoulders like a dead albatross is that I am a walking song; I’m only loved until the tune is faded by the sounds of a different one.

Am I Capable of Love?

Am I capable of love? The biblical definition of love says love in not selfish and does not seek itself.  Yet the people who ask me that question claim to have it – love, a great love, a deeper understanding of love and the open-mind necessary to comprehend love.
Am I capable of love?  What if I were to give you a gift right now? No matter who you are or what you have done, a gift with no expectations from you. Listen to my music, listen to me play my violin.  Do you hear it? I am giving you the gift of music.  My gift is not wrapped in a pretty wrapper or something you can display on a shelf – but it is a gift born of a labor of love.  It is the most I can give because it is the sum of all my parts.  Most say they cannot deny that I love music because they see it in me when I play.  They see love, that is.  So what makes one think I cannot see that in myself?  Is it a mistake? Do I know know what I do?  There are many things born of innocence, but intent is not one of them.  It is by my intent that I share love through music, not my innocence.
Am I capable of love?  When love has left me I have cried.  I cried with my violin, I cried with my soul and sometimes, I even cry with my eyes.  When love left, the pieces of me were so sopping wet with sadness that everything inside me was drained into shapeless, colorless, odorless pools from which the savages of depression did drink.  Yet no one questions if I am capable of pain or sadness or hurt.
Am I capable of love?  I hear a song in everything I see.  The songs of shadows sing to me in ways that people have sometimes forgotten,  Shadows do not wear social masks and are visible in even the lowest light.  And though the edges may sometime be blurry, the hope with which love is coupled still whispers its tune.  I hear love everywhere I hear music.
Am I capable of love?  Are you?
Laura Nadine