Ask an Aspergirl

Essays and poems about Autistic experience, mental illness, & (post-) ABD life

Tag: freewrite

I am / I am not

I am here — this I know — and yet I am not. My feet hit the ground, while my brain travels further away; to worries of what will be — to what is not yet. I am okay. I am not okay. I no longer know what that word means. I’m trying to describe a state distant from myself. Could we avoid that dialogue entirely?

I am a writer. I am not writing. Not for me, but for a broader scientific voice. I’m not ready — for the morning to come again — for the night that lingers. I want to see outside myself. I am too far buried in this ever-present tired.

I am not fast enough, I fear. I sit with an unfinished document — ideas explored at the surface level. I am not me. I am coping and doing and telling myself the things I need to do. I am lingering over spaces — with lengthy pauses between actions.

I am not sure how long I will feel this way — a low battery — a flickering light — a buzzing hum. I feel the words coming more slowly, processing at a pace that feels heavy. I am unsure. I sit with scribbled words, trying to name a state I’d rather see leave. But it is absence. I find myself again in these fleeting moments of connection.

When the words return and I find release.

I am lost in this space of wandering through, wanting to simultaneously reject and claim the names for the milemarkers. I am here. I am not here. Uncomfortably far away from myself, longing to return to a place I recognize. I map my journey so far; longing for patterns and sensemaking. Where I made a wrong turn — settling into metaphors of storms and roads.

These intentionally drawn diagrams try to show me where I am. In the all-too-long middle. In what I fear will never be. I am not sure of myself anymore. I’ve been derailed a series of times — only to return here — too fast and too slow — utterly overwhelmed, then exhausted.

I don’t know how to be here, but I am nonetheless. I am unsure of present — future — will be. I don’t trust my words to adequately describe this space. I fear I am not enough for this. I want to describe what I cannot name — to say it aloud would be to enter a place of not knowing.

I see myself going through the motions, wishing for more explicit directions. A model to follow. A certainty I wish I believed. If / then — a recipe for what next. A paint by numbers for a life I’m still exploring.

I am working through; I am managing — still trying to understand these concepts. Sometimes dialogue feels like Mad Libs. I fill in what is expected. Unsure of how to further describe this weary silence.

 

Into entropy

In such turbulent times, I feel smaller and lapse into doubt and disbelief. When suffering is so relative and my life feels rather slow. And yet my mind worries, perhaps coming from before. But this day-to-day is long enough. I cannot imagine mass-scale casualties or loss of lives. And ideology of violence and  hatred feels too abstract.

Chaos reigns, said the fox. We go into entropy. My thoughts overly examine will overwhelm. When there are not enough lists to contain the will be’s on this tiny dot of green and blue. It’s hard to imagine a year from now without falling apart into blank pages — all I see is not yet and I don’t know and the vast lostness of what I cannot know yet.

This turbulence happens on a micro-scale: missed bus, forgotten meds taken close enough, trying to imagine  recreating my network of professionals.  I stare into the storm of will be’s, when the list of nows could overwhelm.

There will always be things left to do is hope and reassurance.  Damnation and statement of fact. I could imagine myself through this space, but I lack the imagery.  In these turbulent times, my problems feel small and yet this life of doing enough and being with this precarious enough.

I feel like a spider whose web is facing winds and rain; nearly blown away, but threads remain. In these turbulent times, I cannot process everything at once, or see beyond myself. Global pain is an abstraction. Over there captured in imagery that comes to my screen in 140 characters and infographics.

We share personal narratives to make sense of these larger patterns. A chorus of me toos on #ThatAbleistScript. My day-to-day barely touches this larger space — mine is getting by and hoping for more; while doing what I can, wondering if it’s enough.

My emotional weather is enough to track. Problem-not-to-scale are problems enough. Tracking the befores and afters, hoping a pattern would emerge. Because sensemaking is comforting. And yet so much of this storm predates me.

I don’t know how to have a conversation with you. Instead we talk of cooking fish and doing errands. There’s a script we’re both following with parenthetical dialogue. The storm passed; is passing — but the narration is absent.

In these turbulent times, I need an emergency power-down switch. Before overload comes, I wish my brain would tell me how I’m feeling. And yet that usually comes from fictional characters. Body and brain in disconnect — sometimes asleep at the controls.

In these turbulent times, I’m catching up with myself. Running down checklists of tasks I wish weren’t mine. Making up certainties from an imaginary will be. I’m not there yet. This waiting place is task enough. What next? A fictional future appears.

I tire more easily these days. As if my body knows what my brain will not reveal. In these times, normal is relative, ill-defined. I have so many stories that remain my own, but what if community emerged.

What if we are creating this busyness? In failing to rest, we miss this obligation to ourselves. I get lost in the not yet, fearing what I cannot anticipate. External turbulence is pervasive, yet inexperienced. The end draws near for some, yet here we are.

It all seems so random — maybe this turbulence is entropy, the chaos of a universe behaving like a toddler, toys scattered across the floor. Until Legos press into skin — leaving indentions.

How can we can we steady ourselves in a space unknown. Unexplored. Too vast to imagine anyone but ourselves. People not like us become monsters, dissidents, the ill-fitting. Am I us? Are you us?

What keeps our planet steady when we are not? We are pieces of stardust in a seemingly limitless galaxy. We are nothing and everything. We are enough to be with this chaos.

In the first sips of coffee

Until she walked out the door, the day had barely started — it was on pause in the darkness of her apartment; coffee mug left beside a screen of other people’s lives. In this cave-like space, the world remains at bay, email unchecked, lights low — eggs remembered via the light above.

She sits somewhere between worry and doing — alarm reminding her to “take her damn meds” rings loudly. Dose charted, day continues. Behind a screen of retweets and favorites, a series of hashtags, is a collection of stories; what #TraumaMeans, #OverloadMeans. Stories of not-entirely-strangers who know more about their lives than their neighbors do.

Until she walked out the door, into them sunlight, only now remains. Though future and past attempt to creep in — fears of support networks fading, the uncompleted deadlines, and the uncontrollable in-between. But this was now — in the first sips of coffee, in the barely awake, trying not to plan the day away.

She sits with the lives of people she’s never met — in sentence-long summaries revealing more than an hour of conversation. What would it be like to not talk around, to state directly? To live with, to exist beside this lingering fear of what might be? What might be is too close and too far away. She is here in-between.

Before she steps through the morning, she is here — bite to fork, fork to mouth. Rising for more coffee, to return to a seated position — wishing she could stay here; waiting for the day to begin.

Before anything happens, there is worry. As if it appeared rather than was self-created. She is worry. In the waiting for what might be, in the hope of continuing to try, imagining a what could be, will be, in the terrifying not yet. The being with these fears of leaving and being left. Of wondering what then and finding herself here in the wondering.

In the conversations with herself of “Is this supposed to be what I’m doing.” Yet I am here now. Not entirely sure where I’m going, but stepping forward, only to look back. You are here — like those signs in the mall orienting you to a dizzying space. In preparation for what’s to come, I want to experience now — to anticipate a will be for women like me and then create it.

This living in-between is the hardest space. The fear of not enough until it is tolerable. To be in this space of not knowing and fearing is exhausting. To talk through worry loops and the few knowns.

You are here. Waiting for a later being slowly created for women like you, for you, by you, and this work is disorienting. Not knowing how you fit, into a space of learned recognition. This is now. In cups of coffee and brief encouragements between the blank spaces. This is hope living between the known and will be.

This is enough — to sit with these lingering fears and coming acceptance. Knowing feels impossible, as I anticipate a murky hope.

The small madnesses of ritual

We keep coming back to this place — in these small madnesses of continuing on. I find myself yet again in your office trying to find words for the slowing of thoughts. These broken routines and rituals — 2 bus rides there and back, away from the comforting back and forth of books. Perhaps I romanticize the past in these small madnesses.

In the continuing on, sitting here when my brain feels much further away — across from you. We engage in this mechanistic dialogue. What are your options? In the uncertainties of meds, the weariness of pushing self. The wishing you had an opinion you could openly share — knowing you can’t tell me what to do; wishing you would. Between A and B is a series of interconnected diagonals.

And so we sit — what are your options? I don’t know. Tell me? I wish I could make this dissipate. For you I would. But I’ve been in this chair long enough to know I can’t. This hurts — a place of familiar indecision. Here’s where I was and here I sit today — feeling stuck. Wishing we were getting somewhere — three weeks ago was a series of readings and papers — following the syllabi, not knowing how to fill in the in-between.

I know this feeling well — that I will be spent and broken. And only this stuckness will remain. You needed to do something concrete. I understand. Adulting is terrifying at times. I have to make this better or fear the falling apart — familiar fear quickened by lack of space to cope. Not alone in this, but you know yourself. I wonder sometimes; as I try to separate myself from the needs of others.

I am exploring perhaps — in this fixed place. Are you finding yourself in corners, longing not to be? No, that remains the same. I sit across from you wanting to feel better, be better — not knowing how. I verbalize these long sublimated fears — wanting to disconfirm them. Not knowing how.

Your claims of support and being with feel real enough — in this routine sharing of muddled thoughts and feelings, I doubt myself yet again. Wanting to convey this experience lingering in my brain space — this is hard. I know. She wishes for a well-worn path. In normalizing this weariness, does the isolation lessen? Fears and doubts shared aloud.

Hoping to see you in 3 weeks as things keep getting done — seeing resolution. She continues on toward the door — down the hallway back to campus. Perhaps that’s enough, she thought. Letting these hopes sustain her in the weariness of in-between.

Show me the place where I fit.

I long for a land that’s free from explanations — a space that’s mine. The interwebs were a start, a collection of words transmitted across these bounded spaces — to women who understand because they’ve lived it too. To feel utterly isolated, but not know why is terrifying. We grow tired of all of the words necessary to feel heard — the explaining, reexplaining, the doing the best we can; not sure if it’s enough.

Knowing just how hard managing can be, still is. We become incredible self-advocates — keepers of our own stories — because we have to — to be ourselves; to find a measure of self-understanding. As we learn to believe ourselves. Of course this is a thing, she replied. It just is and you are thriving. Perhaps you’ll notice that too in these found, transformed safe spaces.

In text, in verse, in exchanges of retweets and favorited messages; we are found. We are loved. First here, then in real life. Can we really distinguish between these spaces? Safety. Communication. Assured mutual support. Perhaps that’s enough.

We’re not just practicing; we’re living, becoming ourselves — across timezones. In a series of 140 characters. In images shared. In complexities of thought somehow expressed in 2 to 3 lines. It’s another way of being, reminded we are “different, not less” — conventional pragmatics as a second language.

How are we doing this? Don’t know… but we are; she stopped explaining — leaving space to merely be. Watch me be — learn for yourself. Perhaps you’ll watch as intently as I do, trying to be heard; longing to understand, to be understood — across settings feels impossible. Too vulnerable. So I try in this series of spaces, hoping these verbalizations will stick.

Get off me, shame! You’re not mine. Sticks like magnets. I shake you off again. Hoping for an internalized sense of safety, I listen intently to your words, longing to believe them, knowing I will.

I am slowly becoming myself across these mediums — learning to find my fit. It’s not due to my lack of trying when you miss the point. These words are coherent, but not easily understood. Explaining. Rephrasing. Saying them again. Maybe I’ll be heard. And yet I’m not to blame for these misunderstandings. That’s not my shame. It’s yours. I shake it off slowly.

I am learning to be myself — slowly. There is nothing wrong with you. That felt sense of wrong isn’t yours. Never belonged to you. It was left for you by a series of short-sided, distant, emotionally distracted people. They tried, but it wasn’t enough. Never was. But you are, enough I mean. Finding you belong. Your own narrative in this collage of stories.

Getting unstuck is exhausting, but worthwhile work — out of the muck and mire, you emerge slowly. But in this process, you are enough. Continuing on. Learning to be, without pushing or pressuring. Speaking. Verbalizing. Waiting for understanding to stick.

It will, she said reassuringly. And it — and you — will be enough.

Because of, not in spite of, yourself

“You are known and loved — because of, not in spite of, yourself. You have people who care about you.” These are the reminders running though my brain and eventually a list of names fills the page.

I’ve often wondered what to do in the midst of uncertainties, and I keep coming back to this phrase: “You are known and loved.” By whom? I feel like I’m leaving my faith behind; sometimes it’s leaving me and yet these words stay — perhaps known by the people I’ve let in via shared stories, acknowledgment of emotional states.

I grew up reminded that I was loved and yet feeling known as well was harder. My pen knew me; my journal knew those lines that forced themselves from my brain onto the page. To be known is to be acknowledged, seen for who you’re afraid to be — as it no longer matters what you’ve been expected to express.

I’m trying to come up with a dialogue beyond these scripted lines. This is hard, finding the words amongst the pressure of okay to come — not knowing how to express these thoughts and ideas. “How are you actually doing?” “Is ‘I don’t know’ an acceptable response?”

I’d like to know — drawn in to a place where the words expressed and the reverberations in my brain match. You are known and loved — by yourself perhaps. The others are a secondary, ongoing portion of this process.

In the sharing, in the telling, you are known. This is the closest thing to what’s actually going on for me now. Sometimes I fear I’m too much for you, so in the brief asides and references, the bypassed words said at twice the speed — to be noticed or retracted — maybe I’m waiting for permission.

In these roundabout ways, I come closer to acknowledging myself — the litany of concerns I’m wondering if I can transform into a narrative. In longing to be heard, I wonder where to start — you are known and loved — in the metaphor and pasted together phrases This is what is, and I know it’s frightening and overwhelming at times, but this is where you are.

Found in the knowing; seen in the monologue that hopes to be shared; loved in what is — even when it’s a list of worries. Because of, not in spite of, in the just is.

Light

"lights dancing in the darkness" by Thomas Lieser

“lights dancing in the darkness” by Thomas Lieser (CC By-NC-SA 2.0)

All of my light references seem to be biblical — let there be… burden is… light, I suppose. And yet I also find light oppressive; too bright, too sunny as I sit in my hide cave — as I’ve so labeled my dimly lit space. Low lights are calming. My little apartment is surrounded with small sources of light — a desk lamp, light by the kitchen table, lights above, lights below.

Blinds and curtains hide from the encroaching sunlight — keeping me in its grey grasp; when it’s all too much, I dim the lights.

I suppose my street used to be fully lit. The street lights stand as witnesses to an earlier time — when it felt safe to venture outside in the dark — making a path to a no longer there grocery, a neighborhood that spreads to the highway — no longer a walkable space.

And there was — darkness and calm — heaviness, burden — uneasiness — bugs circle the few remaining porch lights, often left on by mistake — forgotten sources.

Light — there was — there is — in the cars that pass by, the few neighboring businesses that remain as the block turns over — to condominiums and high rise apartments. Don’t they need lights — a space to cross without feeling wary of the figures behind you, in front of us — the ones we avoid in the dark.

Maybe they won’t see us jumping from light to light.

Why are there so many streetlamps — but so few in working order, we wonder — trying to decide if it’s too late to run a quick errand. There was light, but they are fading. Light passes by. Never stays.

You don’t know me, a rant

No, really, I actively avoid your calls because you don’t know me — don’t try to know me — not really. “Don’t waste your PhD, like your mother wasted her degree,” he said. You don’t know me. You’re living with my grandmother — I talk to her, not you.

That talk at Christmas was a gift — acting as if anything — some semblance of a relationship was there — Here’s who I am and what I’m doing, but you don’t deserve that.

“I wasn’t always a good father — but I loved you — I tried harder than my dad.” Trying to be someone isn’t enough — you need a plan. You don’t know me because I won’t let you in — again, after watching you pretend everything was normal. I’d like to pull out the slideshow sometime:

This is me, hiding in my room — this is you, yelling at mom, her crying, you screaming accusations — needed her to be someone other than who she is. This is me distancing myself; this is you hugging me as I recoil slightly. This is me, watching, waiting, wondering how you don’t recognize your dad in you.

You don’t know how hard I’ve worked to shake off the fear, the memories of silence intermingled with strings of obscenities reverberating in my mind. You don’t know the adult me, who feels like she’s constantly piecing herself back together, returning to the present. Reminding herself that you’re not an authority on anything — then feeling the sadness in that absence.

I don’t trust you to know me. What would you do with me? As I become myself, I’m distancing myself from you, not knowing what you could do to find space in my life — not wanting you in my space — Mine! My quiet, my people, my time; no longer waiting for you to decide what we do with our paper doll family.

I don’t know if you ever  knew me — you knew the cutout paper version of me — still and quiet, waiting for you to leave — surprised at the quiet.

This is what I need now — to see you as a horrible person with no place in my life — in the stark black-and-white, no grey — we’ve tried grey. I’ve seen you in the familial tragedy and saddened adolescent self — BUT you can’t see me! Maybe you don’t want to — I suppose you’d realize what a shitty father you’d been if you did.

In the conversations I’ve been there to repair, in the sads and that would hurt — but I need you to see that, to recognize who you’ve become, if inadvertently — not so far away from the man who’s alienated his sons, and screams at cows. The one whom you’ve avoided across holidays.

I suppose you know what this feels like — to hide and mourn — then pause, to feel stuck — but you’ve distanced yourself from that experience.

You’re too far away to see me.

 

It was just then, at the end of everything

“It was just then, at the end of everything” — she knew things would have to change, but how? Did she change in hopes of shaping the environment around herself? Would she wait for the seemingly uncontrollable to somehow move?

Just then, at the end of everything, she gave up — on knowing what she was supposed to do — as if there was some plan before her — on knowing what was real, what was objectively happening. She is living in the in-between —

What do I do when I’m exhausted and confused?

You embrace it.

(Seriously?)

Yeah, this is where you are now. In the absence of resources or long range plans, when you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing.

This is everything. Just then and now — living in the in-between, the distant present. When sleep is elusive and burnout seems imminent. At this end — you leap — tessering to a place unknown — you can see it sometimes — an imagined this will be; but the getting there can be excruciating, bewildering.

In the “I don’t knows,” what if you just decided you’d be okay — amongst this — in the absence, you decided to tesser — not knowing; not seeing — in an unfamiliar end you lack the words to describe. What then?

It’s in this space we live — in the constant movement, the not enough time and too much to experience, in the self-doubt and fear if we stopped moving the everything would collapse into nothing. In the wondering why we’re still, in the lies to ourselves — told to comfort — that slowly become our truths — we catch ourselves mid-thought, wondering if that’s what we really meant.

We have conversations with the familiar people in absent settings — pondering “the end of everything.” How it would come — what lives there; how could we live there — imagining it’s too close.

It was just then she paused and then continued on living in this unknown in-between — and that was enough for now — even as the end loomed; she noticed it and went on with her day…

My mind’s aflutter in the quiet (with you)

Sitting, quiet, here with you — my mind’s aflutter — of things to do, questions left unanswered, wondering how you can just sit so calmly across from me; headphones in, fingers to keyboard as we both attempt at productivity.

My mind wanders to the not yet done, making lists, planning — getting lost in the will be. Where are you? The present feels elusive, the past fuzzy, in a created narrative designed to fit my expectations of what is now.

Sitting with you in the quiet, I’m waiting — maybe to pull the scattered pieces of myself back together. Where do you go mind when you’re not quite here? Thoughts going to the not here in the space between our words — anticipating your words; wondering if they’ll express where I am.

In the litany of things, I wonder where I am between —

How are you? (There’s a space between the dialogue.)

Okay — that’s all I’ve been for a while, wondering what’s beyond the managing, the getting through, the doing the next thing. (I suspect you want to hear I’m okay — an emotionless word for a state of being.)

And I wonder what it would be like to describe a state that feels slower — the just getting by — a feeling good that isn’t between periods of not yet. We have slowed the pace for a minute, maybe a 50-minute hour, catching up with myself — as I wonder about the realness of my own experience.

Is that what I’m thinking or feeling? Would naming it help — if a response to alleviate this state feels far away?

I am scattered before you as I attempt to describe this litany of concerns, maybe worries — outside the conversational to the just is — not knowing how you’ll respond and then trying to convey these thoughts — wondering if they’ll make sense to you.

“Managing is hard,” she said deliberately.

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