On March 1st, 2012 my life changed. I had no idea it was about to change. I had no idea a single blog post would impact my life the way it did. I didn’t know when I clicked on the link a commenter sent me on this blog, taking me to someone else’s blog, that I was in for the ride of a lifetime.
I had no idea.
On March 1st, 2012 I read Julia Bascom‘s post ~ The Obsessive Joy of Autism. A post she’d written almost a year before, but I was only now reading. Her post begins with this, “I am autistic. I can talk; I talked to myself for a long time before I would talk to anyone else. My sensory system is a painful mess, my grasp on language isn’t always the best, and it takes me quite some time to process social situations. I cannot yet live on my own or manage college or relationships successfully.”
I had no idea.
I have read that post half a dozen times since I discovered it. And then I read her post just preceding entitled Grabbers. “The grabbers don’t believe that we can be happy or find meaning unless we are exactly like them…”
Read that again – “The grabbers don’t believe that we can be happy or find meaning unless we are exactly like them…”
As a parent I want nothing more than for both my children to find their way toward meaningful lives, lived with purpose. That they will then also find happiness I thought was a given. Or so I always believed. Does that mean they must be like me? Do I believe that their ability to feel happiness is reduced, lessened, not relevant, inadequate, inferior, if it looks different from my idea of what constitutes meaning and happiness? Can I let go of my preconceived ideas pertaining to happiness and what that means for anyone but myself? Do I even know what happiness is for me, let alone another?
I had no idea.
These were the questions that began to gnaw at me as I read Julia’s blog, Just Stimming. I urge anyone who is not familiar with her blog to read it. Just Stimming is beautifully written as well as powerful, poignant, evocative and for me anyway, gut wrenching.
Again, from her post Grabbers – (**Words highlighted in bold are mine, as in Julia’s post those words are italicized.)
“The hands are everywhere.
They’re at our chins. “Look at me,” with a face pressed in so close to yours that you count the pores until they force your gazes to meet.”
“…protesting just means you need to be grabbed more often, with harder and more insistent hands, until you realize that the way you move is fundamentally wrong, as wrong and deficient and disturbing and dangerous as you are, and if you want to be counted as a “you” at all you must let them grab you until you can stop your self.”
I had no idea and now I realize that claim begins to ring false, even to my ears. How was it possible to not have considered this? But no.
I had no idea.
“…Until you realize that the way you move is fundamentally wrong…”
The post ends with, “In the end it just comes down to you are wrong, and for that you must be punished. It simplifies to your body is not your own, but it is mine.”
I am about four years old, we are living in the first house I ever lived in. Our baby sitter, Mrs. Williams stands guard outside the bathroom where I have been told I will stay until I have had a “bowel movement.” I am sure she will not let me leave, but I cannot go to the bathroom on command. I feel anxiety course through my body, it is as though my entire being is encased in a net, I can breathe, but I am trapped. I sit staring straight ahead, wondering how long before she begins to yell at me. I am terrified of Mrs. Williams. She smells of antiseptic soap and wears a nurses uniform that crackles when she moves and those awful white shoes you see in hospitals that sound like she’s stepped in chewing gum when she walks. Her skin is pasty white and hangs from her body as though it were half a size too big. But mostly it is her eyes, partially hidden by glasses lens that do not conceal her anger and resentment. Those eyes hurt to look at because I see so much that isn’t said.
Finally I stand, tip toe to the sink, grab my drinking cup and fill it with toilet water then pour the water back into the toilet and flush. I place the cup carefully back on the edge of the sink and wait for Mrs. Williams to open the door, allowing me to escape.
“Your body is not your own, but it is mine...”
Julia’s blog was the beginning. It showed me a different path and urged me to follow it. I did. Along the way I have found countless other blogs and have even been fortunate enough to meet many of the authors of those blogs. Because of Julia’s blog I met my mentor and friend Ibby. Because of Julia’s blog I read E.’s blog The Third Glance, which I intend to write about in the near future. Because of Julia I have become a (I hope) better parent. Because of Julia I see the world differently. Julia’s writing opened my eyes. I wonder if any of us can ever really know how deeply our words can impact another. I don’t know that anything I write here can convey what this woman has done for me or how enormously she has influenced me and because of her influence the difference she has made to my thinking and life and by extension, my daughter’s life.
Julia lit the way.
Julia created The Loud Hands Project.
Julia, with ASAN (Autistic Self Advocacy Network) put together the must read anthology, Loud Hands: Autistic People Speaking.
Julia is also the editor of the just released And Straight on Till Morning Essays on Autism Acceptance. I just downloaded this book from Amazon for $2.99 and encourage everyone to do the same!
Julia’s writing gave me insight. She confronted me with her truth. She makes me think and rethink what I believe, what I think I know and she has made me question everything. This post doesn’t do her justice. How could it?
To Julia ~ Thank you ❤