52 Weeks of One True Yes and One True No
Join me in a year of unmasking, and find a more authentic you 🥳 🤷 🥰 🤔
Intermittently in my life, I feel myself waking up. A new burst of inspiration and understanding comes, and I feel ALIIIIVEEEEE. I see the world around me and inhabit my body better, stop living so completely in my head.
This has happened recently. Perhaps because of the extended time of permitted self-isolation. A friend sent me this article about autism as being like natural enlightenment and I found myself vibrating with joy and inspiration for the first time in a while.
Please read the piece, by Kelsey Jean Marie and let me know what you think.
It’s a fascinating take on autism, and it rings true to me. Probably because I want it to. Hello, confirmation bias, my good friend. I hate thinking of myself as 'disordered' aka ASD. (Boooo. ASC is a bit better.)
Maybe this is some major white Messiah complex b.s. of wanting to be a superhero rather than disabled, but I can’t help it. Parts of the article speak to me.
My ability to tune into the wonder of the natural world has often drawn comment from people. People have declared my capacity for empathy special or unusual. Over the top, actually. It's genuinely been a problem. I’ve given some people many more chances than they deserved. I seem to be able to see the best in people, to the extent that it can leave me vulnerable to abuse.
I am forgiving to a fault. I just feel so sorry for people if they seem to be in pain. I can’t help it. Do you relate?
I’ve always veered between feeling like a bit of a dimwit and feeling slightly Jesus-esque, because of this capacity for forgiveness. (In my early twenties I kicked around the idea of starting my own religion - true story.)
But Kelsey approaches this part of some autistic people’s experience in an entirely different way, and I find that incredibly exciting.
What if this natural enlightenment is something I can cultivate? How much more constructive might that be than the endless hiding/masking project that I've wasted so much time on thus far?
As you know if you read regularly, I’ve been taking some time to think about what I want to write about. What would my passion projects be if I hadn't had to get sober and have so much therapy and get a diagnosis, and all that heavy stuff? Who might I be if I hadn’t had to struggle so much just to survive?
John Pendal, an autistic life coach I met, told me about a powerful exercise to uncover your authentic self (or to begin ‘unmasking’).
“Each week practice saying ‘yes’ to one thing that’s just for you and ‘no’ to one thing you don’t want to do. It doesn’t matter how big or small the things are. It might be ‘yes’ to something that reduces your anxiety but you were always told off for doing – or ‘no’ to going somewhere where you’ll have to mask to fit in. It’s up to you what they are, but I’ve seen clients grow and find their voice using this method.”
In the next phase of this newsletter, I’m going to try this, and share the results. I’d love you to do the same.
52 weeks of unmasking. Each week, you say ‘yes’ to one thing that’s just for you and ‘no’ to one thing that’s not for you. Then we share results.
What do you think? Would you like to join me in this quest?
Currently, we are isolating as my partner has Covid. So the NOs have taken care of themselves. Everything was canceled and so I haven't had to worry about managing my social energy.
As for YES, I have made a commitment to go and see the sunrise tomorrow morning with a friend (virtually). This may not sound like much, but if you consider that I have been wanting to watch the sunrise for about ten years, and haven’t been able to make it happen due to what I now understand as autistic inertia, then this little victory becomes pretty huge.
I’m going to set my alarm for an hour before sunrise, make a flask of hot chocolate, and drive out to the peregrine watchpoint. IT’S SO EXCITING.
Y E S
I hope some of you will come along with me on this quest to unmask/stop faking/find the most authentic version of you.
And please share your YES and NO if you’re feeling inspired! They can be tiny or gigantic - it all counts.
ICYMI: I am asking people to consider filling out this survey. I explained why in my last post. Here’s a video explaining, too.
Invitation to fill out a survey: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/75JFYY8
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You can connect with the Autistic community on Twitter. If you have a question, use #ActuallyAutistic or #AskingAutistics (or both). You can also visit The Autism Self Advocacy Network and the Autistic Not Weird Facebook page and website.
Chelsey Flood is the author of Infinite Sky and Nightwanderers, and a senior lecturer in creative writing at UWE University. She writes about freedom, addiction, nature and love at Beautiful Hangover, and autism and self-compassion at Polite Robot. She is also working on a new YA novel.