I was reading a children’s book yesterday. I wish I could remember which, but I’ve been stimming through reading the last few days and I’ve devoured more than a dozen in the last three days, staying up late if I need to, and spending way-to-much time in bed falling asleep and waking up and reading more.
Last weekend was a major fundraiser for our school. It was too much for me and it sent me to bed the whole weekend afterward, but with reading by my side, I readily got through our two-day week at school.
But I digress already from my main point.
The author of whatever book it was referenced the professor from C.S. Lewis’ The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.
If you have not yet read this series in its entirety (at least The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Magician’s Nephew, my two personal favorites, go and read them before I ruin things for you!
I’m serious! Read them now before reading this blog post.
Did you read them?
Okay, if not, you’ve been warned.
This particular quote is at the very end of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and the four Pevensie children tell the professor about their adventures in Narnia so as to apologize for leaving some of his fur coats in Narnia and being unable to retrieve them.
The professor listens to them and tells them, basically, not to worry about it.
Then there’s this extended line the professor says. The line that only fully makes sense if you’ve ever read The Magician’s Nephew and know that the Professor was in Narnia when he was a boy, right at its founding:
“And don’t talk too much about it even among yourselves. And don’t mention it to anyone else unless you find they’ve had adventures of the same sort themselves. What’s that? How will you know? Oh, you’ll know all right. Odd things they say–even their looks–will let the secret out. Keep your eyes open.”
I believe the book I read the reference to this quote recently was talking about ghosts and whether people believe you.
I, however, reread that quote as an Autistic woman (I’ve read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe twenty times or more, but haven’t had time to read it again since realizing that I’m Autistic) and it stopped me from moving on until I’d played with it a little bit in my head. Does this quote not, to you, seem a whole lot like the Autism community?
When we think about “coming out” as Autistic, there’s inevitably an internal battle. What if I’m judged harshly? What if I get fired? What if they hate me? What if they are going to be afraid of me now, and so on.
One thing that helps me in making that decision is the very thing the professor referenced. I can readily come out to introverts, who also need time and space to themselves, and people with ADHD (we do need a non-person first term for that; I don’t like making it sound like they carry ADHD in their pockets, but I haven’t heard a good term yet for ADHD people yet). I readily come out to those who have had positive experiences with Autistics, like a family member who they see as an actual human being with actual human things going on.
How do I know that?
Well, as the professor says, something about what they say, or even their looks, will tell me if it’s safe to talk to them.
And I think, too, that sometimes we Autistics struggle to know with whom to share our struggles. If we’re having a low spoons day, we can’t just say that; we instead have to know who our allies are, and again, the professor’s quote makes sense: they will let me know if I can trust them. They let me know in their words, and their actions, and their reactions to what I say and do.
But they won’t get it; not really, unless they themselves have had the same adventures themselves.
Last year around this time, I discovered Autistic twitter. It was a lively place with Autistics chatting and debating and, yes, arguing with each other. We were finding our guild (note: I hate the term tribe that we’re all using since it smacks of colonialism and anti-Indigenous sentiment). In the last year, it’s mostly been busted up. Many of us have left; I myself left and came back, and the community is a shell of what it once was. I’m not sure what caused it, but I’m sure the combination of Brexit and the Trump presidency are involved since those events stressed us out so much. You couldn’t get away from the politics talk, and, though many of us are great political debaters, there’s only so much doom and gloom people can take, especially the empaths among us.
Anyway, whatever the reason, Autistic twitter was amazing because it was how we could find people who knew about our adventures in Autism and could find people with whom to share those adventures. I hope it comes back.
And then there are the blogs.
In mainstream culture, blogs have all-but died; replaced with Instagram and Pinterest other in-a-minute posts.
But I noticed that in Autistic culture, even though we ebb and flow in who is writing currently and who is on hiatus, we return to the blogs.
Whether we’re a parent-of-an-Autistic looking for answers or an Autistic…maybe…we seek blogs out at 3 in the morning, or whenever the fears and wondering strikes us.
Because we can’t trust that we’ll always catch that “something about the eyes” thing the professor referenced. For many of us, the way we understand ourselves is words, written words, that will somehow make all these thoughts we have make sense.
Thank you to you, the reader, who finds something about this blog relevant in your own search for people like you, or in understanding Autistic culture.
And maybe someday, we won’t have to be guarded about who we share our identities with, because our words, our culture goes wide enough to build a new world for all of us.
Until then, fellow-Autistics, remember the professor’s advice: “Keep your eyes open.”