What an Autistic boy taught me about being a rebel

I was teaching his older brother… who… had actually told me he was struggling at school. He was so candid about his mental health… I was taken aback. Then it felt natural, to briefly share some of what I had struggled with at his age and what I understood about our lives that might resonate or land for him, and hopefully, well… that says it.

One day, his young brother came up to me, seemingly transfixed by something. It turned out to be my earrings. Call it the rebel in me masquerading as style. A persistent and growing reluctance to buying fast fashion. Mostly because I love the idea of enduring, the sense of enduring, the feeling of enduring. And if I’ve come to the end with a piece, I want to know it’s not because it’s broken… or that the season has moved on and so should I, but because I’m ready to explore a new palette. I want to know that it’s not something I can easily discard. Love has transpired in the creation of it and love has transpired in the wearing of it. This sense of interconnection matters to me. 

So I was wearing a pair of earrings made out of wood. 

This little boy reached up for them and exclaimed, “diamonds!”. I was stunned because my wood earrings were in the shape of a diamond, a “geometric figure of four equal straight lines forming two acute and two obtuse angles,” but I hadn’t actually registered that. To me diamonds are expensive and shiny rocks with a sense of exclusivity about them. His frame of the world… constrasted so starkly with mine – the reality I shared with most people about what diamonds are, and there he was, seeing the world like a rebel. 

Now that I’m older, my avoidance has intensified into a reluctance to buying anything plastic meant for the fast lane and an interest in supporting businesses and artisans that make ethical practices and sustainability a focus. It gladdens me, that there are others who take this stance far more seriously than I. They keep me honest. And this desire, reminds me… wealth matters. Wealth matters because I want to be conscious about the choices I make in the world I live in, and to have the power to make them, I have to love the notion of wealth.

~*~

Sand

Kaleidoscopic human being

I do believe… you and I are deserving of kindness… I am in a process of learning what it is that I really desire… your presence, is an allowance of that desire, to exist. Be bold, be brave, hold it firmly within you and shine it like a torch. You never know… what stories, a person is carrying… whether that boy… you see… riding his bike, with his earphones in, has been bullied at school? 

Judgment: another kind thought – sometimes judgement comes from someones attachment to their sense of identity and what they believe about that.  

If they cannot allow the quality they see in you, in themselves, then judgment is a self-defence mechanism. If it bothers them, to what extent is that quality yearning for expression, in some form or other, in them?

You never know… whether the woman who sits down next to you… has attempted suicide. You never know, until you take a chance to welcome someone to share their story. You just never know, what’s going on in their life. You never know, who will resonate with your story… but you can be sure, someone will… and someone will find it empowering to hear. And believe me, the telling of stories can be deeply healing.

I don’t know if that boy was bullied, but I am sure, he has a story to tell.

Here’s what I appreciate about him… that his presence invited me to ask more questions. That I hope, whatever music he was listening to… soothes him. 

Why do we sit down here and gaze at the ocean? There’s the vaguest film of salt in the air, carried by the cool breeze… and the heat of Summer, is swirling through the air. It reminds me of those strawberry cream candies with the swirl of red/pink and white. It’s about a year since I was last here. Beaches draw up images of boisterous crowds out here for the sun and the sea. 

Isn’t that why I am here? 

You watch briefly, someone else gazing at the sea and this vague sense of discomfort steals over you. Their solitude feels sacred. It’s the realisation that they are fully here and present with their thoughts. It’s the sense that they’re not, at this moment, distracted by the world behind us, rushing sounds of vehicles, in a seeming hurry to be somewhere. It’s the sense that solitude here… is quietly shared. Is that why I am here? 

There is a pigeon looking at me, wondering if I will offer food, or perhaps, if I will leave crumbs of food behind. I don’t know. Is it a clever assumption or an assumption based on routine? Or both, that the clever is in the routine? That, for this pigeon, this routine works. This routine soothes its sense of survival. I don’t think it cares to know that the breeze is ruffling feathers on its back. But the thought makes me chuckle. 

Earlier this year, seeking solitude so I could write, distill and sift my thoughts onto the page, I found myself surrounded by mountains and a stream, a little way off… and a packet of hazelnuts. I demolished them and then I noticed… this ant, making away with the skin of a hazelnut! 

How hard and tirelessly it worked… to carry that skin across the earth. What I had carelessly dropped… was its treasure. This ant… had a work ethic and I admired it. I know, it doesn’t entertain these trains of thought. It doesn’t sit at a bench and ponder its work ethic, its nature. I don’t want to say it doesn’t think… that would be insulting to the intelligence inherent about ants and their colonies.

But I sit here and think… and someone would definitely ask… if they knew the nature of my thoughts… do you think about useful things? 

As I might’ve grudgingly realised, in their parameters of that question, the answer would be no. Yet because this thought has arisen… anyway… I’m inclined to believe that I valued their thoughts… and their parameters of seeing and thinking about the world… over my own. I valued them, their thoughts, their opinions and what they had to offer… but did they value mine? 

Did they decide… yes, I value you, but only if you are this, this and this. 

Were they cognisant of this? 

Of saying… I value you… but only if you are not you. 

The two parts of that sentence… form the two parts of an equation… and they cancel each other out. There is no value here. 

But I am here… suddenly wondering about the ghosts of the past. The part of me, thinking these thoughts arising from past conditions… and the part of me… naturally and instinctively seeing and feeling and offering the impulses that arise out of being in this moment. Are they one? Am I attempting to rectify cognitive dissonance? 

The more kindly, I think about judgment and what it offers… the more I’m able to embody what it is that I do want and desire, from myself and from others. People aren’t easily categorised by adjectives… people are a kaleidoscopic array of everything that is possible. 

That is a thought that excites me. 

Believe the best of others and the best will reveal itself. Believe the best of yourself and the best of you will show itself. There’s flexibility to those statements that I enjoy immensely… because they would be equally valid if I substituted best for worst. And since… no person is one or the other… life is a hodgepodge with everything. 

The clarity of that tickles me.

It seems ironic… and because, it lends itself to the next question: Out of this hodgepodge of everything that is life, what experiences do you want to pick and choose to live? 

~*~

Sand

We Remain

I remember back in 2016, I was listening to this song sometime after dinner. The house was deserted. It was the year that I found myself cracked open and this song buoyed me. 

All the ways that you think you know me,

All the limits that you figured out,

limits that you figured out,

mmm,

had to learn to keep it all below me,

just to keep from being thrown around,

just to keep from being thrown around,

yeah,

every single time the wind blows,

every single time the wind blows,

i see it in your face,

mmm,

in the cold night

there will be no fair fight,

there will be no good night,

to turn and walk away,

so burn me with fire,

drown me with rain,

i’m going weightless

screaming your name,

yes i’m a sinner

yes i’m a saint

whatever happens here,

whatever happens here,

we remain.

I was drawn to shadow work, not out of mere curiosity but because I had this sinking feeling that if I didn’t confront my demons, I would live out the same stories again and play the same scripts in my life with others.

Winston Churchill once famously said, “if you’re going through hell, keep going.” It was my refrain.

My naivety died that year, opening me to what I saw as weakness for landing myself in that relationship to begin with. Were I to speak to that younger self now, I would say, no sweetheart, you are not weak, you are human, experiencing a bottoming out of life for the first time. Grow.

I found expressions for rage, for anger, vulnerability, for love and tenderness, sensuality, for courage and strength, to fight and to surrender. Movement and dance became an invitation to drop in… judgement ceased to exist when one flows. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explains this concept as a state of consciousness we experience when engaged in creative work where our skill set is equal to the challenge… or simply, whatever it is that lights us up.

In the healing, I realised I was the one that had no boundaries. That bottoming out could be seen as an invitation to develop strength and courage… that we don’t have to be psychic to deepen into our intuition. To experience our emotions more fully, to experience my dysfunction more entirely, to experience the barren landscape of despair, so that I learned, the extent to which we experience despair is also the extent to which we can feel joy.

In the healing, I realised that whatever was dysfunct in my life and yours, did not begin in our dance but was rooted further back in our lives. Does anyone come through childhood unscathed? How crazy, to settle for believing that’s just the way the world is. Would we still be here if women said that to themselves 200 years ago? 

I realised how sad… how sad… how sad I was. How sad I was becoming, that there was a reality looming on the horizon that made me uncontrollably sad… that this life could disappear beneath the waves and I would have failed in all that I came to do. In that moment, crouched by the side of the road with the darkness and the streetlights around me, that possibility scared me more than the unknown… the kind of death with no rebirth.

As Clarissa Pinkola Estes put its, you fight to save your instinctual life. Her essays in Women Who Run with the Wolves, brought the archetype of the Wild Woman back into our consciousness… a reminder that domestication kills the wild spirit in us. It kills the part of us that is regenerative, full of creative life and power. In the culture of patriarchy, we lost this. In the political interest of patriarchy’s dominant religion, we lost our wisdom keepers. And in that loss, it is not merely women who can feel this emptiness but men too. 

Choices that feel like life or death – the slow kind, where one goes through the motions of life and work… drowning the truth of what has happened or is happening, is a death choice, no matter the reasoning. When I see you, I see your story and how it could’ve also been mine… perhaps with different characters and changes in the plotline… but you did not arrive at this point in your life without making all the choices you did… and I forgive myself. When made, life choices draw beautiful energy to them, doors open and you go through them and what you need arrives like a gift.

Fear is not a dragon to be slayed but a curious ally sometimes.

Halfway around the world… all things from childhood began surfacing. Understanding began to dawn in places that held shame and blame. Events that once held a shape larger than they merited… began to shrink in perspective. I learned that I could draw boundaries, that I could offer forgiveness and kindness and still express where my boundaries are. That I am enough, that I am worthy and my needs are real and they matter. I could offer that nothing we do… is unforgivable… and still choose not to re-experience the past. 

What does it mean… that a woman can judge another for being too free in her expression? Too playful, too flirtatious? What does it mean… when the offhand remarks she makes, places blame on her own sex? Is she aware of her own patriarchal conditioning… or has it faded into the background of life? How far would she have to go, to uncover her own pain?

How much it would hurt, to have everything heaved open, to upheave the life that has been built over decades… how much hurt is repressed?

How many years of patriarchal conditioning have we experienced in our histories? How did patriarchy take root? Sometimes there are no answers that suffice.

Out here, climbing mountains, stone walls, trudging across abandoned farms because I’d forgotten which path I’d taken… I learned to trust myself. Witnessing the chaos of life, I love it. I love the blue skies, the surrounding mountains, the traditional garb, the stray dogs… the bareness… of what is real. Of this life. Of my own privilege… I’ve learned, what that truly means.

I choose to experience my creativity fully. And that ones sexuality, is never, an invitation. That erotic energy is also creative energy and that the dance of life comes out of this spiral. 

Here, I learned to love. A different kind of love. A forgiving kind of love. A love that says… bloom… bloom… bloom.

Out here, away from everything else that is there, I understand the only person we can begin to heal is ourselves and that is enough. That we came together to witness each other, and that perhaps, we can carry the truth of each others innocence, deep within.

When you express the love you feel, when you express a desire to see me more fully, when you invite others to expand, when you see beauty… without needing to possess it… when you bear witness and offer strength and solidarity, you bring the healing. 

I am deeply grateful for your presence… for your guidance… for your truth… and for your faith in me. I am moved by the love you extend to me, the compassion you extend for me… not out of sympathy or pity but out of a deep inner knowing. In the way you witnessed me, you empowered me. 

I learned, to ask… what is here? What am I learning? And in my frustration, near to tears, the answer that came was merely, patience.

I know that stories will evolve and shift and wear new costumes as times change, but ultimately these stories belong to the collective and where there is resonance, there is universality. I have compassion for where we are in the process of becoming. I have compassion for the parts of me that have been afraid. For the parts of me that I disowned. For the parts of me now yearning for expression. To have boundaries and to honour them. To taste the mysteries of life. Eve’s story needs a re-write. To live is to experience life’s joys and life’s sorrows. Knowledge is not a sin and women are not responsible for men’s repressed lust. Before the snake was re-appropriated to represent ‘evil’ it was a symbol of regeneration.

To hear the judgements… and say… I know… and I am sorry. I know… and I forgive you. I know… and I am choosing a new story. I know… and I honour my truth, my boundaries and the life I am creating. That really, endings are merely beginnings… all beginnings come out of endings… so death, can be a doorway to life… to all that renews itself. To the rebirth, come Spring… and to the re-awakening of what is true for you.

July, 2019

Sand

Human condition: Wild

“… the maiden represents the heartfelt and formerly sleepy psyche. But a warrior-heroine lies beneath her soft exterior. She has the endurance of the lone wolf. She is able to bear the dirt, grime, betrayal, hurt, loneliness, and exile of the initiate.” (pg.452)

“In the underworld birth, a woman learns that anything that brushes by her is a part of her. Sometimes this differentiation of all aspects of the psyche is hard to do, especially with the tendencies and urges we find repulsive. The challenge of loving unappealing aspects of ourselves is as much of an endeavour as any heroine has ever undertaken. … For the majority of women, mothering and raising the internal selves is a creative work, a way of knowledge, not a reason for becoming unnerved.” (pg.467)

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D., Women Who Run with the Wolves

I hope you come into this life chasing fire,

opening your eyes and your hearts,

your selves to the deep inner wisdom

and the universe within,

dear sister,

your sacredness belongs to you –

your body;

let me say that you need not share it to feel worthy,

nor share it to belong,

nor share it to conform,

you need not share it because someone looked at you

and said a thousand things you didn’t know you could say to yourself,

you need not share it because you fear not being enough,

you cannot measure how worthy you are

as a goal or a place to get to,

it is not some distance on the horizon,

an arbitrary shape or a number on the scale,

you cannot step onto it in the morning 

or in the evening 

or at any point during your day,

your worth, dear sister,

is you as every self conceivable;

the you in the mirror

and the you screaming at the sky,

the you drowning in the sea of your emotions

and the you laughing as the wind tickles your skin,

the you running a marathon

or the you sleeping til past noon,

the you showing up

and the escape artist in you,

how many selves are layered into the body that you wear?

take the kindness to know them,

every existence in the fire,

burning and untamed,

every existence in the waters,

flowing and alive,

every existence in the winds,

idealistic and poetic,

every existence in the earth,

erotic and sensual,

every existence in the shadow,

dying and liberated

in the darkness of the womb,

new beginnings

in the light of the dawn,

flesh, blood and bone,

an incantation to the wild;

sister,

wisdom is knowing your worth from inside out,

wisdom is knowing you have the power to know yourself,

wisdom is the work of a lifetime,

your birthright to being human,

look in the mirror and see,

you are the mystery

and the key,

the story 

and the teller…

the myth and the living,

embodied wisdom, 

truth and life.

This poem was inspired by a conversation, mostly one-sided, that I overheard between two guys a few days ago whilst waiting for the train. I remember thinking that I was glad the person sitting next to me wasn’t the person standing and asking questions, and right on the heels of that thought, I heard, “So how old is the slut you’re fucking?”

Shock ricocheted through me before the train came and I was gone. To me this feels like a conversation worth unpacking… not also because I felt a visceral repulsion or the coincidental timing of it… but because being a human being makes us part of this conversation.

Where were the women that shaped the experiences and life of a boy barely a man, posing this question? The question reveals more about him than his friend, who mumbled a reply that suggested he’d rather drop it… yet wasn’t quite willing enough to push the point across or defend his partner between the sheets.

It occurred to me later that the girl in question was, fucking his friend and not him. Was his remark, then, a defence mechanism for his own buried insecurity? Was he ever loved by his mother? Where did he learn to denigrate women with this double standard? Did women exist in his life or did his perspective come from men who simply passed on misogyny? Was everything just left to porn?

What immediately occupied my thoughts as I left, was my hope that she’d drop them both… and that for her to do that, what would have to shift?

The asking reflected back to me my own experience with self-worth. This particular moment, this conversation… I discovered, was one way to see the wound and feel into what is needed, what I needed.

I found myself pulling this classic Women Who Run with the Wolves, off the shelf to look for a quote and though I know I fell in love with Dr. Este’s writing… it still felt like a jolt – how much power lies in her work and how deeply rooted it is. If a hypothetical apocalypse came… and I had a time capsule to save three books, this would be one of them. Her wisdom is timeless.

“The ways and means of living with the instinctive nature are many, and the answers to your deepest questions change as you change, and as the world changes, so it cannot be said, “Do this, and this, in this particular order, and all will be well.” But, over my lifetime as I’ve met wolves, I have tried to puzzle out how they live, for the most part, in such harmony. So, for peaceable purposes, I would suggest you begin right now with any point on this list. For those who are struggling, it may help greatly to begin with number ten. (pg. 498)

General wolf rules for life:

1. Eat

2. Rest

3. Rove in between

4. Render loyalty

5. Love the children

6. Cavil in moonlight

7. Tune your ears

8. Attend to the bones

9. Make love

10. Howl often

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D., Women Who Run with the Wolves

Sand

Judgement: a compass with the needle pointing at love

i.

You… toy with this expression, and make it yours, and learn what you can do with it, what you can do with youth. And even as you whisper, it is going, it is gone, and I am old, I am a wizened old man who has little teeth left, what do I remember? The wars this world fought? How I was young once?

ii.

As the old.

The youth, bloomed and withered, and you are old. Old and sentient. And wondering what you lived for. Everything in you is soft, pulsating, waiting, and you said, you lived for the truth, for the art, beauty, God, woman. In her soft feminine curves. You found her. You found her. Imperfect… and not who she was in the shower, or on the floor, or picking herself up… but the one who actually did… who sat down, gently, allowed her to grow old. Compassionately, asked, what she wanted from life. 

And yet you… resist. You are not lured. 

The artist in you rails. Flails. His limbs. His mouth. His bottom. You are god playing human. 

God playing human

December, 2017?

Everything here is disjointed and confusing but there is a rawness about it that I like, the jagged edges that aren’t smoothed out but insist on being there, perspectives running into each other without any demarcation.

And so… I think there is something curious to the notion that how we view our gods, has a relationship to how we treat others. Is our god our Beloved? Is our god cruel? Is our god the pillars of modern day science or commerce and capitalism or both? What is it that we worship? What is it that we believe? What worldview… presides over the days of our lives?

My young self

made god out of the clay

and asked,

would you like to be a metaphor for cruelty?

he smiled and said okay

and came to play.

God as metaphor

October, 2019

To enter into the midst of life and discover that paradox lies at the heart of it. 2016 was the first time I discovered that I had been atheist/agnostic, yet at the same time, I had a worldview that god was cruel, yet it was buried in my psyche and when the line between my conscious experience and my sub-conscious blurred and faded… this was what I found. Upon reading Jung, I realised this wasn’t strange. Pulling apart my experience of religion, my childhood, my adolescent years and my relationships, how could I be surprised to discover this worldview existed and operated in me? It’s the remnants of what I might consider my early experience with patriarchy.

I acknowledge that… and I don’t judge that anymore. I don’t want to judge all the people that are operating and living their lives with this worldview… or that they’re trying to grapple with it. It’s admirable. I’m drawn, because there are two parts of me that still resonate to it… perhaps for that reason, when judgement comes to play in any form, I have been both the trigger and the person surreptitiously looked to for a fleeting feeling of being understood, of being heard and acknowledged. The discomfort grows intense for me… or the irony grows hilarious. In both regards… we are the person we most need our acknowledgement from… and that when we fear judgement from others… we are really being judgemental of ourselves… that some kind of pain is narrowing the perspective – a rusty story, a mental loop inside our head… and the other person has absolutely nothing to do with it… except be the trigger… or we are the ones judging others for being judgemental. Now… having been in both shoes… I find that quite funny.

Isn’t judgement a compass with the needle pointing at love?

xx

Sand