It’s been a while since I’ve written. In many respects, my blog silence has been a good blog silence. There have been ebbs and flows — negative along with the positive. But I love my job, the students, and the people I work with. I’m mostly trying to figure out how to keep blogging while balancing everything else.
Summer’s ended, and I hope to write here with more regularity again. I’ve also begun re-organizing things on my blog, so there might be some blips with hyperlinks and such for the time being. To start things off, I wanted to post a short video documentary about disability culture, created by The Olimpias. In February, the University of Michigan hosted a three-day symposium on disability culture. It was a really lovely event, directed by Petra Kuppers. The Olimpias, which is the disability performance group that Petra also directs, recently released a 22-minute, open-access, fully subtitled documentary on disability culture and the UM event.
Both Mark Romoser and I are in the documentary. Mark starts off the Aut culture segment around 12 minutes in. The aut culture bits last about five minutes (hooray).
I’ve become obsessed with my kindergarten graduation. Initially, the video was painful to watch: I am stimming, I am ticcing, I am moving — in ways that visibly differ from my peers.
But lately, I am resisting passing. When I teach, I talk through and about my stims. I fire my rubber bands across the room, trip over classroom furniture, flap and wrench my fingers, rock back and forth as my elbows grate against the whiteboard. This is me, I say. My body is narrating.
When I first read about The Loud Hands Project, I flashbacked to kindergarten and flashforwarded to my future as a teacher. I imagine a world where my hands roam free, where stimming is simply a part of being — and I created the video below as part of that imagining. I hesitate to call this video a poem (because a poet I ain’t). So, I’ll simply call it a stimfest. A captioned stimfest.
From the Loud Hands website:
The Loud Hands Project is a transmedia publishing and creative effort by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, spearheaded by Julia Bascom. Currently, we are raising money towards the creation of our first and foundational anthology (Loud Hands: Autistic People, Speaking) and accompanying website.
Loud Hands: Autistic People, Speaking features submissions by Autistic authors speaking about neurodiversity, Autistic pride and culture, disability rights and resistance, and resilience (known collectively by the community as having loud hands)
I’m excited about this project, to say the least, and encourage you to read through the project’s website [preferably while hand-flapping]! Stim hard, people. Let your bodies be lively.
The emails I compose are all the same. I’m sorry for my delay in responding to you, I write. And then I stare at my screen, sometimes for two hours, sometimes for two months, and try to remember my excuse. Why am I late? Which metaphorical crowbar wrenched its way into my mental machinery this time?
Lately, I conceive of my days as a series of perseverative loops. The new job, the new home, the new and utterly non-autistic community. I cannot pry myself from anything. One egg, one piece of toast, and one butter cookie for every single meal. I read each Facebook status update 47 times before and after posting. “Let’s do something together,” a new friend or a new colleague or a new frenemy will write. And then nine days pass, or 39 days pass, and I’m still working on a two-line email response. Perseverative loop. Lather, rinse, repeat.
I can’t remember the last time I ate a vegetable. I’m not distressed by this — I’m more distressed by other people’s distress. Their jokes about anorexia throttle me into monologue mode, and I launch into impassioned rants — sometimes about disability studies, sometimes about feminism, and sometimes about how much I wish the F-word were a tangible object that I could lob at ableist, self-important hacks.
Oh, F-word. Materialize for me now. I repeat this line to myself. 47 times. 47 times.
The days are a blur. I cry most nights, wishing I were somewhere back in time, a time when I could wrench my fingers, rock my body, and speak without inflection. In a bookstore. In public. With half a dozen others who wrench their fingers, rock their bodies, and speak without inflection. I miss this autistic chorus.
But I am here, not there. Autistics Speaking Day has come and gone, and here I am — still writing, still perseverating, still ensconced in my words and my tears and my veggie-less existence. My sense and use of time isn’t on par with the mythical norm. I am learning, or trying to learn, to take comfort in my lateness, to interpret my lateness as function without the dys, as function minus the –tio and n‘s. Fuc(k) function.
There are shitty moments on repeat in my head. The colleague who berates me for asking her to repeat instructions. The potential therapist who calls me a “phenomenal woman” for having the “courage” to lead a disabled existence. The internet trolls, plural, who variously tell me that I’m not autistic, that I’m ungrateful, that I lack the capacity to have capacity. The Autism $peaks undergraduates who, in response to me telling them how hurtful they are, claim that I “cannot silence” their “love.”
Perseverative loops, cumulative loops.
What I consider accommodating, they consider unreasonable.
What I consider insulting, they consider complimentary.
What I consider hate, they consider love.
What I consider feeling and compassion and emotion and just plain being in the world, they consider pathology and blight and madness and something just plain worthy of extermination.
And I wake up in the morning, ride the bus, step into a classroom, feign attention with my flat mousy voice and unruly hands. There are lists to make, silences to repeat, latenesses to embrace, F-words to embody. I take this as a lesson in breathing.