Spectrum: Remarkable

Something remarkable has happened since I began this project. As I’ve incorporated into my self-expression all those snipped-off mannerisms, behaviors, gestures, vocalizations, and actions, that others had told me throughout my life weren’t acceptable for a “socialized person,” I have become integrated and whole.

I cannot hide my weirdness, no matter how I try, and the more I tried, the more confusing and uncomfortable it seemed to be to others, while making me unhappy to boot.

So look at this: When I talk, I might look away. I realize you might look away, too, following my darting gaze, thinking that I am looking behind you at something that I spotted. But when my gaze returns to you, you’ll realize, if you’re smart (and I’m finding most people are smart, and accepting, too), that I was just chasing my thoughts, and you will realize, once you get to know me, that this is one of my mannerisms.

If I begin to bounce on the soles of my feet when I get excited about what we’re talking about, if I start to swing my arms or clasp my fingers, you might smile or be surprised the first time. But as you get to know me, you’ll realize that this is what I do, and that moving like this helps me to focus and serves, actually, to calm me down so I can engage more fully in our conversation.

You’ll know, once you get to know me, that if you ask me about a special interest (currently, ESO, for example, and perennially, gardening or birds), I will talk as long as you will listen. But I promise that I will do my best to watch for signs that you need to leave or that you’re getting bored, and because I know I might miss those signs, I promise, too, that I will check in with you and understand when you’re done before I’ve said all that’s waiting to be said.

You’ll also know that I won’t volunteer much about myself, my interests, or my life without being asked. I will miss your cues when it’s my turn to talk, and if I do see them, I might say something that seems off-the-wall or off-topic, even though, in my mind, it’s not. I will do this whether I allow myself to be myself or whether I camouflage because this is simply something that is challenging for me. I’m missing the synapses to make these connections in communication.

But in realizing all of this, and in venturing to be myself anyway, I am finding so much joy. This opens me up to the gifts that my neurodiversity brings me, too, things like….

  • the way dust motes dance in the sunlight
  • the play of sunlight across a bare wall
  • refracted light in clouds
  • the shimmer of dried leaves as the wind stirs them on stalk
  • a flush of birds rising from the treeline
  • the swoop of a falcon
  • the interplay of harmony in a Mozart quartet
  • the buzz of cello tones through the spaces in my bones
  • the hours of living, fully immersed, in a video game, a novel, or a quartet
  • patterns, everywhere and in everything

I’ve allowed my expression at home, too, to be more natural, and it’s brought greater harmony, for my boyfriend fell in love with me back in my quirkiest days, and he is similar enough to me, neurologically, that he, too, enjoys word play based in sound (echolalia), funny gestures and bouncing-on-soles-of-the-feet, swinging arms, and getting lost in music.

One of the most surprising, and happiest, discoveries I’ve made is that, as I’ve stopped trying to “do friendship” in the way that’s recommended by all the experts I’ve ever read and everyone I’ve ever talked to or asked about this, including family, friends, and counselors, and have started to approach friendship in my own way, people are responding to me and seeking me out for a friend.

This is something I’ve noticed before in my life: when I try to “make friends” or focus on friendship, I end up feeling lonely and like a failure. I seem to make no progress, feeling confused and lacking.

But when I put aside “making friends” as a goal, when I allow myself to enjoy myself and my life, I find myself feeling very full, very alive, and attracting others who, yes, want me for a friend.

I have to do it my way (for no other way makes sense to me), which means I am simply open to respond to anyone who likes me (while being smart and responsible with boundaries and recognizing my own limitations and requirements).

My first intentions with this project were to explore in writing all the quirks and idiosyncrasies I’d shunted off from myself. But in my life outside of my writing, I have begun to stitch them back into the fabric that is me, and so now, I don’t need to write about all of these moments that had been stored away in the “Doesn’t Make Sense” folder–because now, these moments and scenes make sense to me. Now, they’re part of me. I’m on my way to expressing my full-spectrum life.

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Dr. Jasmine’s Casebook: Laurie and Me

This story was written for the February 2017 Monthly Short Story Writing Challenge held by our writing community at the EA Forums. If you write SimLit, we’d love to have you join us! We have a new challenge each month.

laurie01

After Mom moved us to the suburbs, I never suspected that my salvation would show up wearing purple corset pants.

I felt displaced. I stood at the park at the end of our street and looked across the canal to the city. That’s where I belonged. That’s were there were people like me.

At Newcrest High, everybody walked around me like I was wrapped in a 15-foot-wide bubble of cellophane. I figured they’d never seen anybody like me before. Maybe they thought what I had was catching.

Back in the city, nobody cared who you were or what you wore. You wore what felt like you when you woke up that day, and if other people didn’t like it, well, it wasn’t their business, anyway. We didn’t have the poison-look club.

Now that I lived here in this same-old, match-match town, I wasn’t about to change who I was just because the mean girls whispered “Butch Butcherson” every time I walked by.

I’d rather be alone and ostracized than not be me.

Laurie was sleeping on a park bench when I first saw him. Flowers bloomed around him, and butterflies flew over him, and I thought he was a fairy. I don’t mean I thought he was gay. I thought he was fae–you know, like Puck or Oberon. Or Titania.

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While I watched him sleep (OK, I guess I stared. It was hard not to), he sat up, with his eyes still closed, and moaned.

He looked sort of beautiful.

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I sat on the far end of the bench.

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“Excuse me,” he said.

I looked at him.

“I don’t have a long distance carrier! Get over here if you want to talk to me.” He tilted his head, and I scooted over next to him.

“That’s better, sweetheart. So what are you doing here?”

“Um. Trying not to stare?” I replied. It was so lame. I thought he’d get up and walk away, but he just pulled a face and then laughed.

laurie05

“I like honesty,” he said.

He stared back at me.

“OK, you’ll do,” he said after the longest silent stare-down I’d ever faced.

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“Do for what?” I asked.

“My new best friend.”

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It was that simple.

I saw him at school the next day, and he stayed by my side the whole day. He was so funny that I forgot about everybody staring at us. We actually had fun.

Within a week, we had a little circle around us, all the other misfits and outcasts. But Laurie didn’t see it like that: He said we were the in-circle.

“This is the happening place,” he said. “We’re the cool kids.”

And it kind of felt like he was right.

One day, one of the jocks was eating lunch by himself out at a lonely table at the edge of the quad.

“Come on,” Laurie said, and we all picked up our lunches and went over to join Bastien where he sat alone.

We knew the gossip. You couldn’t go to Newcrest High and not know the gossip. Everybody said that Bastien had gotten his girlfriend, Christy, pregnant and then dumped her because she wouldn’t end the pregnancy. But it wasn’t true. “Consider the source,” Laurie said. Christy was the fake-news source.

The real news was that Christy dumped Bastien, and she wasn’t pregnant. She was dating the quarterback.

“So now I’m one of the Rainbow Warriors,” Bastien said.

“You don’t have to be,” replied Laurie. “We’ll leave if you want us to.”

“No, stay,” said Bastien.

So we did, and the next day, two of the cheerleaders joined us at lunch, sitting next to Bastien. It felt awkward at first, since these were the girls who made my life miserable before I met Laurie. But then Laurie started joking around, about nothing, really–about veggie burgers and salad wraps. But he’s so funny, that soon everybody was laughing, and I forgot all about feeling awkward.

After that, Laurie didn’t show up at school for a few days.

The first day he was gone, our circle tried staying together at lunch. But nobody knew what to say.

The next day, Bastien and the cheerleaders ate lunch with the populars.

I sat with the kids in our group. But we didn’t know what to say.

The third day, I ate my lunch alone out in the field.

Even though Laurie and I were best friends, I didn’t know how to find him. We only saw each other at school or when we ran into each other at the park. He was always running out of minutes on his phone, so he wasn’t getting my calls.

On the fourth day, I decided to skip school. I couldn’t face the mean girls alone.

I was walking in the park when I saw Laurie sleeping on a bench.

laurie08

I sat next to him and waited until he woke up.

“Hey,” he said.

“What are you doing here? Why aren’t you at school?” I asked him.

“Why aren’t you at school?” he asked back.

“Because you’re not.”

laurie09

“I like my nose the way it is,” he replied. “That’s why I’m not going back.”

“What do you mean?”

“Let’s just say, I don’t want to run into Darren and his guys in the parking lot. Or in an empty hall. Or in the locker room. Or in the John. I kinda try to avoid physical pain and humiliation whenever humanly possible.”

laurie15

“You mean those idiots threatened to beat you up? For what?”

“For all my purple glory,” he replied.

laurie10

“That’s so not right!” I said. But I’d known it was too good to last when those circles had started to dissolve into one big oneness.

“Freaks are OK,” he said, “as long as we stay in our freakiness. But when we start infiltrating, then you gotta watch out. Protect the normalcy at all costs!”

“That’s bull shit,” I said. “You don’t believe that. You’re a Kindness Warrior! You’re like the strongest guy I’ve ever met. You’re brave.”

laurie12

“I might be brave, but I’m not stupid. People don’t like to be made uncomfortable, and I make people uncomfortable, and so I think maybe it’s better if I just stay away.”

“But what will you do?” I ask. “Sleep in the park all day?”

laurie13

“It beats getting beat up!” he replied.

He was thinking about enrolling in an online program so he wouldn’t have to go to school. He said I could enroll, too. We could have our own study group, here in the park, away from everybody.

laurie14

“That’s not a solution,” I said. “What about Brandy?” Brandy was this kid with a learning disability that affected the way she talked. She repeated everybody before she said her own thing.

“What about Sean?” Sean was a trans kid. She’d been beaten up seven times before she became part of our group.

“What about Sarah, and Mandy, and Cyan? What about me?”

laurie11

“I can’t save everybody,” Laurie said. “I can’t even save anybody if I can’t save me.”

“Maybe we can save each other,” I said.

That was three months ago. Laurie went to school the next day. He got beat up. The day after, Sean, Cyan, and I beat up one of the kids that had beaten up Laurie. We fought them in the park, so none of us got suspended.

After that, we formed buddy groups so we were never alone. It kinda worked, and it kinda didn’t. It worked, in that none of us got beat up again, and the mean girls have stopped calling us names. It didn’t work because we’ve still got circles and they’re still all separate and we still make other people uncomfortable.

I guess we decided it’s sort of our role to make other people uncomfortable. I mean, if people’s comfort is all wrapped up in everybody being the same, that’s a pretty narrow requirement for comfort. And I guess it falls to somebody to try to stretch those borders, loosen things up a bit to let in a few more people, a few more styles of self-expression. If that’s what it means to be a Rainbow Warrior, then I guess I’m up for it.

If I’ve got Laurie by my side, I’m up for anything.

Three Rivers 24.1

Twenty-fourth Sim of Thirty Sims at Three Rivers

AN: Another beautiful game-generated Sim in another beautiful house by TheKalinotr0n

24.  She discovers she’s an artist!

twentyfour28

When Rachael Stanley retired from forty years of office work, she felt the whole world awaited.

She had time to practice yoga.

She stood in tree pose, her gaze following the butterflies over the meadow.

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She had time to prepare lunch, rather than grabbing a sandwich from the deli.

The red of tomatoes stole her breath sometimes.

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She joined the Green Party and helped with campaign events.

“The butterflies, yes!” said Alec Dolan, the party candidate. “It is for them, no?”

twentyfour14

She watched Alec talk and lost the sound of his words. Such beauty in the face of humans!

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She played the piano. Green and blue swirled through the Chopin nocturne.

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She even found that, for the first time since she moved here twelve years ago, she had time to meet her neighbors.

Emiliano Zorelo, who ran the café next door and lived in the small home on the other side of the café, often strolled by on his evening walks.

“You come to watch the sunsets, don’t you?” she asked.

“Ah, no. For the exercise,” he said. “I become restless. I must move.”

twentyfour27

“But the beauty,” she said, gesturing towards the pink clouds. “It’s breath-taking!”

Emiliano gazed towards the horizon. “El misterio es el elemento clave en toda obra de arte. You have the eye of the artist, Señora Rachael.”

twentyfour26

That evening, she stood on the upper deck and watched night arrive. During the years of work, she only caught the passing of time at a glance–that’s how quickly it always moved. Now, she watched the changes brought by the turning of the earth.

Light fades slowly, until at once, it is dark, and the quiet outlines of clouds nestle against the black sky.

twentyfour25

When Sasha Mignon, the granddaughter of her friend Esmeralda, dropped by, she had time to visit with the child.

“You have a nice a garden,” said Sasha. “It’s got a little bit of everything, like my auntie’s paint palette.”

“Oh! Your aunt is an artist?” asked Rachael. Esmeralda had never mentioned her daughter was an artist.

twentyfour22

“I guess you could say so,” said Sasha. “But she never paints what she sees, only what she feels.”

“Do you like her paintings?” Rachael asked.

“Kinda. They make me feel things. But I think I’d like them better if they were of horses and stuff. That’s what I mostly draw.”

twentyfour21

Inside, Sasha quickly ate her snack and washed her own bowl. Then she sat with Rachael.

“Can you tell me a story?” she asked. “I’m collecting stories.”

Rachael began a long story about a girl who pretended to be a boy and stowed away on a pirate ship. The story was filled with discoveries, treachery, sword-fights, and cannons.

“I think you must be an artist, too,” said Sasha, as the story was winding down.

“Why’s that?” asked Rachael.

“You spent more time describing the colors of the waves, the shape of the clouds, and the way the waves move than you did telling about what happened! Only artists care about that.”

twentyfour20

The next morning, Rachael noticed her friend the writer Isabel Rosella as she ran along the path.

She felt that tug inside that she calls “the beauty response.” The lines of the leg, the slight bending forward of the torso, the tilt of the neck.

twentyfour04

The human form expresses such beauty.

And then her face! The quiet lift at the corners of her mouth. That wise, thoughtful gaze in the eyes. And all the lines that traced the passages of her life.

If only I could paint that! she thought.

twentyfour03

Alysia chuckled at one of Sebastian’s jokes–it least she and Alysia assumed it was a joke. With Sebastian, one could never be quite sure.

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And then, Isabel joined them, and just for a moment, Rachael felt overcome by the wonder of it all. The bilateral symmetry of the human form: yet it can express itself in so many ways. The grace, the assurance, the awkwardness of the person molds and modifies the outer shape. She could not separate the essence from the exterior.

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Walking home, she passed Emiliano, and she read the culture and history of worlds within his face.

I would like to paint his portrait! She thought.

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Enough with the dreaming! She decided. I am retired. Let’s do it!

She went to an art supply store and bought a few easels, a few very small canvases, and some very cheap acrylic paints. Who knew that art supplies could be so expensive, and, since she was just starting out, she might as well keep the investment to a minimum.

twentyfour31

As she worked, it became very clear very quickly that inexpensive paints yield inferior results. Of course, this was just her first painting in, what, fifty years! She couldn’t expect to immediately scratch that itch that was so deep inside of her. Yet, even with a washed out, naive rendering of a pink flower, she felt such joy!

It wasn’t what she had hoped to paint, but it was something, and it was a first step towards becoming a partner in the dance between essence and form.

twentyfour12

The next day, she told Sebastian, Esmeralda, and Nash about her painting experiments.

“I like music,” said Sebastian.

twentyfour17

“I taught art for a while,” said Nash.

“Oh, I don’t have any pretentions,” said Rachael. “I know I’ll never be any good. I’m starting way too late. But I love it. And it’s a minimal investment. I’m just using student grade supplies.”

“Don’t sell yourself short,” replied Nash. “You never know what you might discover. For playing around, any materials are fine. But if you really have something you want to express, consider getting the best paint, brushes, and canvases you can afford.”

twentyfour16

Another trip to the art supply store, and she returned with a larger canvas and studio quality acrylics.

twentyfour24

She lost herself in the experience of painting. She realized that she still didn’t quite understand mixing colors, but she was intrigued by the contrast between light and dark in this landscape.

Now and then, she would glance up from her canvas to watch the dance of sunlight and shadow. It’s movement, she thought. That’s how essence expresses itself. Movement and stillness.

twentyfour23

She spent long hours looking. Everything shimmers. The shimmer must be life, energy. She wasn’t sure how to paint that, though she understood the seduction of pointillism.

twentyfour10

At the end of the month, having graduated to professional quality acrylics and large canvases, she now and then painted something that pleased her.

The composition isn’t right, she thought, too crowded. But then life sometimes is crowded, with everything trying to fit into the same tiny space.

twentyfour19

Towards the end of summer, she began to notice an organic pattern repeating itself across the landscape: criss-crossing lines. Light and shadow integrated the pattern.

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She found it everywhere she looked in nature.

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Sometimes it was muted, or partially covered. And other times it was the dominant pattern. It meant something to her, which she couldn’t articulate.

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Except through her canvas.

twentyfour02

Through her canvas she could express all the meaning she found in this pattern, and more. She could express life.

twentyfour01

Three Rivers 13.1

Thirteenth Sim of Thirty Sims at Three Rivers

13. The painting that expressed how she truly felt

thirteen11

Red–the pain slashed through her womb when the door slammed. Leave. Take a piece, leave her behind with a gap where the strongest healing can never reach.

thirteen09

Red. So dark it’s black. A single rose petal lay on top of the armoire, dried black. Touch it. Pick it up for safe-keeping, and it crumbles. Red to black. Crumbles to dust.

thirteen08

Indigo. Blue. She thought the door would open again. He would return. Texts unanswered. Messages spinning through the air. She walks suspended through the days. This pain tethers. How long before she knows the door stays shut for good?

thirteen07

Red to black to blue. Forgotten, while the babies cried and dishes filled the sink and bills came due and the door stayed shut. Blue. To abandon hope. The door stays shut.

thirteen05

That year left its mark deep within. She felt it still, that tear inside, where he ripped her in two. She thought love was in the heart. But it was her womb that ached. It ached for her, and it ached for those two babies. Abandoned. She knew where abandonment was felt, deep in the womb where families are made.

thirteen17

Where families are made, like the parlor where her brother played the guitar. Like the kitchen where her mother baked the casserole. Like the dining room where the children gathered after school with books and jokes and stories and laughter.

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Red to black to blue to green. A path stretches back from there to here. Laughter flows from gaps and fills the space with green.

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Where homes are made. Where families reside. Her son grabs his cousin in a bear hug.

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Her niece sings purple songs, and the sink fills with bubbles that birth rainbows.

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Red to black to blue to green. Yellow.

The bills were due and the babies were crying and the dishes piled in the sink and her mother called. “I’m coming. I’m bringing you home.” Hope returned. He was gone, but hope returned.

thirteen03

And now her daughter learns from an aunt how to use her mind, how to be strong, how to grow to be a woman that can’t be torn in two.

thirteen15

And it’s all right. It all worked out.

Red to black to green to blue, and yellow follows through, and the pain, still there, recedes until it’s something new.

thirteen02

Gratitude. Green spills into gratitude. For a mother and a sister. Brother and little cousins. For a daughter and a son. And even for you. Gratitude even for you.

thirteen01

For you live in them, the daughter and the son. And the pain does, too.

thirteen06

Gratitude. You live in them. The daughter and the son. The door slams shut, the womb in two. The pain resides where the family grew. Red to black to green to blue. Gratitude?Look again, on a day that’s new.

thirteen13

Red flows to black flows to green flows to blue. Follow the path to the center, through.

Cousins and a brother. A sister and a mother. These two gifts of babies that look like you.

Red to black to green to blue. A yellow arch in the center, the door to home we walk through.