Last night, I finally called my mom. We’re quite close, so we talk often. She is one of three to four people (besides my partner, when he’s away) with whom I enjoy talking on the phone. I try to call her at least once a week, and I don’t know how long it had been since we talked last, but it had been a while.
As usual, we picked up where we left off and spent the next few hours catching up. Catching up, like everything else in my life, isn’t quite what it might sound like; catching up includes our latest thoughts on life, the universe, and everything.
Friday night’s conversation wasn’t much different from any other, including the fact that I came up with an analogy my mom found very interesting.
She certainly has plenty of Aspie/autistic traits, but I’m not sure she falls anywhere on the spectrum. Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, even if she does, her case would be much different from mine. I’m pretty textbook; an easy play to call. She, however, is not. I lean toward the idea that she’s not on the spectrum, and has little contemporary understanding of it (her psychology training came to an end in 1985), so as usual, she was interested in gaining more insight into how I experience life as someone on the spectrum.
What popped into my mind as I was explaining was the movie Ladyhawke. We have both seen the movie, so the comparison was easy to make, based on a shared familiarity.
For those who haven’t seen the movie, which was released in 1985 and didn’t even generate the revenue to cover its production budget, it’s a wonderful tale set in Medieval Europe, of two lovers cursed by a dark and corrupt bishop who also desired the lady. The curse involved the transformation of the lady into a hawk by day, and the reciprocal transformation of the man into a wolf at night.
Always together, forever apart.
I realize, very sensitively, that the Asperger’s/autism spectrum community has grown understandably weary of comparisons of Asperger’s/autism to animals. The typical fashion in which this is perpetuated is demeaning and dehumanizing to all of us. So, I ask everyone to please bear with me, for I’m only speaking for myself, and I’m not insinuating that my place on the autism spectrum makes me or anyone else less than human. I hope that I’m being quite clear when I say that that’s not where I’m going with this. I’m not the human element, nor the animal element, in this story. I am both, and I am neither.
In the movie, when the male and female character-entities are together, they are indeed together, but also apart. They interact, but on different levels. No matter how much time they spend together, or how familiar they become with each other, their boundary will never change.
I view the world at large in a similar light. It’s not a perfect analogy, because there is a certain amount of knowledge gained and progress made on both sides as bridges are built and understanding is reached. However, the principal feeling remains. I live in this world, a part of it, but I don’t necessarily feel connected with it. The world and I have not yet joined hands in equality and full unity. I’ve spent my entire life in this world, and yet I feel more like an outsider.
Always together, eternally apart.
Unlike the Ladyhawke movie, my situation isn’t nearly as tragic or hopeless as it sounds. Over my nearly-40 years, I’ve grown accustomed to the invisible divide and I’m becoming comfortable with myself as I am. It’s a process, but I’m working on it.
I’ve often described myself as a lone wolf of sorts, and although that term may hold a condescending connotation for some, that’s not how I use it; rather, I draw upon the more flattering image.
Am I the wolf, the bird, either of the people, both people, or any combination thereof? I mostly feel like all of the above. The hawk freely soars above the world, the protective wolf glistens in the moonlight, the man wields a sword, and the woman has incredible inner strength. I identify with all of the entities involved. That may stem at least somewhat from my Native American heritage, a culture which places high regard for both of the animal-spirits mentioned.
In the movie, the humans are a part of the world, but the animals are more connected with it, playing integral parts. The animals and humans can walk side by side, forming bonds of their own, except that the human male and female forms can never quite touch, never quite relate.
That symbolizes my (not literal, but symbolic) view of the world. I alternate between–and often combine–my personal animal-spirit and my near-machine-like qualities, attributes that the rest of the world seems to have either lost touch with, or perhaps never possessed.
I used to want to tear down–or leap over–that invisible barrier that separated myself from the world. The barrier that dictated that they were the standard, and I was not. The unseen wall that demanded that they set the bar, and I did not. The stone wall that stood above me, overpowering and outnumbering.
Part of me still wants to do that. When I’m the smaller entity, staring down a larger entity can be intimidating.
But the other part of me is learning to see through the barrier, even if neither side can scale it. I’ve always been able to observe the other side; I’ve just never been able to connect with it.
Up until now, I’ve done all the learning. I’ve tried to figure out how to twist myself to conform to its mould. I’ve been the one making all the changes. The rest of the world had held steadfast, not budging an inch.
But in the movie (spoiler alert!), a miracle occurs: there is a solar eclipse. The male and female halves of the equation are only transformed as the sun rises and sets. But the eclipse is considered “a night without a day, and a day without a night”, blurring the line between the two, and disrupting the bishop’s demonic spell, leaving both entities in human form. It is during this time that, if both people confront the bishop together, the curse may be broken. (And of course, it is, and the two live happily ever after.)
Perhaps movies produced in popular culture reflect the possibilities in the “real world”, even if in symbolic, dramatic form. As the world at large learns more about the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, perhaps the “other side” can begin building a bridge section of their own, speeding up the whole bridge-building timeline. I’m not sure we’ll live “happily ever after”, per se, but at least the reaching of a common understanding might be expedited.
Until then, I’ll continue as I have been – soaring above the earth, glistening in the moonlight, drawing my sword, flexing my inner strength, and building my part of our side of the bridge 🙂