As I bank into final approach on my way to turning 40, I have a little over a year now of being autistic/an Aspie under my belt.
As continuously as clocks tend to tick the seconds by, I’m ticking, too. Ticking off the ways in which I see what I’ve come to figure is evidence of Asperger’s/autism all around me. “Reframing”, I’ve called it.
“Reframing” is not, for me, a single act, open-and-shut, bah-dah-boom. Rather, it’s a process. A process that ebbs and flows like the sounds of ocean waves from the “white noise” generator. A process that gives me the honor of looking at the world through a clearer, rockin’ kaleidoscopic lens.
But I’ve been down this road before. That’s old news.
Just when I think I’ve done and thought everything “for the first time since I found out my status”, something new presents itself. And it is indeed a present–as in, a little gift from the universe. Call it what you will; it’s pretty neat.
A little while back, I had another one of my “first time since”s, while I was watching the movie “The Neverending Story”. An amazing movie, that. Despite its sophomoric special effects, it remains a treasured classic on my ever-expanding movie shelf.
For those of you who haven’t seen the movie (which I highly recommend, by the way!), I’ll provide a brief synopsis.
It’s based on a German fantasy novel of the same name. Despite its sophomoric special effects (it was released around 1984), it told a fantastic story of a young boy, Bastian, who, in a desperate attempt to escape a pack of bullies on the way to school, ducks into an old, stern bookstore run by an equally-old, stern man…
…who is reading an incredibly interesting book. During their strained-but-persistent conversation, it comes to light that “regular” books are “safe”. By reading them, we become part of them, sharing in the story through our imaginations. But no matter what events might unfold or how dire the situation may seem, the reader need not worry, because “it’s only a story”. Once we stop reading, we revert back to regular people, leading regular lives, once again.
Because, as Bastian astutely points out, “it’s only a story.”
By contrast, the book that the elderly, smile-less man is reading is not “safe”; apparently, it is not “only a story”.
The phone rings just then, and the humorless shopkeeper has no choice but to get up to answer it, leaving the book in place on his desk.
Unable to resist the temptation, Bastian grabs the book, scribbles a note promising to return it, and hauls ass out of the bookstore, for he is now woefully late for class.
Upon arriving at school, he notices that, to his horror, the class is silent, in the middle of taking a dreaded math test.
Time for Plan B: to hole up in the school’s attic and start reading the forbidden book.
The story immediately unfolds from there, as Bastian is mentally dropped smack dab in the middle of a wondrous fantasy world known as, well, Fantasia, where various eclectic characters have come from the corners of the land in search of the Ivory Tower, the home of The Empress, to seek her help in saving their eroding land.
The land is eroding due to a horrid and unseen force known as The Nothing, which devours the world they inhabit, a little each day, destroying it fully, leaving nothing in its wake. It was encroaching on the characters, driving them to areas where the world had not yet disappeared. And it was growing stronger.
A lone man-child warrior is selected by the population at large to go save the world. Simultaneously, and unbeknownst to the warrior Atreyu, The Nothing dispatches a mascot-like agent of its own: a black wolf with terrifying green eyes and, when it talks, a purely menacing voice.
The rest of the movie winds the viewer around the twists and turns, encounters with odd and fascinating characters, and surreal strokes of luck despite unfairly-stacked odds.
I won’t give the rest away, because I don’t want to spoil the cruxes of the story (there are several excellent themes and messages, which I’ll leave for you to discover; you won’t regret it), and this post is not meant to be a movie review, after all.
But in watching that movie not too long ago, for the first time since discovering that I’m on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, I viewed parts of the movie in a new light…
…particularly involving Bastian. And I got to thinking…
… I had always identified closely with Bastian.
He’s a gentle, soft-spoken kid.
He’s an avid reader, with a rich and vivid imagination.
He doesn’t do so well in math.
He’s perfectly content settling in under a couple of old blankets, far away from his life and the rest of the world, and reading for hours, literature beyond what is typically expected for his age (another reason why milestones and age-based function levels should be done away with).
He has few friends, and gets bullied a lot.
His teacher recognizes his potential, but doesn’t understand him and fails to be a source of inspiration and support.
He’s often accused of having his head in the clouds, off in a dream world that the physical world doesn’t understand or appreciate.
His father, although necessarily absent much of the time, does the best he can with his son, but lacks the time and tools to be of much support, either.
In fact, his father sits down with him at breakfast to have a brief talking-to, regarding the issue of Bastian’s tendency to mentally escape from the world at large, and after having received a recent phone call from Bastian’s teacher about drawing unicorns in his notebook during class, advises him, as lovingly as he’s capable of, to “get your head down out of the clouds and start facing your real problems, OK?”
And I remember thinking, “oh. My. God. That’s me!”
I made the common connections, noticed the resemblance, and identified very strongly–immediately–the first time I saw the movie, when I was about 7.
Many years later (22, to be exact), through my newfound Aspie/autistic kaleidoscope, I realized that Bastian is more than likely autistic/an Aspie, too.
I know that “armchair diagnosis” is a taboo-esque no-no, according to the etiquette espoused by some members of the Asperger’s/autistic community, but I say, phooey; let us have our fun. Because at times like these, it really is fun, and I don’t think it’s harmful in any way. That’s just my opinion, but I’m going to roll with it. 😉