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The Beautiful Minds of The Beautifully Disabled

The thing about a lot of alcoholics is that we see things in different ways. The differences may have caused frustration in our lives and because we feel so bloody different... naturally, we seek escape. Sometimes being different is just too hard. I was talking to my DSPS counselor Henry the other day and I made the comment, "it's a bridge day." He nodded and replied, "and you have to keep walking."

A "bridge day" is a day when I am more aware of my differences then I am of my abilities. My abilities are very often the things that make me different. I thought people saw things as I saw them. So when folks don't understand me I think they are perhaps being mean. They don't get me...you suck.

But of course you don't...because you are not me. And there in lies the rub. I am not going to call it a problem. It is just a difference in perception. And perception is 9/10'ths of the law. How long did it take me to realize that there are as many perspectives as there are snowflakes.

You can say a thing to me, share an idea...let's say you believe that there is a certain kind of heaven. And your heaven has puffy white clouds and angels dressed in white. Okay. I hear you say this belief and in my head I am thinking, "okay...that is your heaven." My heaven is more about moments when everything comes together in perfect order. When I feel good...that is heaven. I don't think heaven is a place you have to die to go to. I think heaven and for that matter hell...are both right here.

Because this life is about making choices. Choice is what makes us human. These choices will have results and consequences. Choice for me...is heaven. The freedom to find what works for me. I believe there are as many versions of heaven as there are snowflakes. Therefore it is my belief... we all get to be here and believe in our own idea of heaven. Heaven is after all...what you make of it.

If you look into your child's eyes and see "a burden"...you will fell burdened. If you look into your child's eyes and see "a blessing"...you will feel blessed. It is that simple.

Have you decided I am crazy yet? Okay, maybe I am, to you. But many people ...like me, think..."thank God! She thinks like me." And lately all kinds of people have been telling me they think like me or at least they know what it is to think and feel like me. Our commonality is sometimes about being alcoholic, dyslexic, mini bi-polar, autistic, psychotic or depressed. But mostly it is about a kind of intelligence. What was once called crazy is now thought of as kind of cool. Creative thought has become valuable and even sought after. Being an "Aspy" ... "Austi"...or "Geek" ...even a "tard" is now almost cool. It is in "vogue" to hear voices and to talk about them...yes... very chic. I sh** thee not!

In the last week I have watched two films about Autistics. Claire Danes as Temple Grandin blew my skirt right over my head! Claire rocked it! I cried for an hour and a half. Then I watched it again and again. My son watched it too. He is learning disabled and he was enamored. Even annoyed. "Mom, why do people need to see a film with someone famous to know what is valuable about another person?" Out of the mouths of babes. The film "Adam" with the very lovable, Hugh Dancy. Is a fictional story that went to a higher plain about aspergers. Both Temple and Adam found themselves. They were not saved. They saved themselves. With the help of other humans...great parents, teachers and friends. No one needed saving. They just needed to be challenged. All you need is love and a village.

The suspicion that my brother was Autistic was a huge secret in our ego-maniacal-gotta-look-good-Parochial-Catholic family. The attempts at suicide by my brother and sisters...huge secrets. My own issues with an eating disorder and mini-bi-polar disorder was never discussed...did not exist...huge secrets. Even after my brother's final and very successful attempt to end his life, my parents did not decide to go inward and look at why we are the way we are in our family. We just hid.

Hide it. Lie about it. Drink it away...anything...just do not tell the truth. And for God's sake do not say you are in pain. I was thirteen and it was enough just to be thirteen. Enough to be a transplant from Santa Monica to Atlanta. Enough to hear the word N**** used commonly by white people about black people. It was enough to feel so completely out of place in the "buckle" of the Bible belt.

It was all enough and then on October 20th 1973 ...enough became too much. My brother was dead. And quite conveniently, I shut down. Numb to everything. Thirteen turned into nothing.

My brother put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger- he was twenty-three. That was the shot heard around my world-forever. It doesn't stop. It will never stop. And it left me with a deep ache and an unflinching desire to find out why?

So this is what I have figured out...just for today. I pay close attention to suicide. To mental illness. To sadness that will not leave. I have these experiences and I seek to hear others stories. I seek to find people who know what I know. Who feel what I feel. We are living in a scary world. The "idea" of terrorists is now a reality. We hear the word "Trillion" every day...in reference to debt and profit. Crazy making stuff. Fear is selling. It is selling politics and politicians. So whoever isn't feeling a little nuts is lying! I have learned the things that make people the most glaringly different are things that make them so brilliantly amazing. Genius comes very close to insanity.

My brother may have been Autistic with depression. He had a keen sense of proportion. He could draw blue prints and map at an early age. He saw and experienced life...in pictures. My brother saw me dis-assemble my crib when I was a baby and I think he decided I was one of his people. I know I am one of his people. I was always distracted and a confused reader. But I could put things together and take them a part. I had a sense of "worth" deep inside myself. Like my brother I could see things with a kind of depth. Colors were brighter, sounds louder and feelings...Oh God! The feelings. The sense that disappointment would simply kill me. I really thought I was an alien. A freak. And completely alone.

Days when I wanted give up and jump "off the bridge" still exist. Sometimes it is a "bridge day." Then I say to myself, "walking across the bridge now...almost home." My friends who are "bridge people" get it. We are not a "dumb lot." We have above average intelligence. We (for some stupid reason) did not get the memo that everyone does not see the world or understand life as we do. But the fact that we have found each other. Others who are not certain of why we are here or even if we belong. That means we belong. We are a "we." We alcoholics, we dyslexics, we autistics, we disabled students, we menopausal fifty year old moms and step moms... We all have a "we."

In the African American community there is a term: "passing" It means; passing as white. Well I did that only not with my color... I did it with my brain. I was passing for what I thought was "normal." I was passing for some idea of what I should be instead of what I was. What the hell is normal anyhow? And now that I am fifty and menopause has removed all of my "filters and editors" - I could give a rat's ass about being normal. I am more interested in my actual being than in my pretend "being." People seem to like me more when I am just - me.

When I simply "am." I am way more effective, calm, useful, kind, content and happy. I have a way of seeing people for who they are too. Everything works better. SEX is better. Why? Because I am present. When I am in my authentic self -it is like an open connection to humanity and love...a conduit. And then I just weave; I fall in with the pattern of the fabric of humanity. I don't lose my texture or color. I blend. You still see me; the only thing is that I am not alone.

It is like folding eggs into cake batter. Cake batter would be devoid of richness and nutrition without eggs. I use organic eggs. They are rich and yellow and taste better. They are "real" eggs. Good eggs. I am a real egg to many "recipes" in my life. And like George Baily in "It's A Wonderful Life"... I am necessary to other people and to their lives. And like that batter that would not become the cake without eggs, I need the other ingredients to make my life whole. I need people and purposeful activity. This one simple and absolute fact has been the single hardest thing for me to learn and then stay conscious of. People need people.

I can be different. You can be different. The differences do not have to stop you. Look at Temple Grandin. Look at Einstein. Look at Whoopie Goldberg. Look at whoever you need to look at to help you find you. We are more similar than we are different.

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