Conversation 1: May 2017

SB: Hi – can I introduce you to my preferred method of dealing with long emails? I cut and paste and respond in red. This helps me with visual disturbances, losing binary focus  and dyslexia. If it’s horrible for you we can try to arrive at a compromise.

KM: Hello! This format makes sense to me – I’ll add another colour below…

Dear Sonia,

I’m not sure what I need from you, to be honest. I tend to be happiest when I’m responding rather than planning, and so I generally figure things out as I go along.

This is familiar – me too.

All I know at the moment is that I need to encounter lots of different ways that autistic women live, so that I can try to avoid talking about how I like things to be done, and assuming it’s universal. 

Okay. Is this because it is more of a survey than a personal account?

Yes – moving on my the book I’ve just written, which is a personal account, I’m thinking of looking more broadly at autistic women in general. It’s strange to move on to writing the next book before publishing the last one, but there we go. I have to cede control over these things.

Ah.

For example, the only other woman I’ve approached so far is going to take me to a wrestling match, which is totally confounding my expectations of what might be a comfortable environment for any of us! I said, ‘Will everyone stare at me if I bring my ear defenders?’ and she said, ‘No, you’ll fit right in.’ So now I’m quite excited to encounter it myself and ask her how she sees it.

 I would rather die. I know you wont take this the wrong way – call it research bonus material…

Ha ha me too! This is what I like about being a writer, though – I often use it to pretend to be someone else altogether. In this case, I can go to the match and survive because it’s work rather than leisure. At the same time, I’m absolutely fascinated to find out what she gets out of the experience. I don’t understand it at all, but she reckons she’s not the only ND person who attends regularly, so there must be something going on there.

For sure.

Anyway, from what you say so far, it sounds to me like the integration of work, life and being autistic is vital to you, and it’s the same for me, I think, although I’m still struggling not to pretend I’m like everyone else.

Gaining funding for my professional development template has been hugely validating – also I’m almost 55 – I don’t give many fucks anymore. I’m done with anxiety and not being me.  

We have both run out of fucks, I think. I gave many more fucks when I thought I was NT but just chronically unable to cope. Now – they’ve flown out the window.

 I want to insert emoji hand claps but don’t know how. 

Old habits die hard.

They do. 

Perhaps I could just come along and join you while you work for a day? I don’t care if that’s you silently concentrating (in which case I’ll just work alongside you and not stare) or collaborating, but either way I’d like to talk to you afterwards about how you’re managing that integration. Again, happy to do that in whatever way you’re comfortable with – in person or as an email conversation, or something else.

I’m very happy to have you along but struggling with the form – neither of my two work places are private and my collaborative days take so much of my executive function that I’m not sure I can manage another factor. I think I would I feel observed and act differently, and/or feel responsible for you.  
Probably I can control the studio environment more easily (i.e. ask other artists to avoid coming in that day) – so that is an option if we want to do this in real time. That will take planning but can be negotiated quite easily.  
I can’t visualise the email/chat observation?? Probably because I’ve never experienced it. I need to do to know.

Okay – I know I’d hate to be watched working too, largely because it would entail me gurning, biting my nails, frowning, and maybe drinking the occasional cup of coffee. If the roles were reversed, I’d invite you to come with me on a walk instead, or maybe a swim in the sea. Both are absolutely crucial to who I am, and make me feel integrated. So what I’m saying (in a long-winded way) is – maybe have a think and see what you’d feel comfortable asking me to witness. Or even, what you would feel joyful to share!

Joyful to share – it’s such a great term. My immediate thought was we should go to an exhibition together – or charity shop/flea market shopping (this is research for me). One of my obsessions is collecting abandoned family photographs but I also need objects for my work and I love to lose myself in the search. The feeling when I find THE RIGHT THING is the best. A good exhibition is incredibly exciting for me. Like you I have to research a subject 1000% and this is joyful but hard to translate into – come join me, as you say above.

KM: Oh I absolutely love this idea! I am most at home in galleries – one of my first jobs was at Tate Britain, and staff are allowed in before the galleries open to the public, when it’s beautifully quiet and you feel like the paintings are yours alone. I miss it, although not the hordes of school children I used to have work with! My new favourite is the Ashmolean, because of the Samuel Palmer collection. But I adore flea markets and charity shops too – I get a real sense of flow from hunting for the things I accidentally collect, which tends to be cutlery and glassware. It used to be Devonware, but a whole box of it smashed when we last moved house, and I couldn’t bear to start all over again. ANYWAY. This is perfect. Let me know when/where is good for you.

I’d also like to ask you about that late diagnosis, because it amazes me what a long journey we’ve all had.

Yep! 

Excellent.

Hope that all makes sense.

Yes. 

Best wishes,

 Same.  

I love all these colours! 

Glad it works for you too 🙂 

Excited! 

Katherine        

Sonia