I am on the internet a lot. The other day, a few hours after I join millions of Americans in a news hole getting shocked by the violence of the capital invasion, I write something about Greek history on Facebook and notice that nobody else is talking about anything else yet. Later that day, an advocate on Twitter asks, “what are the stereotypes of Autistic people that your masking is most designed to avoid?” and I instantly think about the things that interest me and the things that don’t interest me very much. The things that interest me are a bit hard to explain but largely revolve around conflict, ontology, hypnosis and other things that go on in the deep sea of the subconscious – so you can see that that covers a lot of ground, but possibly not enough.
Although I didn’t go anywhere, I did have an extended summer vacation of sorts when my partner’s craft business went finally underwater as lockdown cancelled our summer festival season. Luckily we both qualify for unemployment even though my formal work history is spotty. Years ago I worked as a receptionist, and I often think of it because I have never had such a feeling that something I was formally qualified for i.e. sitting at a desk intersected with something that anyone was willing to reward me for financially. When we lose our jobs – my partner, formal and me largely informal, assisting with that – I think as I so often have that it’s odd that nobody would rather pay me for ontology.
Instead, for a month or so I procrastinate and process anxiety by throwing myself into computer programming, which is fairly unique in terms of being an in-demand skill that you can technically teach yourself. At times I think that I’m not up to it, but an article on the internet tells me something actually brilliant, which is that the key to programming is just to keep going when you think you can’t. I hadn’t tried that yet because nobody had ever explained it to me, but after that point everything (and I mean everything) seems to work better. I keep going until I learn that I can get a job, and that job will pay about the same as being a receptionist.
I keep my hand in at sitting at desks. I miss hypnosis, and I think about metaphors a lot. The idea is that you tell a story with symbolism that relates to somebody’s problem and you don’t even have to tell them what to do about it or make them think too hard, because that’s all taken care of automatically under the surface. It’s hard to practice hypnosis right now and I’m overloaded on computers, so I start teaching myself Latin and Greek. I’m discovering that the Greeks in particular have a lot to say about violence, ontology and the subconscious. My family, which had previously found the Spanish lessons about drunken parrots amusing, makes fun of me a little for the Greek about throwing Achaeans in the wine-dark sea. I agree that I’m circling a bit. I find it very hard to focus.
People on the internet say that it’s ok to feel sad and worried. I don’t feel sad or worried very much at first, so occasionally I make up for it by worrying about that – but it’s true that I’m always, always tired. I spend much of the summer lying on the ground outside to escape the heat, though I realize that we, my family and I, are probably also trying to escape each other at times. We argue about stupid things, because nobody has any extra bandwidth. My partner and I try a rule: you must mention everything that happens that annoys you. Later, we scrap that rule. Our house isn’t big, but it is consistently cleaner than it has ever been as a survival strategy. I try different things, too, like not needing to eat lunch. It’s amazing how quickly every day seems to evaporate with so little to do.
I go to a protest. My partner has gone to a lot already, but I’m pushed over a particular personal line when another protester in our city is thrown into an unmarked white van. I show up wearing black and a mask and think of the time years ago when we still used to make it to bigger anarchist protests. There was the one where we were arrested for no real reason at all and another, maybe later, where I guess there was more of a reason: the crowd, further forward, was fighting cops with teargas canisters and rocks, and the whole crowd would surge back and forward, human waves crashing against the apparently immovable. The time we were arrested I was held in a jail cell overnight and the really memorable part was the thought that I had had enough. I felt that I was about to get up and walk out of there again and again, and the solidity of the cell was somehow shocking every time. Today I notice that I just want to fight cops, which makes me feel alive, and that makes me feel uncomfortable and problematic.
The compulsion to make things also makes me feel alive – to write, or maybe just draw – but at times trying to make that happen feels like crashing straight into a wall, too. I practice sitting at a desk. I click through my email again and notice that I’m on the mailing list for a course about breaking through writer’s block, because everybody seems to have an online course this year. This one costs seven hundred dollars nobody has, but I listen to the free samples while I clean the house again. They’re brilliant, actually – about the Feldenkrais method, which couples embodied mindfulness with the idea that constraints lead to neural growth and that paradox, deeply felt in the body, can lead to alchemical transformation and spontaneous resolution without any further feeling of effort.
Our children are, of course, out of school, first temporarily, then for the summer and at this point the summer is becoming something different, similar but much colder. They fall into internet holes, too, which worries me, though they seem to magically materialize on the rare occasions when I actually feel like writing. One of my children is struggling significantly, which worries me a lot. Our new house rule is, if you’re not ok with something, you just have to say it: I’m not ok with this, you’re not ok with that, there it is, that’s where we’re at.
When I’m not exhausted, I often clear a spot between the couch and the table and try to do yoga. I try to get my kids to do it with me, even though they’re not interested. I stand on my head waiting for the moment when it seems impossible to hold the position any longer. They say this is the moment when yoga actually starts.