Monday, April 10, 2017

Autism Answer: Exploring Memories

A MEMORY: I’m sitting in my hot car outside of the high school. The music is on and I’m singing my heart out to Heaven On Their Minds from Jesus Christ Superstar, my windows open and my eyes closed to better get lost in the lyrics. Also, closing my eyes is easier than apologizing to my unfortunate audience of other parents in cars, waiting for the kids to be dismissed. Of course, unlike me, they have left their cars and air conditioning running so their windows are closed. I feel a little bit good for the environment simultaneously as I’m bad for the ears.

I’m pulled suddenly out of my headspace by a tap on the shoulder. It’s a dad to one of the girls my gay son (not yet out of the closet) is dating. We laugh for a minute about my singing when he asks curiously, “So, what do you think of this relationship our kids are in?” It’s a legitimate question. His daughter, my son, and one other girl have decided to all date each other. They hold hands and sneak off into the woods to smooch. “Hey, it’s working for them. They seem happy.”

My answer is careful, I don’t know this man well. He shrugs. “As long as my daughter isn’t dating one of those black boys, you know?”

I’m uncomfortable, of course. “You know that my husband is black, right?” I’m trying to keep the mix of anger, fear, hurt, and confusion from my voice.

“Oh, that’s different. I’m talking about these black boys, not your husband.”

I don’t know what to say and I don’t want to be put in the position of having to know what to say. I just want to live somewhere else where people don’t call them black boys and they turn off their cars because they care about the environment. His judgment breeds my own.

A MEMORY: My friend and I are sitting beneath the stars sipping coffee. The breeze is delicious and the coffee refreshing and our conversation nourishing. I’m on a roll, talking about how lately I’m beginning to see the value of impatient reactions. How sometimes an issue needs to be obnoxiously shoved to get it out of the deep rut it’s been stuck in. I barely mention the Black Lives Matter movement when my friend interrupts angrily. “That movement makes me so angry… all lives matter…why do they think violence is the way….so don’t act like that if you want to be treated fairly…not all of them but when they get together…sure, it used to be bad for them but now it’s not…they are erasing all the good work…”

I love, love, love my friend, but I don’t agree with almost anything she has said. Yet, I listen. I remember, even, thinking similar things myself once upon a time. Then I assert my view. I take my time sharing how I see it, not shying away or shoving my ideas at her. We never agree on this issue, but we have things to think about that night.

I have an endless list of memories that have reminded me to speak out, to be forgiving, to listen and learn.'

The more I open myself up to these learnings the more I want things to change while I also feel comfortable with the truth that change is a constant; there is no finish line.

A MEMORY: I am reminded of a conversation I had with my niece. She is pansexual and my son is gay. Labels that, themselves, prove a problem: the problem of wanting labels to explain people.

We were talking about the lack of representation in film. She complained that when they do include LGBTQ storylines, the sexuality is used as a plot device.

“I hear you,” I agreed. “But I admit to doing it myself, in my screenplay CARHOPPING. The thing is, we’re still at a place in society where the issues that come up when using it as a device need to be acknowledged and respected. The struggles and situations that we experience in a society that chooses to marginalize and abuse the LGBTQ community are worth exposing. But I do agree with you. If TV and film represented all communities as though they are already accepted and expected, if we tell stories with the assumption of acceptance, the world will follow faster. The characters will just be who they are and the stories won't be about fighting for that right or struggling with the lack of it.”

Most of our important shifts - as individuals and as communities - are a result of listening to and learning from diversity and perspectives different from our own. For too long we didn't seek these perspectives purposely. We fought them.

Now, though, we have access to films, books, articles, videos, from all over the spectrum of humanity! I encourage us to take advantage of that!!

Let's purposely experience foreign films and books written by people drastically different from ourselves!

AND WE CAN REVISIT OUR MEMORIES: Those times when we were offered a foreign idea or opinion, or when we ourselves were foreign.

We have so much already within us and offered to us. If we aren't in the mood to reach out we can reach in.

BONUS: Memories don't rely on technology or money. Plus, they don't have commercials and they rarely spam you! tee hee!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook) 

Have a peek inside my book of moments and memories!