Monday, January 30, 2017. I think I know why I so carefully and methodically stole my peer’s lined pure, clean, unsullied notebook paper out of their desks during lunchtime when everyone else was out having a recess on the playground during 5th grade at Eagle River Elementary School.
As a Spectrum Child this process made PERFECT, beautiful sense to me deep within my body. Nothing thought about in words, certainly.
Yes, Mother had brutally beaten, bullied, terrified, terrorized, imprisoned and hated me from the moment of my birth. Yes, I was alone, always alone, did not fit in with my peers, and belonged TO no one or with anyone.
Those selections of perfect paper placed unobstrusively into my own binder let me include myself in a world I could not comprehend. Many of the shapes, sizes and ink colors of lines upon the papers, even placement and numbers of holes punched did not match. This sure didn’t matter to me.
I like the pattern of the variation! Some of the types of paper even had curves to their outermost corners! How nice was THAT?
There can be no pattern if there is no variety, if variations are absent.
Yet in that empty universe of pilfered perfections all remained silent. Certainly I made no sound as I carefully began each day at the desk desk after the one I had “shared” the day before. Lifting hinged wooden desk top lids, spotting with my eyes where the notebooks were in relation to everything else in the desk.
Never removing anything else but paper. Never tempted. Never leaving any sign I had been there – and gone.
I remember enjoying, even marveling at the cool smoothness of the paper. I loved the weight of it in my notebook. Having that paper made me feel RICH – for the only time in my childhood. (Did it make me feel more equal with my peers? I do not know.)
Nobody noticed, I am sure of that, although the horrendous risk was that Mother could have leaved through my notebook and NOTICED the mismatched selections. She would have known these were not from packages of paper she had bought.
Perhaps she would have then killed me.
Even if I HAD such thoughts, it would have not mattered to me. Never did my LIFE matter to me. I did not exist as a person.
Mother made perfect sure of that.
So these actions of theft remained invisible to all but me. I imagine I had been practicing the art of invisibility in every way that I could from as early in my young life as this could have been possible. I was prey. This was an unequivocal fact of my life.
Certainly the millions of times after wearing herself out battering me that Mother screamed at me, “I HATE YOU! I CAN’T STAND THE SIGHT OF YOU! GET OUT OF MY SIGHT! “ had deeply fostered, fed, nurtured and nourished my inner reality of invisibility advantage. I was as good as any child could ever be at invisibility.
This, of course, was of negligible advantage in avoiding danger from Mother. That fact would not have been conscious to me, would not of deterred me from my instinctual and therefore natural patterns of trying to hide-in-plain-sight.
Yeah. And I did do that. In fact, it is only now (at 65) with my new Spectrum understanding of self, that I realize how evidently essential it has been for those of us on the “higher end” of the autism spectrum hide who we really, truthfully, actually are from EVERYONE – and everyone includes our own self.
But the thing was with the notebook paper from others – I fed it back to the world. I used the paper for my schoolwork as if that paper was as naturally mine as was the shoes I walked in.
I’m glad that I not only took myself on the sly and careful, natural paper hunt, but that I have NEVER forgotten this. This episode of daring encourages me. Affirms me. Assures me that in spite of ALL the unbelievable suffering I endured as a child, I WAS STILL THERE as a human being. As an entity. As my OWN entity.
I didn’t KNOW it consciously, but I was RIGHT THERE inside MYSELF!
I existed. This action of mine proved that I was free within. I didn’t need to EVER redeem myself as Mother demanded. I was FINE just the way I was “in there” in the classroom of my soul.
I was doing a really fine job – of being me! There is no possible way that I could have ever gone through anything like a normal developmental stage of differentiation and distinction from others as a self of my own.
Given that stealing paper from OTHERS to include that paper as a representation from all those OTHER worlds perhaps helped me with at least some semblance of bridge-building between a version of MY SELF and a version of those other kids’ selves.
After all, there had never been anything like “a joining” with Mother from the time of my birth, so who the hell – and how the hell – was I going to be able to differentiate myself from NOBODY as I/so I could become my own self if I didn’t find a way to force the issue?
So, evidently, I did find a way. And today, over 60 years later, I am going to claim those actions of mine heartedly as manifestation of both my WILL and of my ability to come alive as my own self and to remain alive against insurmountably traumatic and violent odds.
I do wish I had a trace of memory about my decision making process. I would love to know how much of my instinctual survival needs arose into thought as I became motivated to create a more distinctive self – connected in some way to other distinctive selves – out of nothing but repurposed, upcycled notebook paper.
This was a creative act. I am a creative person, always involved in trying to create the best life that I can (and when my children were at home, for them, too) out of whatever seems to be at hand.
I am reminded of what has always seemed to be a little poem that popped into my thoughts over 40 years ago:
“Cobwebs make more of themselves out of nothing but dust.”
Self truly talking to self, those words have reappeared in my thoughts at different times, always assuring me that life continues because – it’s possible. As a creative person, making things, bringing patterns together into some kind of tangible form, has always been a part of who I am: “I make, therefore I am.”
So I guess in this instance, I needed art supplies to make a self out of! I figured out where those supplies were, and quite literally, helped myself!
On some level I must have known I was being defiant, defying Mother. I must have been willing to take that risk, for whatever reason I may or may not have understood at all as a child of 10. I made a decision, took action, followed through, and somewhere in there I must have planned this whole venture out to the last detail.
I would need to check the transcripts of Mother’s letters to know the details of what our entire family was going through at this time. Mother gave birth to her 5th child in March of 1961 while we were living in an apartment in Anchorage. We returned to the homestead that summer, and I suspect by that fall we were in and out of the rented log house in Eagle River, with homesteading neighbors, the Eklunds, subrenting the log house part of that year. They also took care of us after school at the log house part of that winter while Mother stayed on the mountain with the baby.
It was a turbulent, truly insane, scrambled, nonsensical and difficult time of our lives, of that I am certain. True, one of MANY – but I think more so than “usual.”