Declaring Season 3‼️ Things are gonna be different around here… from now on.
I’ve got 3 stories for ya… “Living Unmasked Is a Political Act Autism,” “Love & My Friend Billy: A New Epic Myth,” “Faking Normal… Writing, Masking, Autism & Me.”
So, let’s rock n roll…
NOTE: Some autistic & ADHD folks process reading better, some listening… some both at once. So I include a transcript, podcast, and “pretty” captioned video below. #InclusionMatters.
Hey guys… missed ya.
So here’s season 3…
Things are gonna be different around here… from now on.
I’ve got 3 stories for ya…
Let’s jump right in…
Article continues below…
YouTube (19:01, with captions)
Story 1: Living Unmasked Is a Political Act
I’m poor. And I talk about it. Out loud. Cuz I’m worth more than I own.
I’m disabled. And yeah, I talk about that. Cuz I accomplish more than I’m able to do.
Autistic…? Cuz I’m worth getting to know.
I say I’m crazy… cuz I’m crazy. And madness IS my method.
Someone once told me, the personal is political.
Mebbe I overshot a little. Happens…
The way you live your life is a political act.
Oh, for those who wonder… we said “overshot” before #overshare was invented.
And you commenters who like my voice… check out my podcast.
Hi! I’m still Johnny. I’m still Profane… And I’m still here.
Finally… Season 3 of Autistic as Fuck Out Loud!
Why no episodes since Fall? Major burn out. Dog attack injuries. Coupla health scares. Some dark emotions. Exhaustion…
Shut down for 3 months. Then woke up…
So I’m declaring victory… and a new focus. How to live authentically autistic… out loud. Like my opening manifesto, “Living Unmasked Is a Political Act.”
If you’re autistic, love one, work with some… or just can’t figure out if you ARE one…
Expect lots more stories… 3 this episode.
Plus more variety… more passion… more ideas to try.
In story three, I talk about masking from a new angle… writing to friends, for your boss… or the public.
But first, let’s explore autistic friendship. A beautiful & precious thing…
Probably NOT at all what you’ve heard before…
So let’s rock n roll…
Story 2: Autism, Love & My Friend Billy: A New Epic Myth
Friendship is complex for this autistic. There’s Love. There’s #DontGiveAFAnymore… And then… that vast, thorny battlefield between them.
I want to tell you about my friend, Billy. And end with a simple spoken-word memory.
But I feel like I gotta set the scene… which I’ll warn you upfront gets a little gritty. Street talk. The slur, idiot. Drug use. Death…
There’s nothing I craved more in my life than companionship. And the times I found it? My most glorious moments.
Whenever I found ’em. For however long. With WHOever…
The pop myths about autistics aren’t kind…
- We can’t feel love. Don’t want friends. Lack empathy.
- We’re hostile. Aggressive. Rigid. Can’t communicate.
- Don’t feel compassion. In fact…,
- We. Don’t. FEEL… Full stop.
On Mastodon, my friend @DragonladyCH read this in draft. She adds,
“Then they put us on a pedestal, like a precious gem to be kept in a showcase. As long as we stay there. And don’t move.”
Why do I want to tell new myths? Because all these old ones were written by non-autists. They don’t know me. And I don’t see myself in any of ’em.
So… Those pop culture stereotypes are just their screengrabs off movies & TV. Of problems NON-autistic people have… understanding us.
They see Rainman. Or Elon Musk.
Their myths have no reality for us. They’re ugly distortions… in a funhouse mirror.
Straight society trains us for its goals… A mad dash to max out production, consumption, growth. So pop media teaches straight citizens a treacherous mixed message about us.
The autistic… ALL disabled… are a duty, a burden… and a danger.
We get in the way of their goals… BUT we must be coddled & protected.
So, we gotta be watched. Cuz who knows how we’ll take advantage.
Or when we’ll go off…
Their stereotypes… their myths.
The boxes they give us to squeeze into?
The Deserving Cripple. The Flawed Genius. The Idiot Savant. The Infantile Idiot. The Asshole Next Door…
Notice, not a one of em helps achieve their goals. So like all such prejudices, their myths oppress and imprison us.
See… Most autists don’t feel too little… Most say we feel too much. Too deeply. Too quickly. Easily overwhelmed by intense or prolonged contact.
Ya come to dread criticism, ridicule, judgment. From everyone, everywhere, every time…
BIG time in every group.
It’s near universal. We feel we don’t belong. We’re unseen. We’re Other.
Poet William Blake’s a big hero of mine. He felt like an Other. The goals & myths of 18th-century England wrapped him in chains.
So he wrote his own heroic myths. And spoken songs. To throw off those chains…
Here’s one of mine.
Myth #1: My Autistic Goals Are about Respect, Admiration & Joy.
For what I want. For what I do. With who I love.
My life’s been a search for friends. And love… Married three times. Plus 4 multi-year partners…
Most folks seem to place memories around where they lived. I remember my life by who I was with… at the time.
In my world… a friend is a precious thing. Likely to disappear with my next spoken word. I can’t afford to judge that fragile treasure by status, accomplishment, education, wealth… or what they can do for me.
I only know the joy of the shared moment in front of me. Whether I bent elbows with billionaires… as I did… a few years. Or lived with the Homeless… as I did… a few times.
Billy & I had nothing in common. Except our hearts. So, we became friends.
I call this one, “My Friend Billy.” Cuz he was.
Going on death,
Woke to a frozen world
Where no car crept.
A day no singing bird
Was left alive.
A day another friend
Sighed his last breath.
Blew thru my trailer.
I wrapped windows in blankets,
Sealed the entries to my life
A bunker in war.
Cranked the oven,
Cracked its door…
Stale air hung like failure.
Settled in for a day alone.
Picked up the phone,
My only open door…
Splashed across its screen
Wars, rumors of wars,
A dying world’s dreams.
I read the news —
Tanker Spews Fuel…
A Politician Lies…
“Local Man Dies.”
Wind froze my heart.
Another sun sets
That’ll never rise…
Another friend gone
Where I can’t hear his cries…
I wish I were that poet…
Say, Yeats’ sweet voice
Or at least L. Cohen…
Raised in bitter rejoice
To toast your life of rough edges.
But I see you clear —
Tears in your eyes…
How you outraced cops
Across Arizona deserts…
Or burnt a scumbag dealer…
Or how your kid came to be born…
About that woman you loved…
Those kids you missed seeing…
Locked in your room
Picking at scabs…
One bottle at a time.
He lived for love…
He lived for laughs.
He left little more
Than a church full of folks
Who missed him for an hour.
He was Billy.
And now years later…
He won’t leave my autistic mind
And still laffs in my autistic heart
Teaching it to praise.
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Our next story goes straight at the heart of this season’s theme… living autistic authentically. “Faking Normal: How I Mask My Writing Disorder… to Bring You Autistic Joy.”
And we’ll jump right into it… after this quick word from our sponsor.
Cuz I got bills to pay…
Did you know most folks check out 5 episodes of AutisticAF Out Loud?
If you found something valuable… a tip, further reading… or that shock when you realize you’re not alone…
You can help my work. I offer all my autism info for free. But expenses run $175 a month. A few bucks make a big difference.
👉 Click “support” on most podcasts. Or the links to PayPal and Ko-Fi in the transcript.
Faking Normal… Writing, Masking, Autism & Me
I call this one, “Faking Normal… Writing, Masking, Autism & Me.”
Writing while autistic? Blogs, tweets, articles…?
For me… every bit as hard as autistic masking… faking “normal.”
In fact, I’d say I have a writing disability. How about you? Hang in there with me. Cuz I’m a 70-year old #AutisticElder. And I just now found the words.
Got me an email this morning. From one of my 2… make that 3… high school buddies.
We’re both retired. Talked about maybe getting together. Next time he drove this way.
He mentions… as he does… that I haven’t written back much. And I try to explain… as I do… in my reply.
Writing is really difficult for me. I think of writing you often… but haven’t been able to pull it off.
My other high school friend, Bill, has been disappointed in me for years.
It’s some weird quirk of mine. I can rip my heart out… in detail… in a blog post.
I can’t write a personal note.
But I sure appreciate you trying to keep in touch with me.
Did I really just write, “Difficult?”
NO… That’s not even close to how it is. Even with the adverb.
Damn… Truth is, I can’t get this right…
If you’re with me so far? You probably know about autistic masking in social situations.
Trying to blend in… look legit… for the public, employers… family, friends.
Folks may have heard it’s exhausting for most autistics.
I struggle to find words…
swim up from details to get to the point…
then rehearse what I’m going to say…
before I try to talk…
to make sure I’m clear.
Without offending ANYone. Allowing 10 feet for my booming voice.
Then, rehearsing it all over again. Coupla times…
To. Make. Sure.
Mockery, doxxing, divorce… toxic disappointment. I’ve spent an autistic lifetime one poor word choice away from my worst fears.
But me masking as a writer? It’s harder. It’s… cray-cray.
And like so many problems I had in straight society… for decades, I had no clue.
Til head stopped banging against wall…
Many autistic folks report they never knew they “masked.” Mimicking & adopting character traits that let them pass. Their entire lives. Until they read about it… Or from a pro diagnosis.
Some like me, practicing… straight-up cosplay… in the mirror.
And pretty much that’s how I learned to write for teachers, employers, you…
The thing is… writing is permanent. And any writing? Potentially public.
Think stalkers, bosses, cops. That’s where my head goes…
You better believe… every word I write is heavily masked. Like a grade school composition.
Not to please Teacher… anymore. To communicate clearly. As best as I can… without causing pain.
Then there are all the rules. Heads. Subheads. Word choice. Context. Grammar? Paragraphs? Topic sentences……!?
My autistic & ADHD brain?
Wired for about 30 amps of executive functioning… ya know… prioritizing, deciding, making choices.
Composing a note? Blows right by 400 amps…
For me, writing IS a disability. And without assistive devices, not possible.
Know what an AAC keyboard is?
An Augementive & Assistive Communication device. Frees nonspeaking folks to give voice to their thoughts… by typing.
Like that I can’t write without a word processor, grammar checkers, computer-assisted editing.
I want to help you experience my autistic & ADHD thinking… So I write in a certain style.
Bursts of images.
Short, direct thoughts.
Streams of what I laughingly call consciousness…
But if I couldn’t cut-and-paste my unpredictable, random bursts? Creating a sort of speaking flow… I couldn’t *communicate.
At least not new… or complex thoughts. Not in real-time conversation. Not in quick, scrawled notes…
It’s like this… I’m a guitarist. Some musicians can improvise. Some mostly memorize. Me? I get on a stage with a song I don’t know? I panic.
I need to “compose” every word I speak… and write. To feel safe.
Now, a lotta people write in their life. A lotta autistic people. In jobs. Academic papers. Applications. Emails. Freaking social media…
And some of my autistic friends have the opposite problem. It’s too EASY for them to type their thoughts. Their struggle is controlling the flood of words.
I should be so lucky…
I don’t know how you do it. If the effort to mask your writing… “composing” every sentence to blend in…? Doesn’t exhaust some of you?
Color me surprised.
Like masking during party chitchat. But the stakes are a lot higher for permanent, public text.
But for me, there are huge payoffs. Communicating’s a challenge worth the effort.
- Paying back the other autistic voices who helped me make sense of my life.
And I hope to make a difference in some children’s & parents’ lives.
- A few personal bonus points. Like recognition for a skill I dreamed I had…
Even when teacher after teacher assured me I had no talent for topic sentences.
Conquering my challenges as a writer is one of my greatest autistic joys.
A last thought. Masking isn’t a deficit. Not something wrong with me. Or you… It’s a survival skill. We’re still here, aren’t we?
And it can be much more… A skillful means toward autistic joy.
I get down with my grandson in the garden dirt…
flashback on the first green shoots of my own 2nd spring…
and hunt for my simplest words, one-by-one-by-one…
to paint the joy waiting for him…
each & every April for at least his next 70 years…
And I’m suddenly thankful…
for every agonizing decade it took me to conquer telling stories…
because today I feel exactly like Johnny Profane…
wearing the best damn Papaw mask…
That’s a wrap!
There are gazillions of podcasts out there… and yet you chose to listen to this one to the very end. That means a lot. Thank you!
Next episode? How I rediscovered my autistic joy as an adult, some cosmic speculation on our autistic place in the universe, and serious discussion about the impact of autistic “variable ability,” adult regression, and phasing in and out of existence… like a quantum phenomenon.
Wanna learn more? Check out my posts, paintings, poems, music, politics, and more at www.autisticaf.me.
One last thing…
If you enjoyed this podcast… the greatest support you can offer? Please share this link on social media. Or better yet, mention it to a friend… ya know, who cares.
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Authentic Autistic Life: 4 Short Stories Fearless, Joyful and Chaotic, s3e2 – #AutisticAF Out Loud
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