As the last overly warm days of early fall drift away, things begin to settle. To settle, they first shift, turn, transform, change. I tuck my crisp shorts away in a plastic tub and pull out stacks of thicker, softer things, fuzzy cardigans, lush woolen scarves. My hair seems to change density, into something wispy that floats in the dry air. After an almost-unbearably-hot shower I smear lotions on my legs and arms. At night in bed I fidget, kicking my legs out to try to un-wrap my pajama hems from around my ankles, scratching at one last annoying tiny itch on my nose before I can fall asleep.

Image is a faded photograph of fallen leaves in the grass, with the text, “What has changed in a year, but everything? – eisforerin.com”

This time last year I was finding something out about myself. To go three and a half decades without ever seeing your reflection anywhere and then suddenly to see it is an uncanny feeling – startling, exciting, scary. And not only to see yourself, but to be seen. “I’m not autistic, but…” I said. “Don’t be so sure,” she told me.

Through the holiday season, I had a secret. As I sat at the table eating Thanksgiving dinner with family. As I opened presents with my husband and children on Christmas Day. It felt thrilling but dangerous – a little like being in love. A strange comparison, but it was that urge to tell, a strong desire to share it with the people in my life, while feeling that it was unsafe to do so. That I had something to lose.

Fall isn’t showy like spring, but its changes are no less dramatic. Spring may be the time when everything blooms, when things are born, but fall is a chance to start over. Trees shed last spring’s leaves and rest, flower bulbs nestle beneath the earth, small animals burrow down into hibernation. The air crackles with static electricity and the promise of snow. We slowly shed the self we were this year as we think of who we will be next.

What has changed in one year, but everything? What I have lost is confusion and a feeling of floating. What I have gained is a place in the world.

This year I’ve shed my secret and I am settling. Things are shifting, turning, transforming, changing. Always changing.

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I wrote this post for Autistics Speaking Day. Please see more at the Autistics Speaking Day Blog.

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