once upon a time

i am notoriously picky. food, clothes, sounds, activities. it’s a thing. but like, none of that even compares to the level of pickiness i display when reading.

it’s not just a stylistic thing, it’s also a rhetorical and logical thing. and an associative thing. i can feel the parts of the iceberg below the surface, and a lot of times i don’t like what i feel. when i annotate readings for research purposes, the most frequently used word in my notes is usually “ew.” once i was working outside of my lab, reading for a project, and looked, apparently, so displeased that an acquaintance sitting nearby concernedly asked “emma, do you ever get to read things you actually like?”

“rarely.” i said.

this past january, i read a post on a blog i liked that i felt so intensely about that i commented on it. i’d been reading the blog in question for a while, primarily because it was one of the few things written by the parent of an autistic child that i actually liked reading.

(when it comes to non-academic writing, my tastes are as refined as they are idiosyncratic: in order to be serious and responsible and open enough to talk about difficult things, you have take yourself pretty un-seriously. it’s difficult. few people manage it. but this blogger did.)

a few hours after i’d commented and gone on my merry way, i got an email. the blogger in question wanted to ask if it was okay to post my comment as it’s own post the next day, because it said such important things. there was also a quick note at the end of the email: the blogger had recognized my college email address. she’d gone to that same school.

it’s seven months later. now i write a blog myself. (sometimes). i’m seven times more impressed with jess now than i was in january.

it’s very hard to be open to the possibility that other individuals might have greater insight into even the more intimate, private aspects of your life. it’s even more difficult to be open to this possibility when it comes to the intimate, private aspects of your parenting.

and blogging as a medium makes it easy to let your compassion and concern overflow into a kind of facile identification with all those “in need.” liking the sound of your own voice is kind of a blog pre-requisite (one that i’m in no way exempt from), and when you combine a basic sense of responsibility to others with a love of talking and a broad media platform, the result is often…rather tasteless in it’s earnest ignorance.

jess likes talking about other people talking. she likes asking questions, asking for help, asking for understanding, asking for open-mindedness. she really, really, really likes candy crush. and emailing tiny messages back and forth with me on our iphones. i have sent her a sum total of three separate photos that show me holding really intense waffles. we haven’t actually met yet.

people like jess (whether non-autistic, autistic and otherwise) don’t come along that often. they have to have an unusually intense predilection for self-critique, without getting buried under it; they must love people in general enough to truly dislike people in particular; they have to retain enough childlike wonder that it never turns into an excuse for thoughtless behavior.

jess is very short. she likes bad jokes. her voice sounds like she’s about 16 years old. the one time i asked her if she’d do me a personal favor, she responded having done something like four times bigger than what i’d originally asked. every time something new in the world comes up, something hard, some point of contention i expect will cause others to disappoint me, and cause me to disappoint others…each time i keep expecting the other “jess shoe” to drop. it doesn’t happen. not because she never messes up, but because she’s not surprised when she does; because even when she messes up bigtime, jess doesn’t stop being jess.

this was a happy birthday post, because people always will ask me, in arguments: “what do you even expect us to do! not everyone can be perfect all the time! stop being so over-sensitive. what you want isn’t even reasonable.” and i can now say “do like she does, and you’ll do good.” side-affects of doing like jess does may include: crying every five seconds, using too many hashtags, crying, writing really beautiful posts about life, writing really beautiful posts about the most random things and crying.

don’t worry though. it’s worth it.

happy belated birthday.


5 thoughts on “once upon a time

  1. You nailed this one about Jess! She’s the kinda writer I’ve always dreamt of being- the type that sucks you in so deep in yourself that the world stops around you as her words take shape into emotions you didn’t know existed, causing tears & laughter to come out all at once while opening your eyes to a perspective you never considered before. She’s one of a handful of bloggers that I’ve fallen in love with & unknowingly inspired me to create my own fb page & hopefully when the kids are back in school, give me the courage to start writing again.

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