Repetitive Motions

I love things too much. I can pass through the world sarcastic and largely inexpressive for most of my day, but then I get home and consume the things I love with a covetous frenzy. I can watch a show and then read fanfic after fanfic about it, analyzing a five-minute scene and the actors’ microexpressions, trying to figure out what exactly they mean.

I like to listen to music and watch things over and over again. I want to know every word that was said and what exactly it means. I accidentally memorize a lot of things this way. I can still quote a lot of lines from Star Wars and Hercules, and I know exactly what Bucky sounded like when he screamed, “Shut up!” at Steve in the climactic scene of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. And I am weird, and I know this.

A clinical diagnosis of autism proclaims that someone has, among other things, unusual and specific interests and the constant tendency to make repetitive motions. When I was in middle school, I read a book in Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series where the main characters went inside the mind of a nonverbal autistic boy. His autism was represented in his mind as a sad clown riding a unicycle in circles around a room, locked in the same redundant, useless motion forever. Part of the happy ending was that, thanks to magic, the boy got to lock his mental room with the clown and leave him behind forever. He got to leave his autism behind.

Now, as an adult, that portrayal infuriates me. My autism is not one room in my mind that I could lock if only I had the tools. It is the walls. It is the foundation of the building. If you took it away, the structure would collapse and you would have to build an entirely new one. My autism is why fluorescent lights burn my eyes, why I lose my words and have a hard time speaking when I’m stressed or upset. It is also why soft shirts feel amazing and repetitive motions and special interests are soothing and magical.

What most people don’t realize is that there is infinite variation even in repetitive motions. My hand doesn’t move exactly the same way every time I flap. My fingers splay differently each time and I feel it as they move through the air. When I rock, sometimes I tip forward more and sometimes I tip backward more, and I am comfortable either way. It is comforting to realize that the world may be unpredictable, but so are the things my body does, and if I can handle my body being unpredictable then maybe I can face the world too. It is a nice thing to immerse myself in a fictional universe and become intimately familiar with it but discover new things each time I enter it.

I love things too much, and gorging myself on them feels good. I am not a sad clown spinning endlessly but a glutton savoring what my senses provide even as the world assaults them. I don’t hate my senses when they are helping me memorize every detail of the things I love. I am weird, and it feels good. And I don’t want to stop being weird. I don’t want to stop being myself.

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