Language Translation

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Social Grace

I recently went to New York.  While there I saw "Wicked" with my good friend, Cecily.  It was such a fun experience for me.  I worried that the energies flying around the auditorium might be too much for me.  With the exception of the symphony, I have rarely been in a packed auditorium without being on the stage - the extra energy was great because it just gave me a little more while performing.  But sitting and watching is so different.  I rarely patron the theater, mostly because I've been afraid of what it would do to my ability to stay grounded and balanced.

Then the play started.  I have a hard time turning off the "symbolism" button in my brain.  It is always there and no matter where I am or what I'm doing, I just see things, always.  So as it began, I related greatly to the main character.  She is different.  She is odd and it is apparent to everyone that there is something about her that is so very odd - so much so that they fear her and will not allow her to be close to them.  Then she is kind of thrust into a friendship with someone who is willing to consider a different view.  They end up close friends.

As I watched this, I felt so drawn into the story and the emotion was so powerfully true to my life that I was beginning to feel overwhelmed by all of the emotion.  Cecily, as always, knew just how to help me and I was able to stay and enjoy the rest of the show without having a complete meltdown.  She is good like that. 

Anyhow.  I learned a couple of things.  It takes a lot, I mean a lot of conscious effort, but I am able to step away from the symbolism and see things on the surface like others do.  It is really hard though.  It is hard not to see how everyone and everything is connected.  I'm learning though.  This play was a great exercise for me.  It may sound silly, but something Cecily whispered made a huge difference.  I already knew this.  I knew it clearly, but the connection between brain and heart kind of was lost for a minute.  She said, "Tara, it isn't real.  There are a lot of things that you see that are similar, but it isn't the same thing.  There are a lot of things that are different.  It doesn't mean this is the way your life is going to go just because you see a few things that are how your life has been."

It took a minute for my brain to translate her words, but once I did, I realized what she was saying and what she was seeing.  I was so caught up in the emotional connection that I forgot that I was watching something that was completely fictional; that this show was meant to have similarities, that's what makes it successful.  But there is nothing that says it is a prophecy for those of us who may relate to the characters.  Well, duh!  Right?  It is so funny how my brain has such a hard time keeping the reality on the forefront.

So what I've learned from this experience about how my brain works differently from that of my NT family and friends:  The story may be fiction, but the emotions are reality.  If you know anything about metaphysics, you know that emotions have substance to them, actual form.  They are more dense than wavelength but are not as dense as matter.  They are something of substance and they are not kept within our bodies.  They come off of us, some people (like those of us on the spectrum) are more sensitive.

Now.  Try to see from this angle for a moment.  I am picking up the emotions of all of the people in the audience.  Excitement.  Disappointment.  Frustration.  Exhilaration.  Boredom.  Tired.  Interest.  The list goes on and on in that large of a setting.  Then there are the emotions of all those involved in the show.  Backstage is rushed, stressed about keeping things moving, worried about the bloopers and how to adjust the props to fit the changes, lighting and music queues, etc.  Orchestral members were frustrated with some of the things...I'm not sure what, I was trying to not sort it all out.  I think the conductor was upset about something.  Anyhow.  The orchestra was struggling with feeling like a group.  Then there were the actors.  Frustrations with their voices not being what they wanted them to be.  Times when the audience didn't react where they expected it and because they've done it a million times, the air was popped out of the balloon.  Then the audience did react where they weren't expecting it and again the actors felt a little off.  There was so much emotion coming from the stage that was incongruous with what the character was supposed to be feeling.

I was also picking up on many of the things Cecily was feeling, but I'm not going to share those things because that is personal and not mine to share.

Then we come to my personal feelings.  The story was a surprise to me - I knew two of the songs from the play, that was all I knew about it.  I was surprised by how much I related to it emotionally.  So my personal emotions were very heightened.  Then I felt bombarded by everyone around me.  I felt lied to because what the actors had in their hearts was different than the lines and the songs.  Sometimes they were in character enough that it felt honest, but most of the time I was trying to tell myself that I was okay and no one was lying to me.  No one was breaking the rules.

Bless Cecily's heart for leaning over to me and just saying "It's not real...."  We talked a little during the intermission and that helped as well.  I am happy to report that by the end of the play, I was able to completely separate from the situation and just enjoy the show.  That was quite an accomplishment for me.  :)  The separation was hard to do until I quit thinking about it.  It's like the Tao te Ching expresses - when we are trying to think about or name something, it escapes us.  When we are just being, it comes flooding into us without any effort.  Or, I should say, without any effort at grasping it.  The effort is there.  It looks like opening and accepting rather than chasing and reaching though.  There is effort, it is just an effort to be open, to accept, to be rather than to do.

Now.  To my main point.  There is a scene in the play where the socially-outcast main character finds herself in an all-too-familiar awkward situation.  They are at a dance and she is being gawked at as she flops around, trying to dance.  Her counterpart, who had been ornery to her, felt badly.  She reached out to the main character and showed her the same movements she was making and did it slightly different.  She showed her the grace and flow that would make her movements rather lovely.

I feel like that is what people in my life do for me, especially my friend Cecily.  They show me that what I'm doing isn't too bad, it just needs a little finesse, a little grace.  I've learned that, while it takes a lot of very conscious effort, I can learn to come across as normal.  I can learn to be less offensive and less blunt.  I can learn to not step into others' personal space and to be aware of social queues and body language.

I am capable of being like everyone else.  I don't want to be anymore though.  I don't want to try to do things the way my NT family and friends do.  I wasn't made that way and it is so much effort and work to do that.  It causes so much stress and work and frustration in my life.  I learned, by watching "Wicked" with my dear friend, that I am not only just fine the way I am - quirks and all - but I am meant to be this way.  I may not have social grace.  I may not be the most charming woman you will ever meet.  I probably will never be easy to live with or be around.  I will definitely never stop asking a million questions or being curious about all people and things around me.  I will never lose my passion for religions and culture and customs.  I will never stop being fascinated by the connections between different belief systems and cultures and the individual.  I will never stop LOVING the word "why" - ever. 

This isn't pride - not even in a good sense.  This is acceptance.  This is opening and letting myself be instead of do.  It's interesting that in the moments I am able to do that, I am able to do all of the things I had been trying to do for years and years.  I learned that by accepting me and just being me I actually do have social grace.  Imagine that!  ME!  I can do things properly without thinking and running through the millions and millions of variables that could be considered.  I can just be.  How happy is that?!


  1. Wonderful post. You have such a way of showing a different thought process so that I understand it. Thank you.

  2. Very beautiful and enlightening. Thank you for sharing yourself and therefore sharing the ability to better appreciate life and others.