The Grateful Autistic

The thoughts of a reborn woman.

Experiences of being proud to be AUTISTIC and TRANSGENDER while losing my religious faith and discovering spiritual freedom.

Words of love and gratitude and life in the wonderful city of Newcastle Upon Tyne.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Why I Am Ashamed To Have Marched In Newcastle For A Good Cause

It is very hard for me to march and attend rallies. It's hard to explain how hard it is for my head to cope with the noise and crowds and the fact that 56 hours later I have not recovered from being there. For me to attend such an event and stand up for equality, fraternity and liberty and all those nice things is a big sacrifice. 

I would still want to attend. Because there are things I believe in that trump the difficulties of being the owner of my lovely little autistic brain - and the shaking and tears and pain I've had the last couple of evenings as a pretty direct result of putting myself through the event.

But I am not going to attend. My conscience is such that I must in future stay away from them unless things change.

See if you can spot why I can no longer attend these rallies. Clue: It comes about 1 minute into this video:

Newcastle Unites, "a broad coalition of the left" have shared the video on Facebook.  It's called "The English Defence League v Newcastle Unites."  A great title for a football match.

Answer: The call for people to commit suicide.

I cannot be associated with that. Ever. It's evil.
I don't care who the people are.  I don't care what they say.  I don't care what they have done.  It doesn't matter.  Shouting at them to commit suicide is never justified.  Never.

I am rubbish at social initiation. But I did it on this occasion. Telling them just how vile the chant is. The response I got was, "Well they say bad things so we can too." I felt physically sickened by that response.

Others disliked that chant too. But there it is in the video as if this is something that supposedly nice people should be proud of. It isn't. Newcastle Unites should be profoundly ashamed that such things happen on their watch. Not proud. Ashamed.

Other chants distress me too:

Calling people scum. Yeah, they might be wrong, they might be racist. But is anyone scum?

Saying they're "our streets." Er, no. They're everyone's streets. Because we live in a free society. This isn't some gang warfare, Jets versus Sharks. This is a call for unity, for the celebration of the dignity of all human beings.

So yeah, no more marches and rallies for me unless I can be assured that this awfulness can be consigned to the dustbin of shame where it belongs.
I strongly dislike the English Defence League and the things they believe and proclaim.  I believe their brand of racism, like any other brand of racism, is cruel, ignorant and inhuman.  Earlier today I watched the video the EDL produced of their rally.  The ignorance is plain.  The hatred is plain.  The fear of other people is plain.
Some of their members even proclaim these things while carrying banners claiming to be "Christian" defenders.  I'm not sure they had read the parts of the Bible about how to treat the alien in your land.  Or the parts of the Bible in which Jesus - an interesting middle Eastern guy whose family were forced to seek sanctuary in a foreign land - talked about love and mercy.

Yes.  I'd love to see every member of the EDL give up their ways and wear nice "Refugees Welcome" badges.  It would be wonderful.
I am proud that I stand, as much as my head and variable abilities allow, against the hatred and racism that organisations such as the EDL churn out.

But.  I am ashamed to have walked in a parade and stood at a rally where the encouragement was given for those members to commit suicide, to shoot themselves.

I am ashamed.

And I won't be doing it any more.

Days Of Gratitude - The Final Four Days In The South

These were not the easiest of days.  I don't want to go into details of why they weren't the easiest.  Just accept it, they weren't.  I am glad these days are over.

They weren't easy for more reasons than expected.  The circumstances mentioned below were very sad ones for everyone concerned.  Others had a great deal more to cope with.  For myself the shock was great.  For those closer, the shock was much greater.  Very sad.

And yet even in these days there were things to be grateful for.  And some big surprises too.  The opportunity mentioned below was stunning and a total sudden surprise.  It meant that a week later I found myself not in Newcastle as expected but in Edinburgh.  But that can all wait for a future post.

September 9th

The circumstances are not what we hoped. Not at all.

But I am grateful to be able to see the relations that I like.

I often visited this place as a child, the home of my favourite uncle and aunt and their children.

We would always walk into the village and often take pictures of the child angel.

We would always be fed well.

Things are different this time. But the angel and the feeding remain. As does the view.

September 10th

Grateful the day is over.

That's all.

Except grateful for an opportunity presented to me unexpectedly.

September 11th

Grateful for a surprise lunch with my ex church pastor from Crawley. I learned solid, literalist, Biblical homophobia in that church. Things have mellowed a lot since then.

Grateful too for water features at a Crawley hotel.

September 12th

Grateful that we got the necessary things done today.

Grateful to have got through this time in Crawley. In 12 hours I will be gone.

Photos were taken tonight in the darkness of what was my parents' back garden.

Grateful too for a surprise contact and the promise of meeting a friend at the weekend for the first time in 20 years.

Monday, 19 September 2016

A Short Thought About Christians Going Into The Ministry

Is find myself annoyed at the commonly used term of Christians "going into the ministry."  My annoyance arose from the reports I read yesterday of our local assistant bishop who is "retiring from the ministry."  Bishop Frank is a lovely man and when I was re-accepted into membership of the Church of England four years ago I was happy that he was the man at the front doing the accepting.  I wish him well in his retirement.  And yet, I found myself getting more annoyed and the phrase got stuck under the surface of my brain.

My annoyance is this:  It isn't THE ministry at all.

It's A ministry. One of many.

Every Christian has a ministry to go into, in which they should minister as Christ in this world, light bearers to others. Every Christian will have their own ministry.

Being an ordained priest is certainly a form of ministry but to refer to it as "the ministry" is unfortunate. If it is THE ministry then this automatically relegates the lives of all laity from being Christian ministry.  It posits a system in which some people's service of their God is more important and better than the service most people give their God.
And although I'm sure most people don't mean to do it, by calling an ordained hierarchy THE ministry they linguistically make the service of Christ, ministry to the earth and all who dwell upon it, to be a second class service.

All Christians should be in ministry. All should be ministers. And though the form of ministry may vary widely, they should all minister love.

In fact I believe that - although non-Christians may use different language and may not centre their lives upon the life and way of Jesus - all people should be in minstry and minister love:
If Christ is the light of the world then all people should seek to be Christ-bearers.
If God is love then all people should seek to be reflections of love.

If the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of creativity, of reconciliation, of transformation, if the Spirit is the encouraging paraclete and the model of faithfulness then all people should seek to be Spirit bearers and speak the words of the Spirit.
If the life of the Spirit is wonder and awe, service and excitement, rejoicing and mourning with others, and living the fullest lives possible then all people should seek that way of being.

If the Gospel is of hope and peace, if it is good news, then all people should preach and live it.

That's what the ministry is.  Not gaining a dog collar and a place in a hierarchy.  The ministry is to follow the commandment of Jesus to love one another.

The ministry is for all of us.  Christians.  Non-Christians.  Even anti-Christians.  All of us, preachers.  All of us, examples.

That includes me. And I, like all of us, sometimes am a good minister and sometimes (often!) fall short.
I am not a Christian right now.  [Although I think a few people would disagree with that statement.]  I am not a theist right now.  But I want to grow in ministry.  I want to be a Christ-bearer.  I want to preach that Gospel in word and deed - and in silence too.  I want to walk in the wholeness of God and fullness of being which is love.

Please bear with me while I keep getting it wrong and keep exploring to find out what my ministry might be and might become outside of believing the old, old story, outside of dogma and doctrine, and outside what most people would recognise as Christianity.  Please bear with me as I learn to walk in the wholeness of God while not believing in a God.

Yes.  Please be patient.  This woman is going into ministry!

As for Bishop Frank:  He may no longer be a bishop of the Church of England.  But I don't believe he is retiring from the ministry.  Those reports were erroneous.  He's just retiring from a form of ministry he happened to have.  He'll still be in ministry.  It'll just be a different form of ministry.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Days Of Gratitude - Boxes and Beacons, Cemeteries and Chai in Crawley

Hard days.  I have been visiting the town where I grew up.  It's the last time I will ever stay in my childhood home.  Being there is hard but I have found the setting easier than expected.  The house is nearly empty so it doesn't feel much like my parents' house.  It feels more like a shell.  There aren't things everywhere that speak of them, just bare walls, bare shelves - at least where there are still shelves.

My brother and I have a table.  We have a chair each.  A bed each.  A fridge.  A kettle.  And not too many other things.  Once we're gone everything else will be cleared.  The house will be sold.  And hopefully someone else can enjoy living here.  It's a good house.  If it was in Newcastle rather than Crawley it would be a much better house!

I knew the visit would be difficult for quite a few reasons and as I type this, a couple of days before I leave this town, my head is struggling to keep going.  I'm glad that today is quieter.  And I am glad that it's a sunny day too.  It means I have a day when I can be quiet and be out doing things on my own.  I've been masking like crazy, hiding my head and forcing myself to be appear functional and happy.  I hope that I won't be collapsing afterwards, especially since it turns out I have a single day to recover when I get home before going to spend a few days somewhere else unexpectedly.

Hard days.  And there was some shock family news too just a few days ago that has hit everyone pretty hard.  But there have been plenty of good things.  Today there will be more, especially as I go and visit the nicest park in the town.  I am looking forward to that.  I always liked wandering there.  Today I can take Blob Thing and Winefride with me and they can visit the nice animals.

September 5th

Grateful to have made it here without melting too badly.

Grateful that I won't be here for very long.

I grew up in this house. And this is my final visit to it.

Grateful to have brought down a few little happy making things from home.

September 6th

I am allergic to Crawley. Not grateful for that!

Grateful that I won't be here long.

Grateful too for unhealthy giant chai latte.

For wandering in a Catholic cemetery.

And that my friends enjoyed the driverless train at Gatwick Airport.

And for cheap eyebrow waxing and a pretty roof in the shopping mall.

September 7th

Grateful to have sorted out my travel arrangements to leave here next week.

Grateful to have sorted boxes to be couriered back to Newcastle.

Almost my entire physical inheritance from my parents in two boxes. That's okay. There isn't a lot from my past that I want to take into my present, let alone my future.

[Note - I've since sorted out two more boxes that should be in Newcastle by the time this is published.  They're mainly filled with photo albums.  There were many photo albums.  Between the four boxes there are some old things I'm glad to have and some useful things too.  Forks!  Because for some reason our forks keep vanishing.  I'm also taking back some pictures in my case and a very pretty piece of wood if I can get it to fit.  Some of the pictures are prints my dad made when he was entering photographic competitions.  They are good prints and some of them won prizes.  I think these pictures will finish my job of filling the walls of the new art room.  I'll have filled all the walls with good things for less than ten pounds including a very expensive picture that cost me three pounds!

We visited a relation last night (as I type this) who now has quite a lot of furniture and useful things from my parents' house.  She is very welcome to it all.  It's good to know that they will have a life there rather than being thrown away.  It was nice to use the plates I grew up with for one last meal.  My relation has also been able to take some furniture and household things for refugees who have moved into the area.  I think that's pretty brilliant and I know my mother would have completely approved of it.]

September 8th

Grateful that today we went to the South Downs and managed to do something we've needed to do for a while.

[Panorama of a view from Ditchling Beacon.  Last time I was there was with my child and my parents.  That was a happy day - at least, that's what the photos suggest.  I'd post one but my laptop is missing three or four years of photos from my parents.]

Later we saw my dad, who was able to say some words. Just knew that even at this stage of his dementia he would still have opinions on the best route to an uncle's house.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Days Of Gratitude - Hoop Dancing, Cardinals, Cafes, Art And A Little Revelation

The gratitude diary continues into the ninth month of the year.  Two-thirds of the way through.

These were four days in Newcastle between a time away that was wanted and a time away that in so many ways isn't wanted.  As I write this I am still away for that time away and look forward to being home.  It's a necessary time away but a sad and difficult one and it got more sad than expected.  It's all part of life, and I am now gaining a life that I want to live and live to the full.  That's not something I could have said not too many years ago.

Four days.  A lull.  A time that felt a bit unreal.  And a time that demonstrates my current zeal to live.  Days of trying new things and going to new places.  Some of them got listed in the diary.

The day after this I left home for Sussex to help with the final clearing and selling of what was the home of my parents and which was my home too - my only childhood home.  On the day that this post is published I will be leaving that house for the last time.  It's pretty empty now and doesn't feel like my parents' house now.  Contents have gone to the tip, to family, to charity shops, and some to refugees.  More will be taken for family and refugees very soon and the remainder will be cleared by a house clearance firm.

I hope that the new owners and/or residents love it there.  My parents moved there just a few years after getting married and never moved even though they considered it several times and there were a couple of periods of looking at lots of other houses.  We came quite close to moving once but the house we wanted was taken off the market.  My mother said it was good that we didn't move.  Finances wouldn't have worked out well if there was any larger mortgage to pay off.  So they stayed in that house and made it a good home, filled with the things they loved.

So.  Four days, between the joy of Greenbelt and the non-joy of the job-nobody-really-wants-to-do-but-most-people-have-to-at-some-point.

September 1st

Grateful to have taken the plunge.

Grateful to have tried something new.

At Greenbelt I stood and watched a guy play with a hoop. Returning home I find notice of a hoop dance workshop once more.

I have heard of these workshops since they began. I wanted to try. I couldn't.

This time I went for it in full knowledge of my unfitness, lack of balance, stiffness, and of having not really played with a hoop since I was six and was pretty ridiculed at school for being so crap at it.

Yep. Ridiculed. And wounded.

One more kick towards the darkness.

I am grateful that tonight I played again.

One more caress back into the light.

Yeah. I can't do it. Or much of it. I could begin to do a couple of things.

But I can't set a hoop spinning round my middle without it falling to the floor.


Yet is a word I didn't used to use of my lack of a skill.


I will play with a hoop again. And see what happens.

Does anyone have nice hoops they don't want? I think regular play would be excellent for me physically and mentally.

So Clare had a good time. And if she hadn't? Well that would have been okay too.

September 2nd

Grateful for the meeting in Broadacre this morning. It may lead to good things.

Grateful for a free evening of meditation even though it all felt a bit cultish possibly. I enjoyed it but my inner siren said "Danger, Will Robinson."

Before the evening, Blob met this priest. A man from Ampleforth, a place currently embroiled in further accusations of sexual abuse and of cover ups, this time unrelated to Basil Cardinal Hume.
Grateful for another priest today - the Anglican Bishop of Grantham. He has publicly stated that he is in a gay relationship. A brave thing for a bishop to do.

Hopeful for a church future - if the church has any worthy future at all - in which neither sexual abuse nor loving sexual relationships are ever covered up.

A future in which churches aren't so twisted in doctrine or practice.

September 3rd

Grateful for street logos and art.

Grateful too for cheap clothes in Byker and a superb toastie in a Byker cafe.

Also grateful for a moment of revelation in a discussion with one of the evangelical praying people in town.

September 4th

Grateful to be able to buy just the right kind of liquorice for Amanda. I went to Tynemouth just to buy it.

Grateful to have got the best seat on the Metro.