Recently, my twelve-year-old son developed a passion for all things England-related. He set his devices to London time, began listening to Britpop, and started reading relevant non-fiction. For fun.
Knowing an opportunity when I saw one, I said, “Know what show I love is set in England? Ted Lasso.”
After some negotiating, my son agreed to watch the show with me.
What a gift that turned out to be!
About five episodes into Ted Lasso, my son exclaimed, “Coach Beard is you, Mom!” I don’t remember which scene prompted this exclamation, but I do remember how I felt in that moment.
So used to reflexively presenting myself and thus being seen more as ever-cheerful Coach Lasso, I was delighted to feel, in that moment, fully seen as I am: far, far more like the taciturn bookworm Beard than his typically peppy counterpart Lasso.
I am a woman of many words.
The funny thing is: I absolutely loathe the necessity for generating them myself.
Honestly, I’d be a much, much happier woman if I could simply, briefly Vulcan mind-meld with others to communicate with them on an as-needed basis before then resuming my quiet, preferred business of near-perpetual contemplation and learning. Mind-melding not being a real human thing, unfortunately, I have learned to grudgingly accept that I must write and speak words if I have any chance of being understood.
Like Coach Beard, I am an avid reader. When I identify an offensive-to-me knowledge gap, I pick up a relevant book to begin bridging the gap.
If one book suffices, great! If one book isn’t enough, however, I read as many books as it takes for me to be satisfactorily sated. Since I organize my books in chronological order of reading, my specific historical learning bursts are evident in–to name a few–bookshelf sections on neoloberalism, alternative/doughnut economics, keto, and the opioid crisis.
A few months back, though, I encountered an unfamiliar situation:
one where I didn’t know enough about something troubling me
to even know where to start reading.
For the last few months, I have been profoundly uncomfortable in my own skin.
I have become very, very aware that I think … weird, which had somehow escaped my conscious notice for more than four decades.
Multiple times daily, I’d conclude conversations with anyone but those very nearest me with the horrible, shame-filled awareness that I think in weird, off-kilter ways. The shame was amplified by awareness this means I also occasionally act in ways that can read really weird, albeit in ways that had always before felt totally normal to me.
To not know the words for this particular weirdness? To not know, for months, where to begin reading to understand it or how to fix it?
It. was. excruciating.
I have never felt so lost.
A weeks ago, someone I love dearly affirmed–out of the blue, my having said nothing whatsoever on the matter!–their considered certitude that I think atypically. They did so with such love, I was perplexed. If I felt so
ashamed about it all, why did they sound … anything but shame-y?
I almost got the sense I was asking myself the wrong question.
Maybe the correct question wasn’t “How do I fix what’s wrong with me?”
Maybe the question was … something else. Something I couldn’t yet suss out.
Early yesterday morning, I felt a sudden weaving-together of conscious understandings.
What if all this isn’t about fixing myself? I wondered. What if this is about … accepting myself as I think, and as I am?!
A palpable load was lifted from my shoulders, simply thinking about the matter in this new, kinder light.
Much later in the day, I called another person I love in order to catch up with them. It had been more than a year since our last catch-up.
I was surprised when they picked up, and even more surprised to learn of their long, deep familiarity with atypical ways of thinking.
As we talked our way through an hour, I felt ever lighter of heart, for:
There are, indeed, many people who think like me.
There are such people who share their experiences to help like others learn to navigate the world in self-kind ways.
There are words already out there, and
they are ready to be found. By me.
My loved one recommended a specific book to start me on my path to word-having here.
As our call wound down, I said, “It is so frustrating to not have the words. None of them.”
They said, “Maybe you could think of it like this: Less than being frustrated that you don’t yet have the words, you could be excited that, finally, you’re just about to have them.”
And, like that, the rest of the load was … lifted.
I don’t have to fix myself.
I just have to learn to live with–and love–myself exactly as I am.
What. a. relief.
When my 12-year-old said Coach Beard is me, he didn’t say it with anything like enmity or disdain.
He said it with delight to have seen someone he loves (me!) reflected so tenderly in fiction.
So if you ever see me in Ted Lasso earrings, bracelets, and/or tee-shirts, you can know the affection is about more than simply fandom.
It’s also about me being grateful to see and feel love for this fictional, dude version of myself–
and to know, as I remember my son’s delight to see that other-me on-screen,
that I am already lovable,