Monday, October 6, 2014

A Stranger in a Strange Land...

For as long as I can remember I have felt like a stranger, in a strange land. For those that don't recognize it this is the title of a science fiction book written by Robert A. Heinlein. The book's central character is Valentine Michael Smith; a human who comes to Earth in early adulthood after being born on the planet Mars and raised by Martians.

Smith is possessed of various and sundry gifts; but his ways, Martian ways, do not fit in with the way of humans, some loved him, most feared him and misunderstood him.

His character has always been my personal metaphor. Living my life, I feel just like Smith. Variously called the black sheep, crooked nail elephant in the room, I feel like I stand out because I don't quite fit in...I look human, but something in not quite right with me, at least in the eyes of others.

My clock tics differently than most people's.  I live in a society that speaks about individuality, yet at the same time demands a bland conformity.  This stands out even more in someone like me.  Yet, I am really "just me" and can't be anything but that.  Therefore it's not a question of conformity, rather one of equality and acceptance.  The everlasting refrain of my father in my brain "why can't you just be like everybody else" constantly rehashed in my thoughts and emotions.

The first time I ever felt like Smith I was a child of but four years.  I was in St. Mathew's Episcopal Church in Paramus NJ; my mother had just brought me to the nursery.  For the first time (that I remember, at any rate) I was surrounded by other little humans.  They looked just like me, but they were something other than me.  I was confounded, scared and panicked.  Where other little boys and girls play and socialize, albeit on a young child's level, I felt nothing but fear and confusion.

Thing is, I always have, and always will feel that even with my own family.  Not being able to cope they distanced themselves from me decades ago,  but I felt a stranger in a strange land in my own home as a child.  There were these "parent things" "mom-things" and "dad-things."  I could see my older brother Billy, that he had rapport and relationship, he knew how to play this social intercourse thing in a way I did not.  It's only now that I have the words to describe what I was experiencing.  I had always been a very verbal child and adult, but often repeating empty words.  I saw at an early age that my mind was always swimming with imagination and ideas, in every direction, and this was part of my every waking experience...yet no one else seemed to know anything about this.  My thinking that this was NT why would have I even questioned it?

At the same time, the connectedness I did not experience on this social level I experienced with "thoughts as things."  

I remember  years later in 2nd grade students making fun of me because they didn't believe I had a magic genie in my magnetic belt I wore around my waist.  I couldn't understand that even a 6 year old experienced some some separation between the images in his head and the images outside his head, fantasy vs reality.

I've never lost this over productive imagination, in fact it is my prime mover.  Yet I lack consistency in logic and critical thinking.  As I matured the one continued to grow and the other show more lacking.

I write this post with a bit of frustration.  If I don't fit in with "society" then so be it.  What can I possibly do different than what I do, what I am?

Had I the resources of early intervention and understanding, there is no doubt in my mind I would be a different person today, on many levels.  Yet, that did not happen, and here I am.  I look like a duck, quack like a duck, walk like a duck, but I'm a goose.  People with developmental disabilities in our culture are marginalized, more so implicitly and explicitly in all parts of society.  I am a stranger in a strange land.

So be kind with me, be patient, learn to accept me for who I am...I will try to do the same with you.

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