I went to the supermarket the other day and was delighted to see the glittering golden tinsel wrapped round a display of fruit mince pies and plum puddings, and in the far corner stacked high, tins of Danish butter biscuits towered like a sweet skyline, and the soft strains of Silent Night poured over the sound system – it was music to my eyes and ears!
It is so easy for anyone to get caught up in the rush to buy presents and to post Christmas cards, and for those of us on the autism spectrum it is not unusual to feel the further layer of anxiety of keeping more balls in the air than we usually do. In more recent years I have come to welcome the bustle of the season of Christmas by choosing to place myself in the often overlooked qualities it contains: silence and stillness.
For me, the approach of Christmas is an opportunity to embrace certain inherent aspects of my autistic nature: the pleasure of simple and profound rituals. Unpacking the Christmas decorations, I unwrap them from folds of yesteryear’s news, delighting in the ornaments that have the quality of old friends: “I haven’t seen you for a year, you look fantastic!” turning them in my hand over and over again, each rotation renewing the delight of the way the light catches pieces of glass and glitter.
Then there is the (often infuriating!) ritual of draping a string of lights, and as each evening descends, flicking the switch and watching them take turns beating out a colour code of ‘ blue, green, red, blue, green, red’, patterns that take me back to Christmases past: the snow dome which as a child and to this day transports me with a flick of the wrist to a winter wonderland while cicadas chirp outside in the lazy noonday heat; memories of Midnight Mass, lying with my ear upon the wooden pew, the song of the choir reverberating curiously through the wood.
There are creatures too that come out of the woodwork just in time for the festive season: the Christmas beetles who blunder into my living room at dusk reminding me of how I would watch great numbers of them fly through the church windows, and I, rising from my wooden bed would make my way around the church on a mission of mercy to rescue as many as I could, easing their spindly legs from the loops in the carpet, flinging them out into the night, lavishing autistic empathy on their little lives.
Back in Christmas present I carefully unwrap a small Nativity set. Somehow a few figurines got broken: one of the angel’s wings barely hanging on by a thread, Joseph missing his nose; but Mary and the farm animals, undistracted, gaze in wonder at her child, reminding me once again that intense focus is no disability and deep silence is not a disorder but the only adequate response to life’s mystery.
Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas
About Rachael Lee Harris
Rachael is a registered psychotherapist specialising in autism spectrum conditions with a particular focus on women and girls on the spectrum. Rachael works from a unique perspective as a woman diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. She is passionate about applying therapies designed to build emotional resilience, imparting a basic sense of stability from a developing sense of self.
Rachael is the author of ‘My Autistic Awakening – Unlocking the Potential for a Life Well Lived’
Find out more at rlharrispsy.com