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The Electricity of Every Living Thing: A Woman’s Walk in the Wild to Find Her Way Home

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This is me right now, crumpled, incoherent, gasping for breath. Flapping my forearms at the elbows like a hyperactive windscreen wiper.” Sure. Yeah. So Wintering is a book, I guess that draws on my kind of lived neurodivergent experience, really, to talk about the times in life when we feel kind of cast out in the cold. So those fallow periods in life, when we feel like, you know, everything else is carrying on around us. And we’ve dropped out, you know, whether that’s through mental or physical illness or through a bereavement, or you know, something like a divorce or a big life change. They’re these times that come to all of us, but we don’t tend to talk about them very much. And so in Wintering, I wanted to really kind of manifest them for the world and shepherd, so everyone that they have this thing in common, and also to talk about some of the gentle ways that you can enjoy them, I think is the best way to put that.

Her journey is about discovering where she can compromise, where she can’t, and building upon the relationships that matter to her; she forces herself to hold hands, (something she finds ‘grindingly’ uncomfortable) to support a friend though a cow phobia. She describes her close friends as ‘adoring’, but because of the stigma portraying autistic individuals as perpetually ‘lonely’ she felt she needed to hide her sociability when seeking diagnosis,Yeah, that’s beautiful. Thank you. So let me ask you one last question. Before we wrap up. I’m wondering, you know, throughout the book, it’s clear that you also feel conflicted about the choice that you’ve made to walk this trail, it’s to kind of prioritize, you know, your need, or your deep desire to reach this goal to do this thing, and your husband and your son are kind of there for you, you know, they’re often waiting for you in the village at the other end of a 12 mile walk, that feeling of sometimes feeling guilty? Or is this self indulgent or that you’re not a good enough mother, and also knowing strongly what you need in that moment? And I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about that tension? And what gave you the permission ultimately, to do what you did? So she isn’t taken seriously. She describes herself as astutely ‘well-adjusted’…. but realizes it was humiliating and often isolating childhood experiences, which shaped her,

The boy who’s more machine than human, who lists facts, who cannot look at you. Who lives with his mother because he can’t cope alone…”We’re not an evolutionary accident, but an adaptation. We are not what you think we are. We are useful, valued, loved. We’re the scientists and artists, the dreamers and the engineers. We’re vital to all of it. We’ve been pushing it forward and holding it together while the extroverts take all the glory.” Yeah, I love that. And that’s something I think about a lot and talk about is this idea that our, our neurodivergent kids really demand that we do the deep inner work, if we want to have meaningful relationships with them, support them show up for them in the way that they need. We can’t just kind of glide through and do all the usual things, we have to to really lean in and do that work. And I also agree that it can lead to such a more meaningful existence and connection with our kids. My son demands Mr. Whippy over artisan ice-cream. He spills things. I get raggedly bad-tempered. I scold him for sloshing milk over the table… in the process tipping the whole glass over myself.”

Poetic and intensely evocative. I read this as a metaphor that she feels elements of her personality retract into hibernation, but then unveil when safe. For me, her most important reflection wasn’t when sight-seeing tall forests and sparkling lakes, but when sliding through wind, rain and mud… The Electricity of Every Living Thing tells the story of the year in which Katherine comes to terms with her diagnosis. It leads to a re-evaluation of her life so far - a kinder one, which finally allows her to be different rather than simply awkward, arrogant or unfeeling. The physical and psychological journeys become inextricably entwined, and as Katherine finds her way across the untameable coast, she also finds the way to herself.As the blurb suggests, May didn't find the diagnosis of Asperger's/ASD distressing, but rather almost liberating. It gave her the permission to be who she is, which on reflection, is kind of a sad thing--that only a diagnosis offers permission to be unable to tolerate a busy, crowded room or being touched by a stranger. What finally leads her to end the project (and take to walking in a much more reasonable way) is the realization that while she needs to walk, to go out alone into nature, she doesn't need to have a goal--not anymore, not once she understands her needs are real.

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