Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Vignette 2: On Barriers and Grace

I have always gone through my life with the feeling of being an imposter. It’s a strange thing to describe-even to myself. There’s a sense that I am living inside a silicone cube which I cannot get out of. An odd memory surfaces from my High School days: I was an avid jogger for many years, and that turned me into a cross country runner my junior year of High School. But there was a speed barrier in my running career I could never cross. While I was good at what we called “LSD”-long, slow, distance, I could never get my body to build up enough energy and strength to improve my speed, no matter how many hills I sprinted. It just wasn’t in me, no matter how hard I pushed, no matter how many intervals I ran. The uncrossable barrier dogged my steps. I was slow.

Some of the kids on my cross country team told me that the secret key to their better performance was that they lifted weights at the YMCA. This seemed like a mysterious ritual to me, and I had no idea really, how to proceed. Somehow I found myself signing up to do volunteer work at the YMCA in order to earn myself a membership-so that I could work out and improve my running times. That volunteer situation was not a good fit at all. I was utterly intimidated by the place, and at that point in my life American body language and gestures were still often confusing and vague to me, so I was never quite sure what I ought to be doing there. I don’t remember the volunteer gig at the Y lasting very long at all, and I certainly never worked out there. I was confused, terminally shy, and utterly non-assertive. The invisible barrier hemmed me in.

In a way, this above description shines a light on my character. I’m still that person. That I have learned to be a little bit outgoing, to smile at people and to greet them, to ask questions when I”m confused and need clarification...all these things feel like a miracle to me.

There have been times in my life when I’ve felt the invisible barrier hemming me in more than at other times. I think I felt somewhat free during my college years, but even there, I was utterly shy of getting to know some fairly interesting people in my department. I kept my head down and kept to myself for the most part. I always felt a bit lost and out of my element. I was the type of person to play it safe. I was easily led. I would NOT have made a good heroine for a novel of any sort. I’m the boring type that heroines of novels nowadays rebel against being.

But this sad little tale has a point. Here I am, exposing my worst darkest secrets to the world. There’s a reason I’m doing that. First of all, I want to encourage anyone else who feels stuck behind an invisible barrier, or like an imposter, or like they just don’t fit to keep on plugging along and someday you will find a place to fit. There’s room for everyone on this planet. Secondly, I want to say that I believe this feeling of being an imposter, or having an invisible barrier around me has helped me relate to my kids (and husband, surprise surprise) better, who are on the autism spectrum. (Yes, I’ve taken the test...no, I’m not quite “on the spectrum” but I’m sort of close for a “neurotypical”). So, in a way, it has helped me to love.

And so the worst thing...has become the best thing. And that, I can only attribute to grace.

6 comments:

elizabeth said...

each one of us is unique and have a purpose... I am glad you are here.

Mimi said...

Thank you for being you, we love you!

Deborah Spaulding said...

Thank you for sharing your heart Alana. Continue to be who you are.

Selena said...

Really interesting Alana. There is a very good biological reason for your athletic abilities: your natural endowment of fast-twitch muscle versus slow-twitch muscle. I think slow-twitch muscle is good for long distances; people with lots of fast-twitch muscle can do high energy output for short periods of time, and then run out of steam.

Alana said...

That makes sense. I have found recently in my on going journey towards wellness that I must have scads of slow twitch muscles. I started swimming again, since we finally bought a ymca membership, after a 20 year hiatus, and I was able to swim a half a mile without building up to that distance. I need to larn to see the good things my bodycan do, and that is one ofthem.

Selena said...

Well that's pretty awesome. Swimming is the most perfect exercise and you can already do it, and it's so relaxing. I can't swim; wish I could.