Demand Avoidance and Katherine May

I spend a lot of time trying to get one over on myself; sneaking around the back so I don’t work out what I’m up to until I’m too late. As soon as I feel like I have to do something, I run in the other direction.

The worst thing about it is that the ‘thing’ can be something I really want to do. I have books on my shelf that were on my university reading list twenty years ago, that I long to read but can’t because every time I reach for them something inside me rebels.

I should have known I would ruin Katherine May’s book by adding it to the list of books I should read. I thought I’d be safe, I was already halfway through and loving it. I was already deeply envious of her beautiful turn of phrase and entranced by the gentle unravelling of her own autism alongside her coming of age travels as she approached her fortieth birthday. How could deciding to write a review on it get in my way now? That would make me truly ridiculous.

I met Katherine last year when we worked together on Sonia Bouè’s project Neither Use Nor Ornament. She smiles a lot. She has one of those smiles that has an electricity to it – that’s probably the right word. She gave me good advice that I haven’t followed, and widened my sphere of autistic women.

Her book seemed all the more poignant because this year I turn forty and I share that desire for adventure. I told myself I should run a marathon, or a half one, or a 5k, or maybe go for a nice jog, or a walk – I could go for a nice walk – or I could just sit here with my nice cup of tea. Yes, that’s what I’ll do, that’ll work.

I feel I should be achieving things and telling the world about the beauty of The Electricity of all Living Things. I mean, just that title, isn’t that stunning? Isn’t it a twisted untangling of patterns and people and minds? Isn’t it beautiful and clean and light?

Instead I am cheating. I cannot finish that book because I feel that I should, but if I write this then maybe I can free myself from those shackles of expectation. Maybe I can know myself the way my husband knows me – the way he plays music in the background several times before mentioning the artist, because it doesn’t matter how much it suits my taste, if it’s too new and you tell me I should like it, I will pull away and lose out again.

I want to know where Katherine walks to, I want to follow her around the coast, both literal and metaphorical, I want to see who she finds as she pulls back the layers of a late autism diagnosis. I want to share her mind and her footsteps. I know what it is to get lost and take the wrong path, and to get frustrated with who I am, and I want to share in those moments. I want to know I am not alone.

Her new book, Wintering, is out now and I’ve already heard such amazing things about it. I won’t be telling myself it’s a “must read”, but I will be doing my utmost to find myself alone in a room with it, a large armchair, and perhaps a roaring wood-fire sometime soon. Just a gentle coincidence, a natural happenstance a sideways step towards being who I want to be.

14 thoughts on “Demand Avoidance and Katherine May

  1. I trick myself into reading by keeping a book beside me when I’m playing computer games. I don’t let myself know it’s the book I ”should” be reading. I read during loadscreens, and sometimes, the reading is so engaging that I don’t want the screen to finish loading… These books you mention sound amazing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. What a good idea! I shall also be stealing that. Thank you @CATHYTEA!

      I’m so glad to hear about Katherine May’s new book. The Electricity of Every Living Thing was wonderful and I can’t wait to read Wintering. No doubt it will take me until next winter to finish but it’ll be worth it!

      Also, thank you Rhi for your excellent post as always. Your words are always such a comfort.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I had not heard of demand avoidance until I researched autism more deeply, but when I read about it, I immediately recognised it in myself. It’s strongest when the demands come from someone else, not so much when I demand things from myself. At the same time one part of me is always berating another part about all the things I should do. Somehow I always create these tasks for myself that I then don’t want to do.
    About the book: I have read it, and I thought it was great. I didn’t know there was a new one out, so that’s good to know.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it’s definitely strongest when demands come from outside. Strangely I also like deadlines, which feels like it can’t make sense alongside the avoidance.


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