This is the first part in a two-part interview with Kmarie. Kmarie is an autistic wife, mother, and blogger from Canada. She is is drawn to music and often uses song lyrics to express her emotions. Her beautifully written blog details a variety of different life experiences, including (but not limited to) living with Asperger’s, INFJ personality, low ferritin, and chronic illness. This week Kmarie discussed her relationship with music, the importance of self knowledge, and her struggles with executive functioning and language.
On your About Page, you write, “I believe when we know ourselves first, we make the world a better place.” Can you expand on this?
Baruch Spinoza (one of my favourite Philosophers) wrote, “The more clearly you understand yourself and your emotions the more you become a lover of what is.” If we can not understand why we choose different ethics, emotions or responses, then it is tougher for us to understand people who are different from us. I feel, when we love what IS our life- whom we ARE, we are able to activate change because our foundation, grounded in a sense of secure self to a degree, is built. When we know our motivations and why, I think that it is easier to be compassionate about the way others are. Thus making the world a better place. When we are at peace with our own understanding of where we stand, how we are, and whom we wish to become, we add that strong, solid stance to the human collective. Perhaps it’s a bit of a Stoic mentality, but when our self is in check, understood, and balanced, we are less prone to violent rage, ignorance, and trampling of other’s basic human rights.
How do we go about “knowing” ourselves? How have you learned more about yourself? In what ways do you continue learning?
Wow, this is a big question that will have a big answer and I will still feel I am leaving things out…Feel free to skim.
There are many mediums to learn about self. Cognitive therapy, conversation, film, art, music, reading…but specifically, I feel that in-depth knowing of self can often jump off in Personality Typing. The issue with Typology is that often people answer questions with how they wish they were or how they mistakenly perceive themselves and thus get the wrong result. A wrong result is worse than no result. I often tell people they will know it is right when they read their overview and think, “How did this person crawl into my mind?” MBTI tests like Personality Hacker or 16Personalities are excellent starters. I am an INFJ. In the past, I mis-tested as an INFP, which, after reading the description, I realized I am most definitely not. INFJ described my life. The Enneagram is another layer of self, but again, the testing is tricky. I am a 4 with a 5 wing.
There is a certain sense of “Becoming” or “Knowing” when I read a book or a test result that resonates in frequency with my soul. When I found out I had Autism/ Aspergers…that was another piece of ME. But honestly, knowing yourself DOES come with some struggles. Each time I find a new aspect of myself that resonates as true, I go through a mini identity crisis of “Oh wow I am like that? That is something I now need to work at embracing or growing in my life.”
At first, it can be hard work…learning about personal strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes even if it feels true, it may not be wished to be true…and it requires some soul growth. I cried about my Enneagram Four when I read Beatrice Chestnut ‘s book, but then I read the “Sacred Enneagram,” and even though some of my core beliefs may sightly differ, that book put my four back into some perspective… and then I found a blog by an actual Enneagram 4 that dispelled the multiple myths from writers trying to understand but not actually Fours themselves. That cleared everything up for me. I still enjoy Beatrice Chestnut’s ideas, but I take them with a self aware grain of salt. Now I am proud to be a four. But that is because I had that guidance from another actual Four type.
It is the same concept with a “professional” versus an “actual Autistic” voice. Both have value, but choose the actual Autistic voice first and foremost. It’s why it is so important that we tell our stories…even if we think they don’t matter or no one is listening. When we tell our stories, it enables others to tell theirs. But after the hard work of an initial new knowing of self, a new layer of understanding is born, and that is often when life tends to get better. Or at least, I become better within the normalities of every day living…
Oh, I am a self growth junkie. I kind of “life coach” people in my spare time so I am constantly on the lookout for new paths of knowing and learning. Currently I am reading “The Goddesses in Every Woman” and “God’s in Everyman” based on Jung Typology rooted in Greek Archetype Myths. I was blown away when I found out I was an Aphrodite and wrote a post on that. My pre-judgments going into that were challenged. I often feed my learning through regular reading of Philosophy, Psychology, Educational, and Sociology themed books. Right now I am reading, “Life through the Lens of Unschooling” by Pam Laricchia and finding myself in many of the pages. I also just finished an Alan Watts book. We are conducting a book study in our home. We also host “Called to Question Gatherings” to which we invite people who are passionate about topics to educate listeners and discuss in an openly peaceful forum of differing beliefs. We have had a lot of professors, educators, and laymen speak about topics that interest them. I firmly believe we learn more from people who are excited about their own stories.
I am constantly on the lookout for viewpoints opposite of my own to challenge any stagnant thinking I have. For instance, I heard about Jordan Peterson and his controversial book. Initially I was very against him, but after watching numerous You Tube videos of his discussions, I finally began to understand his story and where he was coming from. I read his book…I was annoyed at some parts, and disagreed with some, but I also came away with a belief that for SOME people- his book will make them better people…and for THAT specific audience- his voice matters too. Even if it is not something I would fully support, I at least respected the way he holds himself in an argument. If I feel I am becoming too conservative, I read more liberal people…and if I feel I am becoming too liberal (which is more my natural tendency), I re balance by reading a respected conservative. I always try to make sure my sources at least share a value of trying to make the world a better place or some sort of ethical platform. While I am a rebel in my own way, I am also a rule follower, so I try to find people who have that balance. I try to have a ratio of books that would be in agreement with whom I am, but also that require me to do outside the box thinking. As Baruch Spinoza writes, “No matter how thinly you slice it, there will always be two sides.”
You recently wrote a blog post about increasing executive functioning and language difficulties you experience. How does this impact your relationship/interactions with your husband and children? Are there ways they can support you during these times?
It has been hard. It is taking me longer to process. Normally I am a rapid processor. I can read a book easily in a sitting, but it’s been taking me a bit more time lately. Getting my thoughts out in real life, as opposed to writing on a page, has always been more challenging, but now, to my horror, it is translating to paper/typing too. I admit I have been in panic mode lately, and I am trying to use the time I do have with more accuracy to advocate for myself, with my children and husband. Plus, I want them to have the skill set to navigate deterioration or different paths of communicating when/if it happens to them. So the times I am more cognizant, I have been reading them posts of others this has happened to, I try to explain, I try to give them an understanding of the brain, nutrients, what is possible to control and what is not… But then there are the moments when I have no words and I get frustrated easily. Honestly, I am still learning to navigate this with them. Most of this year I have felt like a massive failure.
I home school my children, so I do need a certain level of communication to keep them up in their studies. Our facilitator just came and was happy with their progress, but I couldn’t shake the failure pit of despair in my gut. Deep down I know though that I am resilient and loved…and we can work with whatever life throws at us with enough hutzpah. Basically I am stubborn in believing in my worth and contributions overall because it has been a life long fight of mine.
They have naturally helped me by giving me words. Luckily, I am so in tune with my husband and children, they often know what I want without me saying much. Over a decade with chronic illness with spurts of pain so bad I cannot speak has given us practice in this situation. My daughter knows with my facial expressions generally what I want. We have an almost made-up language of gestures, expressions and grunts etc. She brilliantly figured out that often when I am in “the zone” and they try everything to get my attention and I just can’t give it, all she has to do is gently stroke her finger down my cheek or stroke my hair and immediately I pay attention. My husband never figured that out…he always tries to talk louder or suddenly sits beside me or uses shock effect, and that won’t get my attention. I may startle, but I won’t be focused. I appreciate my daughter figuring that out. I thought I hated most forms of unexpected touch, but I appreciate when she does that.
My husband luckily has the best sense of humour. He is also generally a natural care taker. So when I mess up my words, he does often laugh, but it doesn’t bother me because it is in an enjoyment way…he loves my interesting speech slurs, word and phrase mix ups, and the way I speak. But he is pained for me if it is getting in the way of my life. I now often look to him in a conversation, and he knows he is supposed to jump in to supply the words I need to make my point. He never takes over though if I am struggling through, but I wish to continue. He generally has worked out cues with me to know when I want support and when I do not.
I really struggle if I am in a flow state and get interrupted. Often my words won’t come back and I can become frustrated for the rest of the day. My family is learning not to interrupt when I am in a monologue.
I have never been able to express some of my emotions without typing or writing…so when I am mad at my husband, he knows by the songs I play. He also tends to know my mood by the music I choose. Music is a massive form of communication in our home. Often, even though it is important to me, I forget to use it. So they all work as a team to make sure I have access to music or remind me that I haven’t listened to any in awhile. It’s like drinking water. Yesterday I became so dizzy and nauseous to the point of curling up in a ball for an hour. My youngest came in and said, “Mom I don’t think I saw you take one sip of water since you woke up.” I thought about it, and he was right! I was swiftly brought two cups of water and half an hour later, I was fine. My family views music as important as water in another way. It is communication, so accessibility to it and reminders for it are part of our day.
You often use song lyrics and music to communicate your feelings. Describe your relationship with music. Have you always been drawn to music?
Music is my life. I don’t feel I could fully function or feel fully human without music. As a little child, I would grab the microphone and sing 80’s rock and roll at the top of my lungs. 70’s and 80’s rock is still what I need if I require an energy burst of happiness. In the crucial moments of my life, the right song has come along to describe my journey. I also can’t seem to cry often unless I have a song to trigger me when I need to. I have to go to songs for those moments like Celine Dion’s “Fly.” I have a song for everything basically. Before iTunes and the Internet, I would know songs from every genre and educate my friends in all of them. I constantly made mix tapes and then burned CDs to express my friendship to people. I communicated my care, and I still send song lyrics via text to my friends. I also love introducing people to new songs. Lyrics are first and foremost my way of speaking. Even in my ordinary day to day speech, those who know many songs will hear lyrics sprinkled throughout.
I can’t listen to classical much. I find music without lyrics really stressful. It’s fine if it’s background for a movie, but not playing on the speakers. My husband loves classical, and I will tolerate it for awhile before I put on headphones or beg him to put on ANYTHING else with lyrics. Every genre fills a need for me. I am also seasonal in my music needs. For some reason I crave country in the Spring or when I want to celebrate simplicity. I love Jazz and Easy Listening leading up to Christmas. Rock ‘n’ Roll, Broadway, Pop, Metal, Show tunes, Opera, Punk, Indie etc…it all has its place. I like everything except for Screamo and most Classical. Although I am grateful to Classical for getting us to where we are today and there are MANY beautiful pieces. I just need lyrics to ground me.
Music is part of my soul. I would literally be lost without it. I have a soundtrack playing inside my head for every moment. It expresses a part of me I can’t seem to access otherwise. That’s why the show ‘Glee’ was and is still important to me. Most people don’t get that. I still watch later episodes of Glee when I’m on the treadmill or if I’m having a tough time or if I need to express something. Glee combined all of my interests and obsessions; film, music, movie, artists, self growth, friendship and connection. It did so in a way that was both irreverent and satirical to all subjects and paradoxically respectful and acknowledging. But first and foremost, it expressed the inner energy I have inside. In it I found my voice once again.
When I first found out about my Asperger‘s diagnosis, I was also introduced to the Broadway musical Wicked. Broadway and film have been huge aspects of my life almost as much as music. As a child I would longingly wish to escape into the 1940’s films. Singing in the Rain, etc. When I found out I was Autistic, the role of Elphaba in Wicked really made me feel less alone. I would play ‘Defying Gravity’ in tears over and over again. My husband knows every lyric due to my continuing obsession and repetitive listening. It helped me navigate the two years I was still finding myself within my diagnosis.
KMarie often selects song lyrics at the end of her posts. Below are her choices for this interview:
This link is by Kodi Lee who is blind and autistic and just won the golden buzzer on America’s Got Talent. His relationship with music and his mom had me sobbing. The way he uses music as his life – I can relate.
Also Me by Taylor Swift because each Autistic person deserves to feel that “I’m the only one of me – and baby that’s the fun of me.”