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  • Writer's pictureJulia Lee Barclay-Morton

Back in my Soul Home on my Autiversary!

It was two years ago today that I was officially diagnosed on the autism spectrum. That journey began where I will be in a few hours—on Westray where my friend Jill suggested after I had joked for the millionth time that I was autistic, "Well you know, you do have some of the traits." I wrote a blog post about all this in July 2021, so will not go into that whole story other than to say it was in 2019 and began a process that ended up with a diagnosis in April 2021 that has upended my life and landed it on firmer footing than I ever thought possible.

Thanks to COVID I have not been back to Westray since that September in 2019. And I am beyond grateful I will be there soon. Right now I am in a bedroom in a small house in Kirkwall owned by my hosts and meant for wayward travelers, since it takes a while to even get to the main island, never mind to the even more remote Westray. The sun keeps winking out through the clouds, so may end this beginning of a blog post and race outside to enjoy the day. I will be meeting another Westray friend, Lydia the poet, for a day on the main island before we go back on the ferry in the afternoon.

From the moment I got off the plane and ran into yet another friend I made on Westray at the airport, I have felt like I always do here: supremely at home. Talking to people I know or don't, since the first time I discovered Orkney in 2003 (20 years ago!) I have always felt at home here in a way I just don't in most places on earth, with the notable exception of New York City. I am always amazed at the eerie similarity of these seeming disparate places, but I think it can be summed up as: no tolerance for bullshit with an underlying side of friendliness—if you are not full of bullshit. Also as it turns out many thousands of years ago the Orkney archipelago turns out to have been quite the cosmopolitan place for the Neolithic world. And has a history of travelers and artists and Vikings and ancient mysterious stone circles...

But what feels different already, this being my first time back since knowing I am autistic, is any residual self-consciousness I had from masking my idiosyncrasies from the world that seemed like mistakes that would get me found out for something I didn't even know what it was, is that I don't feel that anymore. So it's just easier. I didn't even realize how much time I spent trying to hide myself until these past two years of not doing that anymore. So a place that already felt like home still does but even more so.

I am here now for a writing retreat, this time just for me, not one I am leading. And to look at the bits and pieces I have written already for a memoir about this late in life diagnosis (including its relation to working through complex PTSD with yoga and yoga teacher training—which was the subject of the original memoir I was writing in 2019 after my Kripalu training—but once I began to realize I was probably autistic shifted...). I am hoping to get a sense of the structure for this new book. But also to take time to rest and continue processing not only the autism diagnosis but also the past 3+years of dealing with COVID and long haul COVID and all that. I may indeed also write a short book about that, since people keep asking me about how I cured myself, and it gets exhausting rehashing it over and over.

But you know what? The sun is now out for real and I need to get outside and enjoy this day. Will add more when I get to Westray before posting, but wanted to write this now, because I know once I get there I will be so happy I may forget to mark this day...

Yep, just as I suspected, spent the evening catching up with my hosts and unpacking and such, and didn't even get a photo while it was still light. Now I am fried, so I am going to post this as is. Someone pointed out this time for me is also happening when Passover, Easter and Ramadan are all coinciding, so it appears to be a powerful time. I am crossing over back to my spiritual home while many celebrate important passages in their faiths. While I am not religious, I do believe in larger forces.

The moon in the photo was accompanied by the sound of the invisible roiling of the Atlantic as it crashed against the North Sea and the promontory of land on which the Manse sits. Such a magic sound. And such a powerful force the moon is that it creates these tides. I am too tired to say much more than that except that I am grateful to all the gods and goddesses to be back here.

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Heather Hicklin
Heather Hicklin
Apr 06, 2023

I'm thrilled for you on all fronts Julia! Westray sounds a magical place and running into so many friends 'by chance' will not be by chance at all I expect. The Gods and Goddesses are smiling!

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