Author Katherine May on Autism, Wintering, and the Electricity of Every Living Thing

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When my community speaks, I listen. And it’s because of my community recommending today’s guest that I reached out to Katherine May and learned more about her writing and her personal journey with autism. Katherine is a New York Times bestselling author, whose titles include Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times and The Electricity of Every Living Thing, her memoir of uncovering her identity as an autistic woman, set against the backdrop of a setting out to walk the 630-mile South West Coast Path in the UK. Katherine is also the editor of The Best, Most Awful Job, an anthology of essays about motherhood. Her journalism and essays have appeared in a range of publications including The New York Times, The Observer and Aeon.

I loved the voice Katherine gave to autistic women in her book The Electricity of Every Living Thing and during this conversation, we’ll get into how Katherine navigated her journey of first self-diagnosing and then seeking out an official diagnosis of autism, and what that meant to her. We also discussed how her relationships with others changed, or didn’t, when she shared her diagnosis, the grief that some parents experience when they realize their child is neurodivergent, as well as the importance of “wintering” or actively accepting periods of sadness.

About Katherine May

Katherine May is a New York Times bestselling author, whose titles include Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times and The Electricity of Every Living Thing, her memoir of being autistic. Her fiction includes The Whitstable High Tide Swimming Club and Burning Out. She is also the editor of The Best, Most Awful Job, an anthology of essays about motherhood. Her journalism and essays have appeared in a range of publications including The New York Times, The Observer and Aeon. She lives in Whitstable, UK with her husband, son, three cats and a dog.

 

Things you’ll learn from this episode

  • Why Katherine wrote her books Wintering and The Electricity of Every Living Thing
  • How Katherine defines the active acceptance of sadness and how to lean into our sadness without it becoming harmful
  • Why some parents experience grief when they realize their child is neurodivergent
  • What Katherine experienced in that instant of recognition when she first realized she was autistic 
  • What “masking” is among autistic women and the complications of reconciling  with the “mask” after accepting one’s autistic identity
  • What walking the South West Coast Path represented to Katherine in her journey of self-discovery
  • How Katherine’s relationship with her husband changed once she shared her diagnosis with him
  • The validity of self-diagnosis for those who wish to take that route

 

Resources mentioned for Katherine May, Autism, and Her Books

 

Episode Transcript

Katherine May  00:00

There was a woman being interviewed about being autistic. And as she spoke, I mean now it’s really funny because I listened back to the interview last year and I thought, it seems so neutral to me what she’s saying now, but at the time, it was like these blows landing on me this kind of absolute recognition in the sense that finally here was me. He was somebody whose experience was so similar to mine, and I’d never heard it before.

Debbie Reber  00:32

Welcome to Tilt Parenting, a podcast featuring interviews and conversations aimed at inspiring, informing and supporting parents raising differently why your kids, I’m your host Debbie Reber. This week, I’m grateful to have Katherine May as my guest. Katherine is a New York Times bestselling author whose titles include Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times. And the just-released in the US book, The Electricity of Every Living Thing: A Woman’s Walk in the Wild to Find Her Way Home, Katherine’s memoir of uncovering her identity as an autistic woman set against the backdrop of setting out to walk the 630 mile south west coast path in the United Kingdom. Katherine is also the editor of The Best Most Awful Job, an anthology of essays about motherhood. Her journalism and essays have appeared in a range of publications, including the New York Times and The Observer. I loved the voice Katherine gave to autistic women in her book The Electricity of Every Living Thing, and during this conversation, we’ll get into how Katherine navigated her journey of first self diagnosing and then seeking out an official diagnosis and what that meant to her. We also discussed how her relationships with others changed or didn’t when she shared her diagnosis. The grief that some parents experience when they realize their child is neurodivergent, as well as the importance of wintering or actively accepting periods of sadness in our lives. Before I get to our conversation. If you want to dive deeper into this episode with Katherine, please check out the show notes page on Tilt Parenting. There you’ll find a bullet-pointed list of key takeaways, a transcript of the whole episode, links to all the resources mentioned in a podcast player with the episode broken down into chapters. So if you want to go back and re-listen to a specific piece of the conversation, you can easily find it. This week’s episode can be found at tiltparenting.com/session273. Thank you so much. And now here is my conversation with Katherine.

Debbie Reber  02:49

Hello, Katherine. Welcome to the podcast.

Katherine May  02:51

Hi, thanks for having me.

Debbie Reber  02:53

I’m so looking forward to this conversation. Before I hit record I you mentioned that you you are a requested guest and when people start emailing me and say you have to listen to this interview, you have to read this book. I pay attention and I was really happy to to learn of your work. I’d actually like to start by talking about the book that I first learned about your work through which is called Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult times. And I heard your On Being interview with Krista Tippett, which was just a wonderful conversation. So I’d love if you could just tell us a little bit about that book and why you wrote it.

Katherine May  03:32

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.

Debbie Reber  04:23

I think about the timing of that book. And it came out here in the states in the fall of 2020, which was a dark time for everyone really, months into the pandemic and I think so many people were coming to terms or learning about this term of languishing they were experiencing sadness around we are things that they hadn’t really ever experienced before. And then I found your book to be really comforting and almost permission to be in that sadness. I’m just wondering what you heard from readers or did you get that sense of this really resonating with people in a unique way?

Katherine May  05:03

Yeah, I mean, pretty much what you said really, that people were really glad to, I guess, read a book that wasn’t trying to make the best of it in a in a really false way, you know that there’s nothing in wintering that says, How to 10 steps to winter perfectly so that you beat winter. It’s really not that kind of book, it’s in fact, a book that talks about acknowledging your sadness, your frustration, your anger, and learning to be with it and to walk with it. And not to really think of this as something that you can win out, you know, but instead, think of it as a process that you engage with. And that will come either way, you know, that it’s not your fault. But also, it’s not something you can do the right things to avoid or beat either. I don’t think we have those conversations very much in the mainstream, you know, I don’t think we often allow the possibility that there are some parts of life that will come to us, and they are negative, and they’re unavoidable. And I think that, you know, what I’ve really heard is this kind of rush of recognition and gratitude from people who just needed to be able to see where they were, and not where they should be.

Debbie Reber  06:24

Yeah, this concept of actively accepting sadness is something that really resonates. I know, with many of my listeners, can you talk a little bit more about that, you know, that idea of leaning into pain? Well, not to the sadness, but not fully giving into it in a way that could maybe be harmful?

Katherine May  06:43

Yeah, that’s right. And you know, someone who’s suffered a lot of anxiety and depression in my life. Sadness is something that, you know, I spent a lot of time flinching away from and really trying to escape and thinking that it was this dark thing that visited me that, you know, was beyond my control. But I’ve, I’ve come to see it in a different way, really, that actually sadness is a very safe emotion, as long as we are able to let it in. And as long as we have it in context, you know, as long as we know that we’re allowed to cheer ourselves up from it, that you know that we’re not doing anyone any, any disservice if we take care of ourselves within that experience of sadness. And yeah, so I think the real pain comes from that constant flinching away from sadness, rather than letting ourselves feel it for a while. That’s where the fear is.

Debbie Reber  07:42

Yeah, and as I was reading that, too, I also related to that idea of so many listeners of this show, so many people in my community are working toward accepting and leaning into, you know, who their child is. And it’s that same kind of tension, that disconnect between accepting what is and leaning into that, and that the pain can often be caused by trying to, to avoid or deny or not really look at what’s going on.

Katherine May  08:12

Yeah, I mean, there’s, well, there’s a lot to unpack there, really, but there’s so much in our culture, in the culture of parenting, that, for in the first place kind of is about, you know, like seeing, it’s some kind of a competition, you know, and you are, if you are doing everything, right, your children will be absolutely perfect. And this is what perfect looks like and it’s it’s very kind of specific set of criteria. And you know, when your child doesn’t match that it can be incredibly painful. And also it can, you know, attract blame towards parents for something that is really nothing that they’ve done. There is a kind of grief that comes with learning your, your neuro divergent or learning your child’s neurodivergent. But that doesn’t mean that neurodivergence is a bad thing. What we’re often grieving is like this life that we imagined and the loss of it, you know, that the patterning of life that we thought was going to happen. And that can take a while to shift, you know, and I think we need more positive representations or more just ordinary representations of what these other lives look like that have been so carefully excluded from the mainstream. And to know that there are many of us out there living a really good life and actually, quite often more conscious and contented lives than many neurotypical people are living because they also suffer from this society that’s set up to say that everything has to only be lived in one way. And I think that there’s a lot to be said for that contemplative time that comes when a big change happens and the way we’re drawn away from the world for a while and to allow that change to take place in us and for us to really accept what we’ve been presented with.

Debbie Reber  10:06

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.

Katherine May  10:40

When you’re parenting a neurodivergent child, you don’t get to just follow the kind of set pattern that everyone else is following you know, you have to think everything through and you have to learn different skills and different ways to do things. And that’s, you know, that’s a strain like it’s nothing to do with the child. It’s just that when you’re kind of breaking the patterns that are already set. It’s it’s hard. It’s hard work. And it’s you know, that’s it’s valid to find that difficult.

Debbie Reber  11:09

Yes, indeed worth it. But difficult.

Katherine May  11:11

Yes, exactly. Yeah.

Debbie Reber  11:14

Well, I would love to pivot and talk about your new book. And it’s new in the US, I should clarify it, I believe it came out in the UK a couple of years before Wintering did. But as we record this, it’s coming out today, listeners, it’ll be available. It’s called The Electricity of Every Living Thing: A Woman’s Walk in the Wild to Find Her Way Home. And I was so pleased to read this book. And I had initially reached out to you and your publishing company about Wintering. But this is the book that I think is really going to connect with so many people who are raising neurodivergent kids and who are discovering their own neural divergence. So can you tell us what that book is about? And why you wrote it?

Katherine May  12:00

Sure. Yeah. So I wrote, I mean, you know, the whole publishing world is quite skewed. So it means that I wrote Electricity about five years ago, and it came out three years ago in the UK. And it’s a book about the year that I set off to walk the South West Coast Path, which is in Devon and Cornwall and Dorset in the UK, and Somerset, sorry. And along the way, I found out that I was autistic. And it’s you know that the book is really about making the connection between the two in lots of ways about sort of walking in nature and going to places that are on the edge lands of, of the world. And exploring being on the edge lands of, of humanity. And the walk opened up space for me to really reflect on what was going on in my life and to see the patterns that had been with me for so long, but which I’d spent a long time telling myself were things that I could overcome. And instead, I sunk into this understanding of myself as a very different kind of a person to what I thought I was. And so yeah, the books now coming out in the US for the first time, which is brilliant, which means it’ll be available in bookstores, which is lovely, because, you know, I’ve got my, I haven’t really had like us readers for it, who’ve managed to get it shipped from the UK. And so it’s so brilliant that this will now be in bookshops, and that, you know, maybe it will open up the opportunity for people to have the revelation that I did, because for adult women, you know, people of my age, I’m 44 hours 38 When I realized that as autistic, no setting nine sorry, I get all the ages wrong all the time. But you know, either way, like I lived a whole life without ever coming across anything that I could have, you know, used to identify. And that meant that I spent a long time feeling like an alien, really. So I’m, I’m really hoping that it will find its way into the hands that need it.

Debbie Reber  13:54

Yeah, and as we talked about before I hit record. This is something I’m hearing from more and more people, you know, who listen to this show, and that I have communication with about their own discovery of their neural divergence, going through an assessment with their child and saying, Hmm, wait a minute, those boxes are all ticked for me. And it’s really a fascinating thing for so many people. There’s grief, there’s joy, there is relief. I’d love it if you could just take a moment to share with listeners the first time you’ve read about this, but the first time that you thought, Hmm, wait a minute, this might be and how that felt for you.

Katherine May  14:38

Yeah, so I was driving, driving to an opticians appointment and I was listening to the radio. And there was a woman being interviewed about being autistic. And as she spoke, I mean now it’s really funny because I listened back to the interview last year and I thought it seemed so neutral to me what she’s saying now. But at the time, it was like these blows landing on me this kind of absolute recognition. And this sense that, finally here was me, he was somebody whose experience was so similar to mine, and I’ve never heard it before. And you know, like loads of people, I mean, I, you know, I studied psychology at university, I worked in education for years, I’ve come across the idea of autism an awful lot. And I thought I knew what it was, and I didn’t. And, you know, I bought into the stuff about, you know, hardly any girls or women or autistic, you know, all of the things that we used to be taught, and so that moment when I heard an autistic woman speak for herself, I knew right away. I mean, you know, of course, I doubted afterwards, of course, I wondered if I was right. But in that moment, I absolutely identified with her completely. And I, I’ve never had the chance to before.

Debbie Reber  16:01

Can you talk about your process about deciding whether or not to get a formal assessment, that’s something you contemplated, you wrote a quote from your book is what happens if my expression of autism is too delicate to be picked up, and I am some I am left somehow estranged, being no longer able to explain myself, because whatever I am, this has been a comfort for the last couple of months, knowing that I might have autism believe it, the more I read has made me feel like I might not be so bad. After all, I just found that to be so powerful. And this conflict that you had also, of when you took these tests, you talk about should you take it as your real self, or as your coping self, and the challenges that that brought up. So can you talk a little bit more about your decision to pursue a diagnosis and how you navigated that?

Katherine May  16:54

Yeah, what I know now, I’m not sure it would be my decision. Now, interestingly, but I’ll maybe get onto that. But at the time, there was, I mean, there was so little information out there about, you know, what it was to be an adult with autistic women. You know, there were blog posts, there are a few people tweeting, I hooked up with other folks, I found online. But there was really so little. And I felt like I needed to kind of pin it down, if you like. And I felt like I really needed someone else to look me in the eye and say, yes, you’re allowed this. And like, you know, so the book kind of finishes at point of, of being taken into the first stage of diagnosis with the psychiatrist. And actually, after that my diagnostic process was really, really horrible. To be honest, it was, you know, they, they kind of tested me as an eight year old boy, including making me sit in a children’s chair at a tiny table and read a children’s book and explain the story. I was halfway through a PhD at the time, and I was like, this is just a joke. But you know that it said a lot about where we really were at the time. And I, you know, since then, I mean, I thought that self identification was valid then. And I think even more so now. Because actually, we’re so often being assessed by people who don’t understand autism, and who only like to know how to identify it from the outside from outside signs. And autistic women, by and large, do not present in that way. And so what we’re kind of asking in the end is do we look autistic enough for a neurotypical person to spot it? And that’s actually deeply problematic for me. And I, you know, like, I would love to, I would love to see more opportunities for diagnosis that only comes from within the Autistic community itself, you know, that from from autistic assessors meeting with people who think they might be autistic, and like meeting them in a process that lets them understand themselves rather than the judges them externally and gives them a tick or a cross. Because, you know, as I said, they’re like, if you’re left with the cross, then what are you left with? Like, if you don’t get that if you identify with all of the aspects of being autistic, and you don’t get that diagnosis from somebody who may not understand autism very well, then, what are you left with? Because what you needed was the permission to meet your own needs, and you should get that either way. Whatever happens, and nobody gives you that right now.

Debbie Reber  19:46

Yeah, I mean, so powerful and, and certainly, so you said you were 39. So this has been, you know, maybe five or six years ago that you went through this, this process. And I do think that things have changed, I certainly read more and more about self identification really, especially among women being really the primary way that people are identifying as autistic. I’m just wondering, you know, for listeners who might be in the same space, and they’re kind of connecting some dots for themselves, what thoughts do you have for them about whether or not it’s worth pursuing, or, or maybe what having that identification has meant for you and what you’ve seen it mean for other women?

Katherine May  20:35

I think whatever route you pursue, and they’re equally valid, you know, I genuinely believe that it’s just as valid as an adult to self identify as it is, to, to get a diagnosis, like, you have to go for the route that satisfies you. And like, I’m, it’s been quite anti authoritarian. As my lovely autistic friend calls me the snotty kind of autistic. He’s like, trying to take down authority. That’s absolutely me. And so, like, I’m naturally, you know, not the person that’s going to bow down to a psychiatrist, just because you’ve got a degree, well, you know, why would I get, so you know, that that’s me. And like, I know that for other people, it’s really important to have that external mindset, kind of assessing them as well. So whichever way, but the important thing is that, like, knowing what you are, is fundamental to how you can conceptualize yourself. And everybody I know, I mean, I’m sitting here and I’m struggling to think for an exception, every adult woman I know, who has realized their autistic, has had their life positively changed by it. I don’t mean it’s made their life perfect. I don’t mean that they found the perfect adaptation, you know, if only those things were possible, but what I do mean is that, that understanding and recognition is a kind of Homecoming. And if we get the right support, and if we’re able to meet with our own community, and to talk about ways to cope, then you can, you can come to a different way of living your life that supports you as a neurodivergent person, and it is not about you fitting into a box that looks like a neurotypical person. And that is, I, you know, I find it very hard to express, the change that that’s brought about, for me and for so many other people, is just being able to make actually very tiny changes, and being allowed to accept and love yourself. It’s, it’s massive, and everybody deserves to feel like they belong on this earth, because that’s what we’re talking about, you know, when you look at the high levels of self harm, and the high suicide rates amongst autistic people, you realize that we have this fundamental problem with belonging, and that we deserve not to have a fundamental problem with belonging, we deserve to belong. And so, yeah, explore it, you know, lean into it.

Debbie Reber  23:26

Yeah, I mean, you throughout the book, you, first of all, you know, just to take a step back, the way you structured the book is such a pleasure to read, because you do really weave so beautifully. You go back and forth between You’re incredible. I’m looking out the window at the dumping rain right now. It’s hard weather. And you know, you write so vividly about these really intense hikes that you did just incredible.

Katherine May  23:53

Someone said to me afterwards, you do know that nobody walks the South West Coast Path in winter, don’t you? And I was like I do now.

Debbie Reber  24:02

Yeah, I mean, wow, and you write about it so beautifully. And then you kind of go back and forth in your own process of discovering your autism and kind of making sense of that, and also kind of really connecting the dots of how you have lived your life up to that point. And the way that you like many autistic women have masked and have really figured out how to just to be and so and you’re so good at it, that it’s hard to even to sometimes distill.

Katherine May  24:33

Right, it’s nice to have a talent, isn’t it? Right? Mine is masking.

Debbie Reber  24:39

Right. And you know, you wrote “I sometimes feel as though social relationships are nothing more than a precarious set of plates that I have to spin and I’m bad at it.“ You know, there’s so many lines in there that I know. People are like, yes, that’s exactly how I feel. And just to tie back to what you said in the last response, in terms of the way that you show up now, in your life, how has it changed even your daily interactions with other people? Is the need to mask lessened? Or are you more just aware that you’re doing it? And you’re in choice about that? I’m curious about that.

Katherine May  25:13

Yeah, I mean, because actually, the thing about being a masked autistic person is that you don’t get to just drop that mask, even if you want to, like the masking is so ingrained, it’s very, very hard to get rid of, and you’re not really sure who you’d be without the mask. And, you know, of course, the mask is also a privilege because it allows you to kind of pass in mainstream society. And quite often, I’ve learned that when I drop the mask, like because I felt like it would be the best way to meet my needs, my relationship with the people, I’ve dropped the mask to immediately changes and their tone changes towards me. And that feels very hurtful quite often, I think it’s really important to kind of talk about that as a, as a sort of baseline. I mean, for me, that’s changed the kind of minutiae of my life in a really significant way. And obviously, like, it’s been safest for me to drop the mask around the people I’m closest to, not everyone has reacted really well with that, but loads of people have, and I’m learning how to unmask and to sort of state my needs, you know, and that’s often showing up in really small ways, like being able to say to my husband, this music’s too loud, or you got this film on too loud, and I can’t cope with it, or being able to say, like, I just can’t, I can’t go to this event this afternoon, I’m already feeling overwhelmed, it’s going to completely tipped me over the edge or being able to say, Can we go home now, please, I have reached my limit. And to be able to say that really gently without it being a crisis, you know, because in the past, and like, partly because even I didn’t understand what was going on, I would often have to feel like I had to reach a kind of crisis point, before I got to do the thing that I needed to do, you know, like, I parties, I would get completely just spooked really by all the people of noise and the social demands. And I would end up disappearing off to the bottom of the garden or hiding under the coats, I used to do quite a lot. There was always a room of coats, and I’d kind of bury myself under them and go to sleep or like getting upset, I don’t need to reach those points anymore. Because I’ve dropped my mask. And I began to own up to what I actually need. And that’s, you know, that ‘s it, it takes little learning, it’s surprising, you don’t even recognize what your needs are, first of all. And this year, for the first time, like my dad loves to throw parties and I, instead of me kind of finding an excuse not to go out like saying yes, and then finding the excuse not to go last minute, he said he issued the invitation with the world’s that you might not want to go so it’s okay, if you don’t. And I was like, No, thank you. I don’t want to go. And he was like, Okay, no problem. We’d love to have you there. But we get it. And I just thought Allie Lou Yeah. I felt like finally I began to get the message across in my own very faltering rubbish way. But actually, that isn’t my ideal environment, thank you. And I love to be considered, but I love to be allowed to say no to.

Debbie Reber  28:29

That sounds like freedom.

Katherine May  28:30

It’s so liberating, actually. And the big liberation of it is not just that I don’t have to go to the damn party. It’s also that somebody who loves me can see me for what I am, for the first time, because I haven’t always been able to own up to that, without providing an explanation for it, you know? And now I have the explanation.

Debbie Reber  28:56

Yeah, and you know, just to touch upon your relationship with your husband, which you write really honestly about, and you talk about, how am I going to share this new information with him. And you write about how supportive he is of you, and you know, throughout your whole journey and your goals with regards to walking the trail? And I’m just Can you talk a little bit about, you know, just sharing that information, which I imagine, even though you were married for many years, and you know, again, for listeners who are kind of figuring this out, it’s still a very vulnerable thing to do.

Katherine May  29:35

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we’ve been together for more than 20 years, by the time I realized I was autistic. And that’s a long time to feel like you’ve been undercover, I guess. And, you know, hopefully people will discern from the book that he is just a basically decent person. And you know, we love each other very much, which helps not everybody gets that actually, you know, not everyone has that privilege of having someone that loves them for who They are. But when I realized I was autistic I, yeah, I got inside my head about it because I was so worried about telling him specifically and what would he think of me? And what would he think of his situation in that light? You know, like, what? What would it mean for us? And how do you break it to someone after all this time? When it came to it, he knew. I mean, he didn’t know the specifics, but he knew and he’d loved me anyway. And I think that’s kind of what we forget, sometimes we’re so we autistic people spend a lot of time noticing the way that the world has rejected us and the way that world has pushed us away and spat us out and made us feel small, we don’t often turn our attention to how we are loved and how we’re valued. And it turned out that I was loved and valued for me all along, and not for the pretend person I was because he’s the person that seen the real me the most, you can’t mask all the time. And he’d seen me a mask, and he loved me anyway, even when he found me frustrating and difficult. And of course, like what I don’t write about the times when he’s frustrating and difficult, because that would be incredibly rude of me because it’s not his book, and he doesn’t get to speak. So that’s, you know, that’s what love is, it’s not to perfect people coming together and adoring each other unquestioningly for decades. It’s actually like knowing each other’s difficult bits and caring anyway.

Debbie Reber  31:36

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?

Katherine May  32:23

Well, I mean, I think the answer to that in lots of ways because, yeah, there was definitely tension, you know, and the autism aside, like the idea that a mother of a three year old child is allowed to go on a walk is a very contested idea. We don’t often get permission to lean into solitude, or to, like, leave our family behind, or to take contemplative space, or to go on wild missions, which is what this was. And I like, I think one of the things that autism opens up for you sometimes is this absolute intensity that you get, you know, like when you have something in your mind that you’re fascinated by and you can’t let go of it. Nothing much can get in the way of that, like, there is no one so determined. That’s an autistic person who’s got a mission. And I, like I was lucky enough to have a family who said, Okay, you do that, and we’ll fit our way around it. And it was really hard. I mean, that, you know, the bits in the book where it shows how much conflict it brought about. And that was with me doing it in a way that tried to be as family friendly as possible, you know, like, one weekend a month. And, you know, like, within that there’s a little bit of snark as well about regular nature writing where a man goes off on his own and journeys for months in a often kind of dangerous and isolated way and never want mentioned who’s looking after his children like I wanted to kind of stern allies, all of that and show how tricky it is to do that, but how necessary it was, anyway. And I do think for autistic people that solitude is a basic need, it seems to be something that we need extra to the rest of the world, like we need quiet, we need time and space to process stuff in our own way. And we can turn that into a kind of terrible negative disordered thing, or we can just accept it for what it is, which is a a different way of interacting with the world. And we can talk about how beautiful solitude is and how having a demanding contemplative space makes everyone a little bit better actually, because we think stuff through. And so yeah, the book is a lot about the complex ways in which that is necessary and how we might go about achieving it.

Debbie Reber  34:59

Well, It’s a wonderful book, and I’m so honored to have this conversation with you. And I really encourage listeners to to check it out again, it’s called the electricity of every living thing, a woman’s walk in the wild to find her way home. It is just, you’re a beautiful writer, too. You know, as someone who reads a lot and has written a lot, the prose itself is just so delightful to read. And it’s just wonderful. So congratulations. And is there anything you’d like listeners to know about something you’re working on or where they can connect with you?

Katherine May  35:34

Ooh, I’m, I’m working on my latest book at the moment. So I’ve been deeply buried in that. Which means it’s very hard for me to turn my brain to other things right now. But you can always find me on Instagram, where I’m Katherine May underscore, and on Twitter, which probably I talk more about neurodiversity on Twitter than Instagram. I don’t know why it’s just where all my neurodiverse peeps are. Where I’m underscore Katherine underscore May underscore, which looks better on paper than it sounds.

Debbie Reber  36:05

Okay, great. Well, I will include links to where you guys can connect with Katherine on the show notes pages. So you can just click through. And Katherine again, I just want to say thank you so much for taking the time to walk with us. Thank you so much. And yeah, we look forward to seeing what you do next.

Katherine May  36:24

Thank you. It’s been lovely to talk to you.

Debbie Reber  36:29

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