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Northern Lights, special interest and processing info on a back burner (even when it doesn’t look it!) :-)

Its story time!

“There's no time!” my husband gasps, panicked and hope stricken, “oh no! That’s tonight!” he laments, in such a way of exhaustion and sorrow, that I - even with no idea what he possibly could be talking about - instantly whip my head around and ask:  "what’s tonight? The Northern lights?”  and even as the words leave my mouth, I wonder why I said it, where it came from; it was like something had whispered to me the answer, I had no reason to know that. It's like time stops right then, as he looks at me baffled, stunned, the clock ticking on the wall dragging out every breath as his gaze penetrates my soul, in its questioning mystery. “y-yes. The Northern lights… they’re visible for the first time in over two decades tonight, here. How could you POSSIBLY know that?! No one knew until a few hours ago” he asks, wonder painting his face, and I realise, that I also have no idea HOW I knew. I just did. Which begs the question…How did I know that?

That day, it had been a day of beauty, a conference, speech and helping many people had exhausted us while on tour, and we retired to our hotel at 9pm, after the longest day of work, ever grateful for the soft embrace of a bed and its soft duvets singing our name for rest. I had been in the other room resting, while I waited to be helped with self-care to go to bed, and I had been stimming mind wandering, totally unfocused on anything around me, in my pure exhaustion, while my husband was in the other room, on his phone listening to a video with a very low volume. I can barely hear the video from the different room I wa sin. I don’t even consciously notice he is playing a video. In fact, due object and person permanence, even with him being with me all day helping me, I don’t process he even exists, in those moments of shutdown limbo, caught between sleep and falling asleep.

 

I’ll tell you how the passion and mind-wandering interlinks and how its empowers back burner processing, but first, let me tell you about the northern lights that night… because there were two magical occurrences that night, and one – with it majestic beauty and shining contribute to my specialist interests weaves intricately to the very answer I seek to share.

 

“We’d see them if we are quick!” my husband says, breathless, eyes shining “There is a mountain overlooking the bay, nearby… we can drive to it, and overlook the northern hemisphere, over the beach… there’s nothing else for miles, we are as north as north can get!”. It became real then, excitement bubbling and warming us through on a cold night, as we get ready, and we had never ever anticipated seeing the northern lights before “wow! Let’s do it!” I nod, eyes burning with fatigue, and limbs heavy as I bundled layers on my quivering body, clumsy in my haste, bones aching, barely even conscious, as we wheel to the car, there's an excitement growing as we drive, and he drum his fingers on the wheel, anticipation of what was to come, delicious in our minds.

We drive up the mountain along its long winding, steep roads, walled in by hedges and mountains and severe drops down a 2 way street that barely fits one car. My husband had kept on driving until we reached the end of the country. we are here! Our skin shivering with cold, a warm hand, snuggled together as we make the weary climb, the cool breeze carrying the scent of the sea far below, as we round the final hill; We arrive, and all that was ahead of us was the misty horizon, where the grey sea-line bled into the dark clear sky above, almost like a wash of paint, spread across a canvas. Here we stand, breathless atop a mountain, gazing at the sparkling view of the sea and village far below, already, its mesmerizing. Sea glittering in distance we rise wearily up the rocky cascades, crunching through the yellow grass, dry from the days heat, now frosty with cold, struggling against the powerful wind which tore at my fur coat and made my eyes water.

We stand tall now, suddenly our exhaustion from the days conference vanishes, as we become silhouette to starry night sky behind us, sky all around, on a clear night sky, the rugged edges of the mountain smoothed out with a rounded top, making me feel like I could just slide off the edge of existence itself. The sea glimmers, the colours hsining in its reflection, as the mossy aroma of earth and the salty breeze remind me to stay grounded.   With only the whispering breeze and the starry sky for light, an overwhelming sense of peace settles within me.Perched high above the world below, all my problems vanish, lost in the night sky, serenity sings, in whispers among the breeze.We stand atop, breathless from exertion, and gaze to the skies, and the beach far below. The night sky like a canvas of creation, promising a better day, painted with the striking constellations and twinkling stars of a realm far beyond our mortal reach, each shining glimmer of star dust, awakening a shimmer of enchantment within me, a beacon of light, in a realm of literal and metaphorical darkness. We  took in the silence like it belonged to just us, and pointed to patterns in the stars, my husband showing me the plough, and Orion’s belt and a thrill grew inside me. Science was in the air, then. I have always loved the night sky, its constellation for Geminorum has been one of my specific special interests in the past.

 


Cold, silver stars twinkled back i felt safe here, like the stars weee singing a silent song of sympathy. Among the stars there was a faint glow of many colours. It was so faint that it seemed almost transparent. I wasn’t sure if I imagined it, and then I’d look miles south and see the inky darkness and look at the brighter, lighter shades above me and think, oh yes- it’s real! It’s happening!

 

The. The sizzling beauty erupted within me. It’s Breathtaking how it started from tiny whisps of white so faint I wasn’t sure if my eyes were laying tricks, when the colours beamed in, like a celestial show; the faintest of Pinks blues greens even some yellow, all seen with our naked eyes. The colours spread across the night sky right above else, the astounding beauty seems to come out from a single point, above us, spreading out and dancing, like wings in the night sky.

Its real. Its happening!

I’m seeing the northern lights…

THE  NORTHERN  LIGHTS!

 

The sky lit up, then, as if by a wish into the night sky, and we gasp and stagger back in amazement. it was like being enchanted by the universe itself as the colours start to shine through the dark velvet of night, and it empowers the women within me I had lost and missed for so long, there she is shining, smiling, beaming and stimming, gasping and crying and singing to the skies with joy bathing her face; the women I have long since lost in adulthood, shines in childish wonder at the world around me, no longer afraid of judgment or mistakes… aching to be free. The vast universe reminding me of the ethereal beauty of existence and creation, so connected to every soul and cell on the planet, and even, being filled with star dust ourself. I stim, my fingers tapping, and I squeak and squark in delight, hugging my huband closer to me, and looking into his eyes, reflecting the gorgous hues, as if the universe was within him too. Then I realised, the universe was within me too – the endless possabilities, the hope, the potential, within every single one of us. There it is! Its colour dance and streak, becoming brighter now, unfurling across the night sky, painting the night like a celestial wings embracing the night sky, as if to protect us from harm, the colours brighten, until I am gasping in wonder, hand pointing out, and swirling towards the nightsky, as I cannot possibly choose where to look, the auroras dancing in their colourful tutus, reminding me of wings, fluttering and swathing in fairy dust. Laying on the cool grass, Whisps of colours weave and flutter through the wings above us, dancing a celestial ballet, intricate patterns and whispers of a tale as old as time itself; the beauty of creation, of art, of humanity amidst this tiny planet in the vast expanse of darkness and beauty all around. The beauty and luminosity enthralled us, making our soul yearn to be free, to be among the glorious northern lights. Magenta, emerald, cyan... Now our souls could finally be released, up there, in the sky. The blues, minty green, Lilac, yellow, cobalt even fiery, reddish pink... its time to be free, to be grounded, to be real, to be pure, to be as beautiful and honest and unapologetic, as the night sky and its magnetic storms, right now. Even in chaos, comes beauty, the thought carries my breath away on the wind, as the colour reflects within our eyes. Surrounded by Sparkling lights, the scent of pine and sea air, fresh mountains on the breeze and the sound of winds sighing through the many dancing trees; we drive back through the Welsh mountains of Snowdonia to our hotel, enchanted by the magic we had uncovered on this night."

 ...


So… the story begs the question, how had I known what my husband was thinking, when I had no conscious concept of its possibility or idea of the northern lights even existing in the UK?I believe it is because of my autism, and how I process information on a back burner, aided by the fact I was stimming, and mind wandering – totally unfocused on the world and the demands around me. I often talk about how mind wandering aids creativity and out the box problem solving but today I would like to discuss how it enables us to process information on the back burner, while we appear to be focused on something else, or otherwise unable to focus or function.The video he was watching at the hotel that I mentioned? Was about the northern lights, happening in our area, right at that very moment. Which is astoundingly rare, being that we live in the UK, but due to an unexpected electrical magnetic storm (or something) it was viewable from here. They never happens and I hadn’t known anything about it I hadn’t read or heard anything about the northern lights – certainly not consciously – it was only during that video that the information could possibly have been processed.

 

Even while so shutdown, I am still processing information; it’s just on a back burner. Just because I appear like I definitely can’t process doesn’t mean I can’t, it’s just on a back burner until something adrenaline inspired coaxes it to the surface. In this instance, the adrenaline fired up from my husbands communication of “oh no!” His tone was one of exhaustion and panic and sorrow and like it was now or never and hope, I instantly knew what he meant, even though I hadn’t consciously had any idea.

However, subconsciously, I had heard his video from another room, while I was barely conscious from a shutdown and falling asleep – and THAT is how I knew. Even with my exhaustion and shutdown, I was processing information on the back burner, even still. So why a back burner? This means, that even at my worse, I am still processing - and it is not a wrong that needs to be fixed - our brains are like this DELIBERATELY to help us process BETTERFor autistic people it is hypothesised we process 68% more information due to pruning less than 30% of our unnecessary synapses (unnecessary meaning the sensory input no one else notices, as an example) . So due to this half of all information - including the excess no one else notices - is processed now, and half gets stuck in the brain maze and is processed later because it gets lost, in order to give our brain the necessary timeout to recover. Due to how much extra we process I believe we have to process the data in bits – a lot of it is processed on the back burner, but this does also mean that the things other people don’t notice, is also processed on the back burner, making it appear like we ‘don’t know’ or are not functioning at our best because we don’t outwardly show it in that exact moment, in a neurotypical way.This method of processing information on a 'back burner' is very helpful to us, however, although it helps us process the excess data, it also means we process all the extras and excess data when we should be recovering, so even when we are resting, we are still processing, even when it looks like we are not. even when a neurotypical is unable to. we are still porcessoing. no wonder we get shutdown and overhelmed! This back burning method of processing, it is also why our to do list is not processed even though we know we need to do something. This is why we cannot just do something even though we said we would or need to. This is why I cannot process my needs and then action it. This is also why, I can process excess data – sensory overwhelm and soak up facts, without getting too shutdown and overwhelmed (if we didn’t process this way, it would be way worse, and would also impact us medically, which is why the neurotypical way cannot help us).

Our brains flitting from one thing, to the next irrelevant thing, helps us and is not a deficiency . We process in the way that helps us.  That’s why our brains are like this. Our society is just built for neurotypical minds and doesn’t allow us time out to recover and best be and process at our best .Even when I am recovering, I am still processing more of everything, noticing everything, enthralled and distracted and harmed by everything; this is why there are so many hidden injustices, why change is a nightmare, because even the things that most people don’t notice, are processed, they just sometimes get pushed back and are processed without us even realising which can cause a lot of harm, if we are not utilising our focus with mind wandering, passion and necessary recovery transitional care too.  Call it intuition, or call it reading my husbands mind, or call it processing information on a back burner. Either way, something magical happened that night… and it wasn’t just the northern lights. Passions, empowerment, mind wandering (STIM)ulations and processing information Passion is one way to encourage and utilise hyperfocus to our advantage; especially when combined with recovery, transitional care and time out. When you combine a mind wandering (STIM)ulation, even when we don’t appear to be processing or functioning, we are taking in more information that ever expected. To society, my passions looked strange. I liked things other children didn’t, and as a teen I wasn’t interested in the same things as everyone else. I was a child and teen who had no hope because apparently, I was too ‘lost’, never focused, always daydreaming, never doing as I was told or making connections. In reality, I was building worlds of understanding and processing the world, its people and its rules in a way that empowered me. I did this by daydreaming with mind wandering stimulations, and writing everything I imagined down, to process my emotions and what I was learning. The reality is that in many cases, daydreaming, isn’t as harmful as it first appears – especially when daydreaming, is used as a stim – and especially in conjunction with a stim.People would openly talk about me, thinking I couldn’t understand them, when in reality I could. I would be in a different room, focused on stimming or a passion, or just plain old mind wandering, barely even noticing them talking, and yet days later I know exactly what they said – it was just processed later than expected.  As with many others on the Autistic Spectrum (not all ofcourse), I have passions – which is topics of fascination that I spend all of my time talking and thinking about. My passions alternate freely as much as my fixations and hyper focus changes-but when it hits, it’s all consuming-to the point of drowning out all other sensory input or needs. The same goes for stimming and mind wandering in aid of recovery, during exhaustion, its a last resort to help us clear our minds before we shutdown or sleep - but even during this time, we can still process a lot of data, and that we may use later making people baffled at how we could no something we seemingly were not 'there' to learn about. In this scenario, my super hearing aided the sitation greatly, because I had been in the other room, while he played the video that talked about the Northern Lights.

 

It is thanks to these fascinations that autistic people like me are often known as ‘Walking Encyclopaedias’ due to their rare and expansive knowledge of any subject that holds their interest. For instance my ‘Specific Narrow Interests’ are mainly Autism, white magic, healing crystals, mindfulness, forest, stoicism and Ancient history (and no, despite the clinical term, there’s nothing narrow about my interests they can vary greatly!). For example when I was 5-8 years old I used to communicate using Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics and Sign Language because I was deaf and could not speak.

 

In this way, I was a child, who was, and still is, a great lover of the worlds natural beauty and I frequently find myself observing beauty in the boring every day. A trembling leaf, a crack in the wall (hello,  a tiny temple for tiny beings!), I had a collection of sticks, stones & foreign coins & I imagined the history of each item- the historical stories it has witnessed-it fascinated me. The stars in the night sky, and the stories and history they have witnessed. From here my specialist interest in the constellations of Geminorum grew. It was therapeutic. Yet, this interest makes me look lost and hopeless to society because I don’t appear focused or able to take in information in a neurotypical way. Yes, sometimes I look unfocused or lost because my mind wanders and I daydream, but that’s called a mind wandering stimulation and it’s a type of stimming that can help us systemise data and process information in a pressure free way, if utilised correctly. I would daydream and appear not to focus, but always be filled with capabilities, and was Always ready with my notebook to write, even though I looked unfocused. that same passion, creativity, hyper focus, justice seeking and mind wandering stimulation, that enables me, is also judged as something that hinders me – and that’s because society doesn’t understand Autistic people yet.

The thing is, that even when I am shutdown, Mind wandering can still empower me – itll make me know things I am not expected to. Mind-wandering can be like the art of story telling, but for your mind, its poetic and easily understood, while an imaginary world is built up within your mind, as you focus on the core plot and characters. So what happened here, is that my favourite thing was mentioned, and even from the other room, half asleep stimming, my back burner of processing was able to utilise the mind wandering (STIM)ulation to process the words I was hearing, so I could benefit from it later... and I did...

What’s your experience with memory, or passions? Let’s chat!

 

To conclude, here is a poem I wrote in my first book AspergerWorld, which I think, summarises the beauty of special interest, and the infinite mind wandering beauty of the infinite night sky… “When sensory overloads, drive me crazy,

Looking up into space, is where you'll find me.

I sit outside, with grass between my toes,

Allowing the calm of night, to melt away my woes.

Gazing up at the stars, so far, so bright,

The wonders of the universe beholds a magical sight.

Twinkling and dancing, the stars shimmer,

Alongside the moon, also glimmers.

Pale speckled splendour, of moonlight streaking,

Light sources gleaming, yet still I'm peeking,

Kinetic, moving, lit upon my freezing skin,

Only in the moons ghostly white sheen,

Can the obscene, be calmed by the tranquil space scene.

In the velvet sky of darkness,

Clouds simmer over the gleam of moon;

Clouds that are bustling, bursting and floating,

Cold air lingering, clouds slide, flailing.

Striding within the moons beautiful tide,

I find myself gazing as the clouds bumble and glide.

Whenever Anxiety wreaks havoc upon my mind,

I confide, that this is the calming sight, I need to find.

Space is a place where my imagination can roam free,

Space holds the key, to my everlasting sanctuary.

My mind, my fabrications, allow me to see such oddities,

And I glimpse a sight, a sensation, and marvel at the prodigy,

What a sight for the creator...can it be true?

In confused splendour, I review, my sight I pursue,

Within the infinite skies of blue,

I think I see a light flicker, a spaceship, and an alien, too!

In a blink of an eye, my vision has gone,

Yet the memory will leave me a smile, that lasts so long.”

Peace out, friends 😊

 

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