An introduction to the mind of M. A. Phoenix.

This here is an Introduction to the mind of M. A. Phoenix. I wanted to write something funny, something witty and exciting that would have you rolling around the aisles and chortling with delight. Unfortunately there is no room in the aisles of my mind – it is far too cluttered and muddled.

For years I was led to believe my disorganisation, social miscommunication, and meltdowns, were indicators of an inherently wicked, undisciplined and lazy character. I became conditioned to assume my thoughts and desires were selfish unless they were endorsed by the authorities around me. I have since learned that my struggles were not from being born a bad person, but because I think differently. I am Autistic, I have ADHD, and because of trauma and many socially devastating experiences, I also have Social Anxiety Disorder.

Reading often changes my world from something frightening and scary, into a place I love. But more than being just an enjoyable experience, it unintentionally became a way for me to learn social skills. How to love or be loved, how to identify and try to modify behaviours that others are likely to view as odd, and – even more importantly for a person who views the world in a very black-and-white manner – how to understand and accept that people are never all good or all evil.

When I was a child my imagination knew no bounds and I would enact these imaginings as long and as far as I could while there was still light in the sky. Once the sun went down and I was confined to my room for the night I eagerly turned to my books.

As I grew older, I discovered with deep dismay that acting out my imaginings with others was no longer acceptable. Now it was only acceptable to delve into a dream world if the dream was about the hottest guy at school. Since I attended an all-girls school, this was somewhat difficult.

The most serious form of reading that was openly endorsed by my peers were Girlfriend and Dolly magazines. Oh, how little that extended my vocabulary. However, their purpose was not to extend the mind and enrich my life, but to provide endless opportunities to talk about boys, promote staying slim, offer tips on how to be popular and tell me what beauty products to buy. After years of trying to fit into this niche that I could never be part of, I returned to my first love. A love that had never abandoned me but had been waiting patiently.

That first time I lay on my bed and listened to the sigh of my fingers stroking the spine of my newest acquisition. I heard a soft creak as I slowly peeled back the cover and exposed the body of the book. Reading through the first few pages, I became enamoured.

Magic, sorcery, loyalty, and intrigue were thrust into my mind following the turmoil of a young lad’s unfolding tale. I identified with his awkwardness, frustration and insecurities, and was emboldened by his certainty that he would one day soar to great heights. On this memorable day I fell in love with the fantasies that had spilled out of the mind of Raymond E. Feist. His book, Magician, took me to places I had never been before, where I mastered spells, fought wars and spied on evil.

Licking my finger to turn the pages, I could taste the essence of the book ­– its ink-blood mingled with my flesh and the musty flavour of the pages. This was more than just reading a book; this was a full sensory experience. My mind was stimulated, my body tingled in anticipation, my breath caught in my chest awaiting the return home of loved ones, and tears caressed my flushed cheeks at both joyous and devastating news. Goosebumps appeared on my flesh as I wandered through snow drifts in stormy weather, and my eyes sparkled when I gazed into a black night littered with the jewels of the sky.

I was overcome, completely swept away by my raw and urgent need for more, and when the last page was turned I hoped against all hope that this would not be the end of my sweet love affair. With heavy heart, I trudged back to the library and tenderly returned my Magician home. I stroked his spine and whispered, “Farewell.”

And then my heart fluttered with excitement. There, right next to where my love resided, was the continuation of all I had just experienced. As I explored further, I discovered many more stories from my love. That night I slept, deeply satisfied and secure in the knowledge that my new pleasure did not have to end. This was no one-night stand; it was the beginning of a lifelong love affair with the written word.

When I was a child, I explored the world in a childish manner, including the words written for me to enjoy. As an adult initiated long ago into the joys of exploring the fantasies spilled from the minds of others, I have learned to savour each word and am therefore deeply dissatisfied by a limp and flaccid tale. The tones and hues of my life are made richer and more vibrant by the books I have been blessed to experience. Reading is not just a hobby for me, but a way to experience the world the way most neurotypicals do. And just as it does while I’m reading, when I’m back in the real world, living my own story, my mind tries to adapt the storyline while the real-life characters flex and flow around me.

I have yet to determine if I am the wicked protagonist or the lovable antagonist in my life story, but since the final chapter has yet to be written I shall continue to grow and learn from my experiences. I believe that is all any of us can do.

M. A. Phoenix

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