I am neurodiverse. I am diagnosed dyslexic, dyscalculic, and dyspraxic—this last meaning that I often am unable to locate information. You might be familiar with walking into a room and having to look around for where you put down your keys. I have this experience within my brain, misplacing names, for example, or the connection between a face and a name. I am also almost certainly, though without formal diagnosis, autistic.
Neurodiverse people sometimes describe their condition as a superpower. I think I understand why, the need to reframe a story of lack, but, at least in my experience, it isn't a superpower at all. I am not a superhuman, I am a (super) human (as are you). For me, my neurodiversities are both a blessing and a curse.
A blessing is the gift of God’s goodness. Blessings are the overflow of that goodness, a gift that keeps on being given, and is never retracted. Blessing is the invitation to live a particular life, that no other lifeform can live in your place. Blessings give permission, delegate authority, and say, “Go, take your place in the miracle of life.”
A curse is a limitation placed upon us, for our own good and for the good of others. Curses are always themselves limited in scope and duration, and always overcome by repentance, that is, a change of mind. Curses are the negative expression of blessing, the page to the ink. They save us from ourselves, from the misdirected desire to be independent of others, while at the same time keeping others dependent on us—from any messiah complex. They push us, willingly or unwillingly, towards interdependence—which we embrace through that repentance, or change of mind.
My neurodiversities are a blessing, to me and for others. I am super creative. I am capable of super focus—note why some people speak of super-powers—while also super-easily derailed. I see things from a different perspective, a perspective that other people value because it shines light on their neurotypical blind spots. (Though mine is not the only or only right perspective, something that immature neurodiverse people often fail to recognise.)
My neurodiversities are also a curse, to me and for others. There are ways in which I will never be independent, or dependable. To an extent there are skills I can learn and tools I should employ to manage this; but skills and tools can also be fashioned into a persona, a false projection of who I want you to see (and, often, who you want to see in me) masking those parts of me that I do not want to be seen, because I am too easily ashamed of them. That persona isn’t bad in itself, but it is false. The particular curses of my neurodiversities—the ways in which I routinely misunderstand others and am in turn misunderstood; the wifi signal inside my mind dropping out at the most unwanted moments; a host of others—the things I have so often tried to hide—are the very limits that should cause me to seek others whose blessings compliment my curses, just as my blessings compliment their curses. At 50, the persona of competence is simply too cracked to hold or hold on to.
The curse is a gift, as much as the blessing: the blessing sending me out from God further and further into the world, the curse calling me back deeper and deeper into God; my true self being found held in this creative tension.
One of the things I do is keep an eye on clergy posts being advertised. Not that I am looking for a new job, or change of role, but because I take an interest in clergy wellbeing. One of the things I notice is how many contexts are seeking, or offering opportunity for, ‘an exceptional priest.’ As a direction of travel, this causes me concern. It is, perhaps, a sometimes-necessary place to begin, but—ironically—has its own in-built limits. Being exceptional turns out to be curse, as much as blessing. If we recognise this, all well and good; there will be pain, but it will be creative, cooperative. If we fail to do so, there will be a lot of destructive pain along the way.