What an Autistic Man Taught Me About Spirit Animals & Self-Love

Unless it’s a pod of Whales, pack of Wolves, or some other animal family gathering, I avidly avoid large groups of living things – Namely, people. But the Sunday afternoon before the first day of school, I found myself trapped in warring tribes of them.

By some strange twist of “I done lost my mind,” I went grocery shopping, and before I knew it, people flanked me on all sides.

A frenzied female chieftain led individual tribes with battle cries of “Stop it!” and “Don’t make me say it again!” reverberating off every corner of the store. Little tribes-people sat in silver metal war ponies.

Though horrified at my own strategic shopping mistake, I had to honor the elegance in the Littles’ combat moves. To these pint-sized platoons went the spoils of war. From the middle of an aisle and without falling, they could hang off the side of their metal pony and grab anything that wasn’t nailed down. Rodeo clowns got nuttin’ on these tiny troopers. Teen tribe members circled the silver ponies in sacred war dances. In unison, they undulated to shrill, pre-pubescent shrieks of “Give it back! It’s MINE!”

I noted a lack of male chiefs. They must have been back at base camp defending the televisions.

Grabbing a pony from the corral, I prayed for mine to have the courage and speed of a Mustang. I named her Wyetta, which means “war strength.” We became one and thus began our ride to freedom. After a harrowing ten minutes, Wyetta and I made it to the escape route checkout line.

That’s when the hero of this war emerged.

Publix: Where Shopping is a Pleasure

If you’re Southern, you know of no greater grocery shopping experience in the world but Publix. If you’ve had the good fortune to spend time in the South, you’ve undoubtedly gone back to shopping at your local grocers feeling a bit sadder. After all, Publix is the place where shopping is a pleasure. It’s not just a slogan. It’s a #truthbomb!

Among the many reasons I love Publix, the biggest is they hire folks who would otherwise have a hard time getting a job. Physically and mentally challenged people of all ages take on various roles. From baggers to stock clerks to deli and bakery cooks and more, Publix creates opportunity instead of roadblocks.

As I stood in line, everyone in front of me shifted a bit, and the bagger appeared in my line of sight. I recognized him and was immediately concerned.

I happen to know this particular young man is autistic. At that moment, he showed all the classic symptoms of sensory overload: Most notably, rocking back and forth. His head slung low in a subservient, puppy-who’s-been-scolded manner. His eyes darted up and down at a rapid pace as he tried to keep up with greeting customers (a big deal in Publix employee training) and bagging their items as quickly as possible.

To make matters worse, one register over a baby set to screaming at decibels that make your ears bleed. The bagger flinched, and his rocking escalated. My immediate thought was, “How can I help him?” Which, in retrospect, the thought was kind of hilarious given that I, myself, was nervous as a Cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

Finally, it was my turn to get the hell out of Dodge.

The cashier greeted me through gritted teeth. I looked at her, shook my head, and said, “Gurrrll! One tequila, two, tequila, three tequila, FLOOR!” She busted out laughing – loud!

Our commotion caused the bagger to look up. That’s when he saw the t-shirt I was wearing, stopped dead in his tracks, and said;

Well, that was the very last thing I expected him to say. I mean, trippy. How many people use that word? Slack-jawed, I just stood there and stared at him. Poor guy thought he’d said something wrong and started stuttering he was sorry. On the spot, I assured him it was OK and that I thought it was funny. I told the bagger I was pretty sure that the Cat’s eyes had hypnotized everyone to come shopping all at the same time.

He giggled, and in his best Count Dracula voice said, “I vant you to buy all the food in Publix!”

OMG! The cashier, the bagger, and I howled so hard we cried. All of a sudden, we three warriors were comrades.

As is part of his job, the bagger asked if he could help me to my car and unload the groceries. I quietly asked if he could use a little break from being inside. He grabbed Wyetta and all but bolted out the door.

We worked in harmony to stay safe from the mad, hybrid beasts running amok in the parking lot. Driven by humans strung out on Starbucks, the snarling monsters gave quarter to no pedestrian. But, for all the chaos around us, we safely maneuvered to my car and had a most unusual talk.

I asked him if he ever thought that people suck – especially on days like today. Shrugging his shoulders, he answered, “I’ve noticed that when I’m kind to people, they are kind to me. So I just try to be nice to everybody, even when they treat me like I’m stupid.”

For the second time that day, I stood and marveled at the young man.

The Long Hard Look at Myself

Those who know me know I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer. In fact, I’ve often wondered if I’m a bit mentally challenged in some capacity. When I was born, my heart stopped for over four minutes, depriving me of oxygen. Truth be told, it takes me a while to catch on to ordinary things that are easy for most people – like, people. This challenge has caused me a fair amount of trauma. Is it any surprise I relate best to animals?

However, on this particular day, the lessons were somehow made obvious.

The thing is, when I walked into Publix, I was at war with myself. I’m currently in a class, and everybody seems to be “getting it” except me. It’s so frustrating, and the whole situation triggers some of my worst insecurities. The negative self-talk is a lil’ harsh. The things I say to me about me are not cool.

Now, we all do it. We experience moments and scenarios that cause us to have toxic internal dialogues. The sixty-four thousand dollar question is, “How do we stop it?”

Seems the bagger at Publix has the answer: Be kind to everyone, even if they think you’re stupid.

Though the bagger was talking about being kind to others, I knew it was a message for me and others like me who have a tendency to be really hard on ourselves.

See, I’m an “everyone.” You’re an “everyone.” And, so, we must be kinder to our “self” – even if we think we’re stupid, not good enough, unlovable, and more.

What a beautiful gift the Publix bagger bestowed upon me. To honor him, I’ve pledged to treat myself with more loving-kindness. I’m asking you to do the same. The next time you feel badly about yourself or begin the negative self-talk, remember this article and how one autistic young man who was about to lose it, shapeshifted into a guru who showed a troubled soul the way to self-love.

Spirit Animals Are Our North Star

So, how is the trippy Cat on my shirt a Spirit Animal? I mean the lesson was about self-love, not Cat symbolism, right? First of all, do you know any Cat who doesn’t love itself more than anything? LOL!

Cats are symbolic of hidden wisdom. The Egyptian goddess Bastet was the daughter of the sun god Ra and is associated with the Eye of Ra (the all-seeing eye). Cats are also believed to keep the secrets of the Otherworld. They hold the key to the deepest mysteries. Is there any greater mystery than our own true self?

Symbolically and literally that Cat put me right at exactly the right place at the right time. Cat Energy and Medicine brought together three people who needed laughter, relaxation, and hope. Plus, it was the Cat that got the bagger’s attention and started the whole interaction. As a result, a part of me I thought may never heal, has; though some darkness still lurks, I’m sure. But now the darkness isn’t alone. There are twinkly stars to keep it company, shinning the way to sunrise, and letting the darkness know the shadows don’t last forever.

4 thoughts on “What an Autistic Man Taught Me About Spirit Animals & Self-Love

  1. deborah says:

    MEOW>>>> so well written and a humor I totally related too! Thank you for taking the time, insight and wisdom of the content, sharing! Life is all about synchronicity I believe. Things don’t just happen without a purpose. As the Grateful Dead, Scarlet Begonias, “sometimes you get shown the light in the strangest places if you look at it right” is so true!!! So many valuable lessons to learn 🙂 What a wonderful connection you three had, how wonderful!
    btw, I too, had a “dead” birthing and I experience the same, almost traumatic, talking myself through people gatherings as you. But we know everything is going to be ok, and I love, love the way you connected your experience with the bagger, self love! Exactly and interesting that I too have been working on that (through meditation) this week. Love your energy, keep smiling, sister!

    • spiritanimals says:

      Hello, Deborah;

      Thank you for the kind message. So happy you enjoyed the story. Sending tons of love to you.

      Stay wild,
      Bernadette

  2. Ash-lee says:

    what a wonderful message today…my son is autistic and this story spoke to me on so many levels. Thank you for this gift. I love you and what you put out into the world and this story will stick with me a long long time. Lots of love to you and to me <3

    • spiritanimals says:

      Hello, Ash-lee;

      You are most welcome. Please give your son a big hug from me and all the Animal Allies on the other side. Sending tons of love to your family.

      Stay wild,
      Bernadette

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