Finding Ourselves on the Autism Spectrum

Posts tagged ‘friendship’

Different kinds of friendship

I want to thank everyone so much for the extraordinarily warm welcome I received yesterday upon starting my little blog.  I was all set to run and hide like a scared rabbit, because I’m overly sensitive to criticism and rejection, but you made me feel interesting and accepted.  It really makes me want to write more. Part of me is still a bit nervous, though, and I’ll tell you why.

(Inserting disclaimer here: In real life I’m usually much less serious than I am finding myself here as I write this.  Humor is the main coping mechanism for most of life in our family, but for now I seem to be working through some things.  Please bear with me. )

To be honest, a part of me is wondering just how far this acceptance will go and how long it will last if I keep sharing what’s going on in my head.  I’ve developed this concept of myself as someone people only like as long as they don’t look too closely, and as long as I keep up appearances.  I’ve gotten better over the years at knowing the standard things people find acceptable for me to say.  It goes along well enough for a while.  Then I gain more confidence, start to relax more and filter myself less, and somewhere along the line the atmosphere in the room changes or someone makes a comment, and I realize again that I really am some sort of other and not part of the group at all.  At least that’s how it seems to me.

I’ve been getting a different reception here, and I enjoy so much exchanging ideas with people who have their own perspectives on things that matter to me.  It’s such a breath of fresh air, and I keep wanting more.

The relationships I have with people in my daily life mostly seem to revolve around whatever it is that we have in common.  I guess that’s normal enough. Usually it’s kids.  Occasionally a hobby or pet or a common life experience.  And there’s Facebook, where I can momentarily connect over a difficult or amusing moment in my day or someone else’s, and then we drop right back out of each other’s lives again. 

I actually do enjoy being in touch with more people this way than I would otherwise.  I can’t manage long phone conversations or evenings out very often, so it’s a way to keep up on what people are doing and to share what I’m doing without having to have dozens of separate conversations.  I also sometimes enjoy the brief exchanges I have with other parents on the school playground or at the door at the beginning or end of a playdate, although that tends more to be  if I’m having a good day.   Still, it’s all very limited involvement and within pretty “safe” subject areas. 

Once in a while there will be a longer conversation while the kids play in the neighborhood pool, or when we lose track of time waiting for them to finish some activity they are doing together.  It seems like those longer conversations mostly happen with parents who have at least one child with special needs.  Even if the issues are different, we can talk about something real and meaningful to us, and we can share at least some of those moments that other parents aren’t likely to experience or understand.  Plenty of people in my neighborhood or on my friends list will be happy to listen to a story about my car troubles or my kids’ last visit to the dentist.   They just don’t know what to do with a story about my teenager having an anxiety attack that takes up my whole afternoon or not being able to get himself dressed in the morning because he can’t stop staring into space long enough to put something on. 

I’ve had one good friend for most of my life who loves to bounce ideas back and forth with me , and I treasure that relationship.   We can talk about spiritual things and practical things and even autism things, because she has spent much of her career as an exceptionally insightful special ed teacher.  This friend is actually the one I credit with taking me under her wing and helping me to fit in and find friendships as a lost adolescent Aspie girl.  She has always thought I’m funny and interesting and unique in a really positive way, and she’s never asked for more than I have to give.

I told this friend pretty recently about my deciding that I am on the spectrum, and she responded with love and respect for my feelings.  There was also a certain amount of disbelief that I could in any way have something that’s considered a disability.   To her, I’m wonderful just as I am, and I truly love her for that.  At the same time, it helped me to realize that much of my life experience has really been kept all to myself.  Over at Life in the House that Asperger Built there’s a discussion going on about challenges and  limitations, and I especially relate to a comment passed along from a friend of hers by Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg about having to “pedal harder than other people just to get to the same place”. (Thanks, Rachel).  Because I end up looking like I’m doing OK – at least for the periods in which I am out “performing” – nobody gets to see how much effort it took to get me there or the limit on how long I can stay before turning back into a pumpkin.

It’s hard to share with people things about myself that I know they just don’t feel.  Come to think of it, I’m not exactly sure why that is.  I suppose it just emphasizes to me how different I am.  Even if they are being kind, I feel self-conscious.  It’s so unburdening to be able to say that I’m depressed or anxious or I just can’t think right now because the TV is too loud or the kids are all talking at once or I just need to be away from people for a while and to have that be OK and not something anyone feels a need to worry about or to try and fix for me. 

I’m not looking for anyone to pity me.   If you look closely enough, everybody has their challenges – some that truly make me wonder how people even manage to get up in the morning –  and I wouldn’t trade mine for someone else’s.  I would just like to be able to say how I’m feeling and what I need to do to accomodate that and to have that be accepted without anyone telling me how I could change things or make things better.  A need to fix something would imply that I’m a broken version of a “normal” person.  I’m a perfectly fine version of me, and I’m really enjoying getting to know more of the fascinating people in this corner of the blog world. 

This is one of my favorite concepts from old school Star Trek:  IDIC – Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination.  Who wants for us to all be the same, anyway?

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