This weekend was a strange mix of pain and practical pleasures. On the one hand, racial strife has boiled over — seemingly everywhere — highlighting things that have been true for many, many years, but are now just starting to be video taped and brought to public attention.
I have so many ambivalent feelings about what’s going on, racially, in the Western world, I’m not going to put all of them into words. It’s exhausting just thinking about it. I’ve seen both sides of the issue. As a small child (and not only young, I was small for my age), I was on the receiving end of racial hatred and violence that really messed me up and nearly disabled me. I’ve also lived in fear of the police, pretty much my entire life, making sure to pack a Bible when I travel to the South, so that if / when my bags are searched, the police will find it easily… steering clear of areas where there were lots of police… having run-ins with cops (thanks to Aspergers messing with my communication abilities).
The thing is, I’m white. Middle-class. So, I’m supposed to be in a position of privilege and influence to help Make Things Better.
I can think of a million different things any one of us could do. But right now, it just seems like caricatures of “the enemy” — or glorified images of “comrades in arms” — are the only things that matter.
I’m not indifferent. Quite the contrary.
But I had a good weekend, making excellent progress with some undertakings, and getting plenty of sleep and rest, starting with Friday afternoon.. I slept for 3-1/2 hours on Friday afternoon after work. And another 3 hours on Saturday. Sunday, I slept for an hour, then was able to lie in bed and just listen to the gently falling rain, which was wonderful. All in all, a good weekend. With some good realizations.
I’ve realized that I’m not the turn-a-blind-eye bigot that I often assume I am, because of my race and my class. I tend to be very hard on myself, sparing no self-criticism about how I handle things. But over the weekend, I had a long think (and a few tears) about how I conduct myself around other people, and I actually reach out to people different from me, far more often with kindness, love, and compassion, than most (white middle-class) people around me. It’s a regular observation. And I actually do make an effort to extend myself and try to make the world a better place, as much as I can. The times when I fall short, I realized it’s actually Aspergers that’s screwing things up — confusing me about rules of interaction, or overwhelming me with sensory input, so that it’s next to impossible for me to figure out what to do next. I don’t walk past people who need help because I don’t care (which I have thought for the longest time). I walk past because I’m so limited and overwhelmed by sensory input, that I don’t even realize they need help, until after I’ve walked past them. And then I feel terrible, because it feels like I did it on purpose… when I didn’t even realize till a few minutes after the opportunity to help had passed.
I also realized one of the things that has messed up my ability to ask for and get help with Aspergers — namely, that AS has an effect on some people that emboldens them and reduces their inhibitions, while with others, it increases their inhibitions and causes them to retreat into themselves. I think that this is one of the reasons that Aspergers is so often missed in women (and a number of introverted Aspie/autistic men) — namely, that all the scientists and doctors and researchers are expecting Aspies to act like Sheldon Cooper and be cluelessly outgoing and uninhibited by our neurodivergence. We’re supposed to be assertively clumsy, never realizing what’s going on around us. Aspergers is supposed to reduce our awareness about our shortcomings, even while it overwhelms us with other sensory information.
But with many of us (including many women who are missed), Aspergers serves to heighten our self-awareness, making us intensely self-conscious and aware of every single little thing that we’ve done wrong… every single nuanced reaction of the people around us who may be put off by our behaviors… every single slightest hint of wrong-ness that we might be committing, conflating it in our minds into the equivalent of a felonious crime. So, that mis-perception about Aspergers making us all into assertively clueless nincompoops is holding everyone back. Especially women, and men and non-binary folks who are keenly aware of how we’ve screwed up… yet again.
The biggest realization of all, I think, is that I’ve been trying to fashion myself after a neurotypical writer, lo these many years. When I was a kid, I was a writer. As a teen, I was a writer. As an adult, I’m a writer. But only when I got into my early adulthood (and left the Aspie-friendly nest at home), did I start to try to be a neurotypical writer. When I was a kid, I grew up surrounded by folks on the spectrum, so we were all weird in the same ways, and I could just “do my thing” in peace and solitude.
Of course, as a kid, you’re not required to be outgoing and extroverted and social to survive. Yes, it’s recommended, even urged. But you’re not going to starve, if you’re not all of the above. Your parents will still feed and house you. As an adult, though, you have to adjust and adapt to adult requirements, and I did my best to adjust my writing and publishing style to fit what suited others. I tried to re-fashion my words in ways that made sense to others. I tried to pick topics that mattered to the mainstream — not what mattered to me. I even journalled about things and wrote about things that had nothing to do with what I really cared about. I essentially remade my sensibilities to match what I thought was expected of me — the most pervasive kind of “masking” and “blending” of all.
I wasn’t supposed to be anything that I really was. I wasn’t supposed to be so avoidant of others that it’s considered “pathological”. I wasn’t supposed to be so inward, that no one could come near me. That was seen as unsociable and unfair. Even dangerous. Why shouldn’t everyone have completely unimpeded access to my innermost thoughts and feelings? Why shouldn’t they have free and easy access to the deepest depths of my psyche and soul? Why was I “holding out”?, as some said, when I showed them my artwork or writing. I had (and still have) an inner life that was rich and profound and ecstatic, and I was supposed to share it with everyone else without reservation (I guess because they couldn’t find it in themselves to have that?).
But the minute I shared my innermost world with anyone else, it was like taking a glass shield off a candle in a windstorm — the flame went out. Snuffed by the overwhelm of the outside world, which always wanted more – more – more. It was never enough for the neurotypical world. They always wanted more – more – more, and they thought I wanted to share it all, too.
As a result, I realized this past weekend, my writing has suffered. My self has suffered. My muse feels like Bilbo after posssessing The Ring for 20 years — withered and faint, fading and grasping after what refuge I can find. And I realize that I’ve really done myself and my writing a huge disservice, by doing what everyone told me to do — be the way they wanted me to be, act and behave and share the way everyone else in the neurotypical world does it. I’ve lost touch with the flame, so-so-so often, and I’m tired of constantly working to rekindle it, revive it, restore it, after being so roughed up by NT sensibilities (or lack thereof).
But the dismay that comes with that realization also conveys and new license that’s utterly wholesome. Being on the autistic spectrum, I am no longer required to behave like that… to write like that… to share like that… to “be” like that. I am invoking my Autism Spectrum Condition identity to carve out a renewed niche for myself and my writing. That means I’ll be sharing a lot less writing I’m working on, before it’s done. That means I’ll be crafting my words first and foremost with my own sensibilities in mind. That means my own internal world has primacy, while the outside world (which may have an interest in my words) will have to wait… and while I will make my best attempt to express myself fully, I’m not taking responsibility for anyone else’s ability to understand.
I did that for too many years, as it was. And I wrongly blamed myself for NT people’s inability to understand. And we both lost — I failed to get my whole set of intricately connected points across, and the rest of the world never actually saw what really lay within.
So, there it is. There’s joy in that, as the title of this post indicates. There’s unbelievable joy in just letting go of that old mask… letting it drop as the waste of time it is. There’s an expansiveness I feel now, and a license that’s eluded me for many, many years. The neurotypical world is all very find and good — for neurotypical folks. But they get enough of me, just from my day-to-day interactions. As for my writing… that’s me. That’s mine.
And that’s that.