Years ago, my partner and I hung with a Wiccan crowd and we did a lot of social things with them. Something about the gatherings with the routine and ritual soothed me and gave me a great sense of connection.
Unfortunately (and this is by no means true of all Wiccan groups), I realized my social naivete had landed me in the middle of a bunch of really wounded people with a lot of ulterior motives, and rather than using their magick for the benefit of all, they were trying to use it to basically get their own way in the world. The leader of the group was a “stealth” alcoholic, and when we discussed her just the other week, my partner informed me that the leader was always trying to come onto me – especially when drunk. Apparently, she had the hots for my androgynous ass (back when my ass was a lot more firm and not sagging so close to the ground), and she made multiple attempts (in front of my partner) to seduce me.
This was news to me. I think? I honestly have very dim recollections of my interactions with that woman, and I never really picked up on that vibe… I think. Interestingly, that leader did actually seduce another member of the group — an autistic man who fit all the standard-issue criteria for the spectrum. He identified openly as an Aspie, and he had three kids who were all autistic. He apparently picked succumbed to her seductions, one thing led to another, and she ultimately had him wrapped around her little finger, doing her bidding and whatnot.
The group itself kind of imploded after that. I’m not sure what ever happened to that guy and his family — if his wife ever found out, or whatever. Not my business. Not my problem. Fortunately.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about community, lately. Where we find it. Where we create it. Where do we find comfort? Where do we find solace? Where is our tribe?
Online, we can find people we connect with, especially on social media or blogs. Offline, it’s always a challenge. This weekend is a great example, in my case. I am home by myself for a few days, while my partner and a colleague of hers attend a community event for the weekend. It’s an annual thing, and I’ve never had any interest in attending. In fact, my partner has asked me in the past to not attend, because she doesn’t want the added work of dealing with me, while she’s there.
That might sound harsh, but it’s totally true. I’m terrible at long events. I can’t “hang in there”, as everyone encourages me, till it’s over. Anything longer than a few hours is pushing it for me. I used to attend all-day community gatherings (Wiccan and otherwise), but they took such a toll on me, I went underground for weeks after.
Spending an extended period of time with my family does that, too. I can’t just flit in and out of their company like a feather on the wind. Nor can I spend more than a day with them without starting to feel a meltdown coming on. My last visit, when my aunt died, was my limit.
And when I’m surrounded by a bunch of strangers, it’s even worse. I start to shut down after a few hours. And if people are very tactile — touchy feely types who want constant contact and find that soothing — my “tolerance window” is even shorter. So, my partner has to rescue me from interactions that are overwhelming me, she has to make sure I’ve got access to a safe space, she has to answer a lot of questions from folks about why I’m acting the way I am — what’s wrong with me? — and what people can do to help.
It’s just too much.
For me. And for her.
And it’s not fair to anyone.
Over the years, I’ve done less and less of the types of community activities that used to be run-of-the-mill for us. I’ve gotten less tolerant of the stress and demands, over time. And I’ve gotten more reactive. I’m either less able or less willing to put up with additional demands on my senses. I’ve also got less patience for people who test me, and I’m less interested in “toning down” my autism to make others comfortable. (Unless, of course, they are guests in my house — then the rule is that I will cater to them, because they are guests.)
I have very low tolerance for NTs who take advantage of autistic folks to meet their own social needs — which pretty much seems like the case, when they’re crowding us in search of contact. I understand and appreciate the desire to connect, but what if I have no interest in doing so? What if I’m perfectly fine, just the way I am? What if I don’t need their community as much as they need mine?
That’s the thing I’ve really come to see, over time. I’m fine by myself. I prefer to be by myself. I don’t think it’s pathological or problematic. It’s how I’m built, and that’s perfectly fine. I don’t rely heavily on contact with others to keep my center, to keep myself emotionally balanced. Yes, it helps to have some contact with the outside world, but not nearly as much as NTs seem to need. And much of the time, I’m fine with having very little at all. But the feeling is seldom mutual — with NTs, anyway.
But that’s not a problem for the next 72 hours.
This weekend I get to stay home. Thank GOD.
I’m just counting my blessings — and there are a bunch of them to count.