As many of you know, I recently wrote a post listing 30 things I’ve learned since discovering that I “have” Asperger’s/autism. It (just now) occurred to me that maybe I should write separate posts on some of those list items….to, you know, flesh them out a little.
Often, when Aspergian/autistic people are not diagnosed in childhood, they grow up measuring themselves against someone else’s set of standards. We might grow up criticizing and admonishing and even belittling ourselves for not being able to cram our star-shaped selves into the rest of society’s square-pegged hole(s).
We didn’t (couldn’t) stop going to school. We continued to go back there, to a place often akin to a prison, every day. Many of us continue(d) to go to work, every day. We may go out into the world and run errands, out and about and having to mingle and blend in with everyone else, every day.
Every. Single. Day.
No matter how much energy it takes.
No matter how exhausted we really are, no matter how few spoons we have left.
No matter how much we’d intensely prefer to stay inside. (And on some days, out of pure self-preservation, we have to.)
There are still errands left to run. There are still tasks left to accomplish. There are still meals left to be prepared. There are still (eeek!) phone calls left to be made. There are still areas of the house that need to be cleaned or laundry that needs to be done. There may be children (two- or four-legged) who still need care. They still need to be fed, played with, interacted with, and in the case of human children, perhaps homework that needs help with.
The world can be a hostile place. The people in it are often crass, assuming, and judgmental. They can be downright superficial and pretentious. How many of us have received stares, glares, presumptive notes left on our windshields? How many of us have endured unexpected reactions from people when we do or say something simple?
Those people haven’t walked an inch–let alone a mile–in our shoes.
They have no clue.
And it is they for whom the world is structured. It is they for whom the traditional standards are set.
For those people, moving about in the world and meeting those standards is easy, relatively speaking. Most people don’t have to think twice about picking up a phone, getting into their vehicle to drive somewhere, checking out at the grocery counter, setting that appointment, making small talk with strangers, looking “normal”, and doing all of it successfully.
Here I was, all those years, wondering why I couldn’t simply be “like everyone else”. And yet, I kept trying. I kept trying to fit in, kept trying to be accepted, kept masking, kept mirroring, kept acting, kept trying various strategies and even personalities on for size.
I kept going back. To school. To university. To the workplace. To the store.
I kept trying to meet their expectations, which I know how was a futile and impossible feat.
And I’m sure I’ve gotten those same stares, glares, presumptions, judgments, talk behind my back. Those same unexpected reactions.
Attempting to function in such a world is like walking through a minefield. You never know what action or utterance is going to blow up on you and take half your face off.
Now that I’m aware of my place on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, I realize that the world is indeed engineered for something I can never be. The standards are set to measurements I can never meet. The risks of unexpected reactions never disappear.
And the truth is, the world had never taken me into consideration. As much as it claims to celebrate diversity, it marginalizes the truly diverse. There seems to be no room made for–and no latitude given to–people like us, who operate on a different plane.
And yet we go on.
Courage isn’t being invincible. Courage is when you know you’re vulnerable and sensitive, and you can’t always handle what the rest of the world dishes your way, and yet going out there and living your life anyway, again and again, every…single…day. Courage is knowing you’ll probably get hurt and yet doing it again. Courage is knowing you could even get squashed or done-in, sent into shutdown mode, and yet…
…doing it again the next day. And the day after that.
I have never seen a more courageous group of people than I have my fellow Aspergian/autistic community. They’re like steel magnolias; delicate souls with big, sensitive hearts, so vulnerable and yet, they do what has to be done. We’re still here. We’re surviving. It’s not easy, but we’re OK. It seems impossible, but we do it anyway.
Every. Single. Day.
(Image Credit: Cyril Rolando)