It has been nearly two weeks since a Grand Canyon formed within the autism spectrum community on social media, namely Twitter.
It began with a relatively unexpected and painful catapult from a (very) small segment, a (very) select few. It spread like a tiny outbreak of self-limiting contagion, and when it had reached its fire line, it stopped. Only so many people give in to that junk.
Oh, some of them continued for a few more days, a elementary and middle school clique engaging in a juvenile McCarthyism, thriving and deriving energy from the witch-hunt that took on a life of its own.
But this post is not about them. This post is about me, and the lovelies among us who remain standing, a solid and indivisible unit of love and acceptance.
After taking the initial Mob-whack in my knees, the support poured forth, in multiple venues, through multiple channels, and I grew more solid by the day. Now, I can honestly say that all is calm, all is bright.
Every tree, no matter how beautiful it may look, needs pruning every once in a while. This is especially true of those in which a few branches have become infected by some mysterious, impossible virus. It’s like a tumor; if you can’t shrink it with radiation, it has to come out if you’re going to survive. Fortunately, my survival instinct is intact, and I had the wherewithal to take the needed steps of all-important self-preservation.
A few of my pretties messaged me privately a few days later to say that they, too, had wound up on the chopping block and been given the axe. Each conversation took on its own vibe, some being more affected and others taking it in lighter stride. I don’t judge one way or the other, of course; everyone has a right to whatever they think and feel.
I hope that each person can arrive at the place where I am, if they’re not already there: a place of peace and contentment, in which the dust has settled, the sadness has lifted, and the residual debris have all been swept away, leaving in its wake a cleaner, lighter, more upbeat Happy Place, in which everyone acts like adults and drama is something to shake our heads, roll our eyes, poke mild fun at.
I’m grateful for those who think for themselves. I’m extremely thankful for those who, when faced with an unreasonable ultimatum, ultimately put their foot down and stood by the remaining community. I’m not saying this with a smug, glib attitude; those of you who know me are well aware that that’s not my style. I’m also doing my best to remain balanced and refrain from giving the impression that the community at large “won” because they stood by me and all the others; that’s not my style, either. I’m also not claiming that those who stood with me necessarily said “yes” to me specifically; that’s for them to say, not for me to assume. It seems to me that they simply said “no” to drama. “No” to division. “No” to ultimatums, and “no” to black-and-white, us-or-them coercion.
In the end, the community itself is a stronger and calmer place to be. The ground feels more stable and the winds a gentle breeze. I feel the virtual sun on my face, even if the offline weather forecast is cold and drizzly.
Importantly, I feel comfortable being me again. I’ve never tried to be less than authentic. I’ve never misled anyone. I’ve never told a half truth. I’ve only projected a lifelike online hologram of what I was actually thinking and feeling when sitting in front of my computer or mobile. What anyone saw is what they’ve gotten, at any given moment.
I think that for a little while, however, I may have overemphasized certain facets of my whole. I may have spread myself too thin and become less discerning than I probably should have been. That was my responsibility; my own tree needed pruning. And if it wasn’t going to prune itself, then it needed someone else to come along and do it for me. That was the group who unplugged. In an unusual way, I’m actually grateful for them, too. By drifting wayward toward a polarized periphery and revealing their inner hostility so excessively, my own eyes were opened as the realization struck that this was no longer a group that resonated with me. The wool that had previously covered them was gone, and my vision clear.
Ultimately, that was a leap in a positive direction.
What’s left now is a canyon, likely hopelessly separated. That’s OK. Just because I’m on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, that doesn’t mean that I’m going to get along with everyone else on the spectrum. In fact, our spectrumhood might be the only common tie we share, and everything else might simply be too irreconcilable to build a bridge. That doesn’t mean that just because I’m autistic, I’m going to get along with or appeal to every other autistic just because we’re both/all autistic.
That would be a gross error. An error that, if unknown or unrealized, might lead to pain and confusion. An error that may result in the old familiar feelings of rejection and loneliness. That’s inevitable if one doesn’t have the heads-up. And not all of us have that heads-up.
There are indeed some autistic people who, even if you’re autistic also, will not be healthy for you. Not every person on the spectrum will exert a positive influence on the lives of other fellow spectrum peeps. Both parties may reside on the spectrum, but that doesn’t necessarily make them neurosiblings. Or, alternatively, both may be neurosiblings, but not every neurosibling is a spirit/soul sibling. There are differences, which I can best describe as onion layers. If you are in the center (as we are each naturally the centers of our own worlds, which I mean in a non-narcissistic way), then one might almost be able to plot others on an onion-map, assigning them onion layer designations. It might sound strange, but I think it’s natural human tendency, and I don’t think that that sentiment necessarily needs to come with an embarrassment/shame caveat.
As for the canyon itself? Consider a picture of a canyon. Winds blow dry, light, and fresh. The local flora and fauna are hearty and resilient. The rocky terrain is grounding for the soul. It makes a great vacation spot, and photos practically take themselves, without much setup or post-manipulation. The scenery just sort of hands itself over, with gorgeous views no matter where you look. The natural barriers are somewhat protective, too; the opposing side might be visible, but they’re across the canyon. They can’t get you.
Canyons between humans can be similarly beautiful and protective. In a perfect world, everyone would simply live in harmony and the concept of a rift evolving into a canyon would be nonexistent. But while that’s a wonderful utopia, it’s not human nature. Reality doesn’t work that way. As admirable a goal it might seem to form a solid unified community, that might not actually be completely healthy, given the nature of humanity. The world has all kinds, and although there is plenty of opportunity to branch out and expand one’s horizons, there might be a such thing as over stretching oneself. That excessive stretch might be too uncomfortable to maintain. That occurs on every side, by the way; each person has their personal limits and boundaries of what is acceptable, as well they should. Every individual has that right.
When you can’t be 100% of who you are in order to make up 50% of a relationship of any kind, the bond has to break–otherwise, at least one of the parties is going to.
Don’t let that be you.
Once the pain of the severance wears off, see the canyon. Accept its existence. Take in its beauty. Appreciate its natural boundary. Breathe the freshness. Cleanse the soul. Realize the beauty of the new simplicity in your world, for now you have more free time and energy to concentrate your focus on those who are true friends. The ones who came through. The ones who said no to bullshit. The ones who thought for themselves and decided that come what may, they thought highly enough of you and your bond was strong enough to weather the storm.
Canyons need love, too, and although I wish they didn’t have to exist at all, I’ve reached acceptance and even appreciation.
And that’s the best that I could hope for. And that’s a livable place to be.