Inside looking out 

Looking out at the world, I see buildings and cars and people.  People milling about, living their lives, doing what they do.  They remind me of ants in little colonies, little communities, doing what needs to be done, because it needs to be done.

I’m sure they’re intelligent and cognizant–the ants, I mean.  OK, I’m kidding, kind of.  The people probably are, too.  But do they stop and think about what it’s all for?

I can only speak for myself, and I know that I’m like a glass house, fragile with many rooms and facets, the separating walls of which are fragile and wrought with illusion and confusion.

The popular phrase is being “on the outside looking in”.  Even my mobile’s autosuggest understands this and helpfully offers to finish my sentence like a longtime life partner.

That phrase, however, does not quite speak to me.  I’m inverted, after all.

My phrase is to be “on the inside looking out”.  That is how I have lived most of my life, as an autistic person in a nonautistic world.

I can never quite be a part of their world.  I’m an outlier, a non-ant in the ant colony.  I don’t quite understand the job I’m supposed to do, the member that I’m supposed to be.

So, maybe to be the outlier is my job.  To add variety where there might have otherwise been sameness.  To throw a bump, a hill, or a mountain into the serene, flat, plain landscape.

And it’s not about me: maybe that’s what autism itself is.  Adding color splashes to black and white.  Adding curves to lines.  Throwing blips onto the radar.  Maybe that’s what it’s all about.

That’s not to say that black and white is not beautiful in itself.  Landscapes of the plains are also quite lovely.

But if everyone operated the same way, humanity might become monotonous.  It might become too predictable.  If there’s one thing that nature has taught us, it’s that it loves chaos.  It has its natural order of things, its laws and its constants, but I think that every so often, it needs to be amused.  Nature has a playful, practical joker element.

And maybe each of us on the spectrum is the starstuff of That Stuff.

Even if that means falling outside the bell curve, or even blowing the curve.  Even if that means making adjustments.  Even if it adds up to feeling disconnected, as the outsider that I am.  Even if it means living in this dreamy internal world that I know.

I’ve realized that it’s OK to be an outsider.  Ant colonies are busy and mundane anyway.  Being autistic means that I already am where some nonautistic people try to be: in my mind, in a state of mindfulness.  I can slip out of that and lose sight of my big picture, but my default position is to live in the meditative state that others find themselves taking classes or reading books to achieve.

I’m not saying that my way, my default position is better.  I’m not sure that the universe favors one way of being over another.

But mine is what I know.  I occasionally long for a momentary taste of a nonautistic experience, which I think is more the result of a near-universal human tendency to desire that which we cannot have.

I might be inside looking out, but maybe I’m not actually so different after all.  🙂

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This is one of my more popular posts!

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(Image Credit: Oliver Morris)

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41 Comments

  1. “The people probably are, too. But do they stop and think about what it’s all for?”

    indeed they do. in fact, what youre doing is guessing whether they do, based on the fact that you sometimes do this more often perhaps? and then making it so black and white that “maybe they dont do that.”

    im always sharply critical of this sort of fallacy– and it is a fallacy, even though i know the intention behind it is innocent curiosity.

    i have too many nt friends to assist a neurodiverse army with an “us vs. them” mentality, even if it starts out innocent. thats why im sharply critical of these assumptions. https://www.xkcd.com/610/

    if you want to know what the difference is, its that youre probably (almost certainly) more philosophical than average. unfortunately, the way this ends up getting expressed is “im philosophical, but theyre not.” youve done posts about black-and-white and they serve as a fair disclaimer. and i do black-and-white too.

    of course where you went with this us-vs.-them is an interesting twist: “i want to be more like them sometimes.”

    thats fair. even if you didnt want to be more like them, thats fair. obviously where i went with the post is different– i spotted the “us vs. them” (not intended im sure) and said “wait, wait, wait–” of course i didnt miss this line: “maybe I’m not actually so different after all.” i agree… you are not always the same, and you are not always different. one thing you have in common with everyone else is, you are a collection of differences and similarities with other people. thats great, actually.

    but i still draw the line at “philosophical vs. unphilosophical” or however you want to look at it or phrase it. really, spectrum doesnt end at nt– how much introspection people have (whether nd or nt) is itself a spectrum. ive never met an unphilosophical person, though ive met at least a few with very unsophisticated philosophies, and a few others with philosophies they seem to think are more sophisticated than they really are (frasier crane is a wonderful lampoon of those, and martin the foil who loves his sons regardless.)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. of course im still nitpicking. to me its a very large and important nit, but i know its a nit. the less i think about that one detail which i decided to comment on, the more i feel overall that this is actually one of your best posts. overall, i think the post is less about being separate, regardless of where it starts or explores in the middle.

    i figure that a lot of aspies can relate to that. i mean, we will always be different people– but we dont always want to be entirely different every single day, and it isnt always fun to be treated as entirely different either (even if its an important part of our identities.)

    assimilation: no, thanks. segregation: not all the time, no thanks– not for me. i dont want to live behind a mask, though i do *occasionally* enjoy being in public. we have a long way to go with acceptance and fighting misunderstandings (mostly with better understandings) until that becomes easy/easier for all of us to do. but for some of us, its a very important thing– being part of something bigger than our own group, without giving up everything that makes us who we are. i know there are many, many groups that feel that way and express that sentiment: “i dont want to spend the rest of forever just being in a clique or subcommunity, even if i love it and its my home.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve never thought of it as “on the inside looking out,” but that phrase describes me well! I am often stuck inside my brain, and in my world, watching others out there doing stuff. I often wish I had friends and could go out and do stuff, but when I am out with others I still feel like I am in a bubble!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I also think its a really good piece of writing, you ve done.
    I consent especially to “I’ve realized that it’s OK to be an outsider. Ant colonies are busy and mundane anyway.”, and because the people, the community itself become more and more autistic. 😉
    Have a nice weekend. Michael

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I’m not autistic (at least I think so😄) but I had often the same questions and observed the world often as “not belonging” to it. So maybe it’s just a different way (more sensitive) of seeing things?

    Liked by 3 people

  6. A beautiful post! My favorite line: “And maybe each of us on the spectrum is the starstuff of That Stuff.” I like the idea that we aren’t wrong for being different, but rather our being different is part of what makes us right, makes us part of the “big picture.”

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Reblogged this on Annas Art – FärgaregårdsAnna and commented:
    I can relate to the inside looking out perspective. I like being there, but someday I would like to understand how it feels being outside. I’m not autistic, but HSP, so being in the outside world is fun but exhausting, so I like my little inside world very much 🙂
    For comments please visit Lainas blog/Anna

    Liked by 2 people

  8. So beautiful, so you! You not only understand diversity but celebrate it. I do know how hard that is in a world determined to make sheep of us. It only serves to show just how vital you are and how valuable your contributions. Earlier today I was writing about Charles Chaplin and in his time it was only the poor and common people who really understood him. He spoke through their losses and their pain and your art and your beauty shine well beyond any inside/outside worlds anyone cares to devise. They are labels and do I need to tell you what should be done with the labels? I doubt it. I’m an ‘insider’ by definition it seems. I’m beyond caring. I am me and for those who can’t accept that, I say keep going. xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “I do know how hard that is in a world determined to make sheep of us.”

      You nailed it, dear friend! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼. Perfect 👌🏼👌🏼. I love that you’re beyond caring, too 👍🏼. I love what you said! I really appreciate your kind and encouraging words! Thank you so much for them 💞💞

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are so kind Lania. I’ve never been one who ‘fits in’ a sheep, no boxes, no labels… You get the picture. A strong introvert as H.D. Thoreau once said: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears however measured or far away.” Those words I read very young (early reader) and they stayed with me and at times, they saved me.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. they look at me too
    like liz
    i hate her
    she makes me ill at ease
    asking questions
    i have no idea how
    to answer
    now or twenty years ago
    i want to be free
    to move
    and be left
    the fuck alone
    autism
    for me is not sexy
    it is an onus
    not a bonus
    no love
    just alone
    save for jesus mary and joseph!

    Like

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