When it comes to what we share about ourselves to others, ultimately, the decision rests solely on each individual regarding what information is private and what is public. The autistic mind can struggle to gauge what is socially constructed as an overshare or and not; this results in either living a secretive life (almost “too secretive”), or being very open (almost “too open”) with those around them. It’s like being either under-dressed or overdressed for an event. The disadvantage of never opening up is the lack of opportunities to build relationships with others. Without some openness, there’s no opportunity for getting hurt nor being loved. On the other hand, being very open leaves someone an easy target for gossip but also allows kindred spirits to find one another. Some people are more comfortable blending in like a classic piece of clothing while some feel more at ease being a colorful item that really pops!
Butterflies are made of beautiful colors yet we never see the part where the caterpillar turns to mush before finally developing wings. I’ve mentioned in a post from long ago that once you reach a certain emotional tipping point, you stop giving a f what anyone thinks of you. The most testing times of my life pushed me to make bold moves - comfort zones kept me from evolving. My intention of coming out was to join a growing army of autistic women around the world in showing that difference is nothing to fear. Coming out as autistic 20 years ago was almost unheard of. Recent social progress has opened people’s eyes that like homosexuals, autistics aren’t some distant damaged model of a human being that should be recalled - we’re as much contributing members of the community as anyone else. Like a wardrobe, variety makes the world come alive!
The same way someone making a joke at the expense of the LGBT community may unknowingly make a closeted gay person within their circle feel targeted, I feel a sting everytime someone mocks a person with autistic traits in presence, and it happens rather often. It’s not to point blame at anyone, it’s how we’ve been socialized to treat differences. It feels like if they really knew me, or if they knew me growing up, they would have rejected me in the same way. My black and white thinking mode turns on making me think that every neurotypical sees autistic people this way . I need to consciously deconstruct my logic to convince myself that the comment was thoughtless and not meant maliciously. Then this deconstruction goes to war with my memories of being bullied by people who made similar comments. I'm left ruminating over the tension between living between two worlds: not noticeably autistic to be viewed as autistic but autistic enough that I feel ''other''. No matter how good I am at hiding my emotions, they bubble beneah the surface and finally burst from my seams in some way or another if I don’t address them. Being honest about my condition has given me a healthy outlet to express my feelings regarding microaggressions towards autistics. No one ever brings up my autism in person because why would they? My online presence gives others a more intimate look inside my heart and mind without having to navigate complex social etiquette like an open invitation to walk a mile in my shoes.
When I allow someone to get close to me, be to entertain a friendship or a potential mate, a part of me wants to lay out all of my difficulties on the table - that way it’s no surprise when I come across an obstacle. At the same time, the other part of me wants to get to know others and they get to know me in person organically without the distractions of labels. It’s like I want to skip the steps of getting to know someone by jumping into what makes me me and what makes you you, but people aren’t a special interest. I’m not a specimen that can be studied. Okay, I’ll admit that I have been studied for someone’s PhD research but what I mean is that you can’t know who I am from my poetry, my blog, or my social media posts. People are complex, emotional, and thinking creatures that need more than memorization and knowledge to be understood. Every person builds a mental profile of who someone is by the information they’re presented, and each person in my life is presented with different facts and facets of my personality. So in truth, it feels like no one can ever really know me except me. And then there’s the fact I’m changing and evolving everyday. The person I was yesterday is different from today. Then one day, when I meet my significant other, I will change again,and hopefully we’ll grow together. The reason I went on a tangent here was to highlight the fact that I can very easily hide my autism from the world, even from a partner. I can fool everybody but myself. At the end of the day, my difficulties will emerge and I’d rather be able to defend myself as autistic than to accept any other labels people have attributed to me in the past, and even to this day. Some moments, however brief and fleeting, I forget that I struggle most of the time. These blissful breaks of reality make me overconfident about how much I can handle - my writing is something that keeps me grounded; it’s the only thing in my life that’s a constant. Words don't change. Words are reliable. Words have meaning and therefore give my life meaning; reading and writing never go out of style.
Sometimes I act in ways that make it appear like I’m not aware that I’m being eccentric or different, but I’m more aware than I present myself to be. “Playing dumb” is a strength that has allowed me to outsmart my bullies over time. I understand neurotypical ways of thinking. I know what stands out and is easily a target of ridicule, blame, or exclusion. Let’s be honest here, I wouldn’t have gotten this far in life if I didn’t know how to play the game and had no effin’ clue most of the time. It’s exactly this clue about life, this knowledge, that makes me rebel against it because I see the absurdity of it. Society is hypocritical. After much introspection, I’ve concluded that some degree of hypocrisy is necessary to make civilization function (okay, maybe more than a little - a lottle). At the same time, it irks me to no end. I feel the compulsion to point out contradictions and double standards we accept as symbolic dominance, especially if it sticks up for a marginalized group. I’m not happy when I feel like I constantly have to outdo, outsmart, or outperform; it’s an ego-based drive that gives me an artificial sense of self. It’s a vicious cycle that leaves me feeling more disconnected. I just want to BE without feeling like I need to NT my way through life. Most people can’t tell scarves from shawls apart the same way they can’t distinguish most autistics from their neurotypical peers. Does that means we should call scarves shawls and shawls scarves? A rose by any other name...
Coming out of the closet is scary whether you’re trying out a new edgy outfit or showing the world who you really are. Before embarking on this wild advocacy journey, I consulted with half a dozen people from different walks of life with various life experience. As expected, the advice ranged from apathy to enthusiasm: “Why label yourself when you’re already successful? It’s only going to stigmatize you.” and “Do what you feel to be right in your heart”. I’m an askhole; I’ll ask people’s opinion and do whatever I was going to do in the first place anyway. My only advice to you is to ponder this one concept: CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT. Try to gauge the person’s vibe and whether they would be receptive to your truth. The people I knew since forever didn’t bat an eye when I came out, but some newer people in my life sometimes look at me a bit differently - like they’re trying to figure me out as though they’re trying to spot the autism that I hide so well. Don’t worry, I tuck my unsightly aspie antennas behind my ears when no one is looking... Why else do you think I never wear hats? ;)
When I disclosed to one of my coworkers, she responded with: “I sensed you were different but I never saw it as a bad thing.” It was a simple comment but a lot considering how Autism gets a bad rep. Disclosing one’s true identity is it sort of like taking your clothes off; it’s a very exposed state to live in. Eventually, you get used to your naked soul unclothed from your ego. It helps to remember that everyone deals with their own insecurities and challenges, or ironically enough, you can just imagine the entire room naked if that helps reduce your anxiety about disclosure. Also remember that no matter how perfectly your tread in life, you can’t please everyone so you might as well do what gives you inner peace. If you’re wondering whether disclosure is right for you, you already know the answer in your heart. Its like when you find that PERFECT dress. You know already if you want it or not.
I’m very much of the philosophy that no one should get in the way of doing what you want to do in life, but the world isn’t always an accepting place for differences. I’m always afraid for very vulnerable autistic women who are too trusting and naive; I’m hoping these women recognize themselves as such and disclose selectively (or not at all). No one is entitled to know how your brain is wired and no one owes it to anyone to explain that part of themselves. Each person should analyze their own personal circumstances carefully before sharing something that can’t be taken back - the same way you’d decide for yourself if an outfit is too revealing or not. You alone, understand your environment, cultural/ social norms, or what makes you feel comfortable in own your skin.
All of us are at risk of being dissed every minute of everyday, but more so if we’re vulnerable - emotionally scantily-clad, if you will. People will diss your clothes (or lack thereof), they’ll diss your creed (or lack there of), they’ll diss everything you have and anything you lack! To disclose or to be discreet about autism, that is the question. But whatever you do: don’t ask, don’t tell. Show them who you are, because unlike fashion, that’s what really matters.
[Dedicated to ‘The Aspie Woman’ Facebook page]
I used to doodle with my pen in my notebooks during class. It was usually a dog or a flamingo - even if it wasn’t nothing to write (or draw) home about. While perfecting every fur strand or feather, I wondered about the cruelty of nature and how that relates to humans. Animals aren’t expected to treat each other kindly, like people. A crocodile can kill their prey and feel no guilt, remorse, or shame. Humans are the only mammals who suffer psychologically from conditions that result from immorality. Stories are a part of what make us human. We share religious symbolism, fables, myths, ghost stories, fairytales, anecdotes, rumours, gossip, and superstitious beliefs. There is everything from uplifting stories to scary stories. When stories are more difficult to comprehend, we label characters as a way to absolve ourselves from humanity’s entire story, including its’ horrors. Monsters in the closet don’t scare us as much as the monsters that look like us; the humans treating other human beings as a predator would treat his prey. These people become little in our eyes. Monsters shrink.
“As a child I never imagined that all of the real monsters in the world would be humans.”
- Mobeen Hakeen
I’m currently reading about The Social Dominance Theory and how our prejudices are influenced by our Social Dominance Orientation. The theory concludes that the amount of people who are on both ends of the ideological scale counterbalances forces that stabilize group-based inequalities. The monster of humanity is essentially required to maintain order. Everyone has a different kind of monster. Autistic children being the sensitive beings they are don’t understand the monster of neurotypicals which causes a deep confusion towards cruelty, backbiting, and manipulation. It was distressing for me to see other kids hurting others, especially in environments that taught kindness. Causing intentional harm wasn’t something I could relate to, so I instinctively categorized bullies as ‘other’. Paradoxically, autistic girls have an over-abundance of hyper-empathy for those who persecuted them/ others. I could sense a bully’s insecurities but couldn’t understand how they projected that onto others, as I had always projected mine onto myself. I was conflicted with hosting two opposing feelings in tension. I’ve always tried to consider the humanity of a person who’s humane side wasn’t apparent to me. I wanted to love them from afar by maintaining that they were not like me, despite them being human too. Their capacity to reason makes them human. Monsters think.
“Dr. Angelou noted that anything another human does, for good or ill, you have the same capacity to do as you too are human. She noted that to say “I would never do that” takes away the humanity of the person who did the action. What we need to say instead is “I hope I am never driven to do that.” Allowing a person, as horrible as their actions are, to still be seen as a human helps us to stop putting them in the category of ‘other.’ Seeing people as being complicated can perhaps allow us to experience the compassion that can help us, and potentially others, grow.”
- Frank Gaskill on Dr. Angelou
When I see the beauty of someone’s soul, I want to clench onto every ounce of it, no matter how little there is. Sometimes, the human aspects of someone I see as a ‘monster’ aren’t so much traces of love, but traces of a cry for love. The non-existence of good, evil, derives from a need for love that wasn’t satiated. Still, I have my moments of despair when I struggle with relating to the way someone expresses their lack of love. I see evil when I should close my eyes. Monsters blink.
“You must not see evil as evil and then compromise with your opinion, for to treat in a smooth, kindly way one whom you consider evil or an enemy is hypocrisy, and this is not worthy or allowable.”
- Abdu’l Bahá
The first time I ever heard about a cult was when I was 8 years old. My mother warned me about The Hare Krishnas telling me to avoid religious groupings where all the men were bald.
Me: Does that mean that cousin so-and-so is a Krishna?
Mom: No sweetie, he just went bald early!
She couldn’t stop laughing. Thinking back, that cult should’ve been called ‘No Hair Krishna’. Perhaps that’s where my avoidance of bald men stems from. No offense to bald men whatsoever. Plus science says bald men are more intelligent, successful, and masculine... so ya’ll have that going for you. If being attracted to good hair makes me superficial (super’follicule), so be it. Ever since being taught about cults, I became fascinated with what happens when something that is suppose to bring harmony gets manipulated to do bad. My prof asked our class how 9/11 shaped our views on religion, and our responses were just as varied as the hair on our heads, or lack thereof. My special interest in spirituality has led me to seriously consider an eventual career as a de-radicalization counsellor. This idea was planted in my head after my ex told me that his masters research paper was done on the radicalization of prison inmates. Me being the curious little monster that I am, questioned how to recapture the human drowning beneath these man-made monsters. Monsters sink.
“ With guns you can kill terrorists, with education you can kill terrorism.”
- Malala Yousafzai
Someone asked me the other day if there was any practical use at all for our lower nature; our monsters. My response was that it’s necessary for procreation, being able to know good from bad (dichotomy), the blessing of being able to appreciate life’s vainer pleasures, and dark humour to handle the difficult aspects of life. Sometimes it’s the idling lower nature of a monster that can make them more relatable, on some level. Osama Bin Laden’s interests ranged from enjoying cartoon movies such as Chicken Little, to porn. Monster’s kink.
“When you study terrorist groups, that’s always what’s striking to people, the kind of quirky, human side of them,”
- Dan Byman, professor at Georgetown University
I mean, maybe the guy had an infidel fetish. I don’t know. I don’t judge. Actually, I do judge, but not in the same way you do. Sometimes I catch myself being judgemental of someone being judgemental. The irony is real. I have to check myself regularly when I’m tempted to fall into the trap of considering myself better than someone because they possess a different monster than mine, or for having a bigger monster. An even more seemingly impossible task, to see those who have harmed someone you love as an equal. For the longest time I hated someone I considered to be a monster, until years later, I witnessed a glimpse of compassion in this person. I felt guilty for ever wondering if they deserved love themselves and asked myself if I'd become one of them. Monsters sync.
“Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster.”
- Friedrich Nietzsche
What we consider monstrous acts were normal once upon a time. My grade 11 history teacher always drilled it into my head that we should never judge social mores of today with those of the past, because they are of a different era of social evolution. A black friend of mine once commented that had we known each other 100 years ago, I would have been racist towards her. I was offended and responded “I’ve never been one to follow the crowd. I’m stubborn now, I would have been stubborn then.” Still, the thought of what could have been scared me. The reality of what humans can be scares us - scaring before being scared seems to be a popular coping mechanism. Others use substances to escape their frightening emotions. Monsters drink.
“I act scary, but most of the time, I’m scared.”
- Sully, Monsters Inc.
The way we each have a little monster inside of us that is scared is a part of what makes us human. Every person wants to make monstrous strides in the world - whether it’s being able to purchase a monster-house, cure diseases that affect cookie-monsters, or protecting society from monsters. Instead of mass-marketing Monster energy drinks and coffee, we should use the little energy we do have to slay the biggest monster of all; ignorance. I have an inkling that more love can prevent bloodshed from rewriting history. Monster’s ink.
I believe the mind is a powerful thing; it’s what makes us understand our place in the universe, and travel across it, physically and spiritually. By now, you’re either intrigued or you’re slowly shaking your head sideways from behind your screen thinking I’m drinking some namaste koolaid. Either way, I’m going to follow through with my decision to maintain my writing’s integrity by letting it be a true reflection of my beliefs and myself. I know a lot of aspie women who are spiritual, but even those who aren’t are very empathetic and focused on altruism. High intuition has been recorded as an autistic trait in females.
“15. Intuitive abilities
Has the ability to feel other people’s emotions. May ‘know’ or have knowledge of certain things, but no idea how she knows. May use abilities in a professional capacity, i.e. medical intuitive. Possesses one or more intuitive abilities. Is an ‘empath’. Identifies with being a highly sensitive person (HSP).”
- AspienWoman book, by author and psychologist Tania Marshall
As you may have already concluded, I am an extremely spiritual person. I will get into how that became a special interest of mine on a different post. I would like to focus this piece on how spirituality relates to dreaming. To start off, I want to make a point that being spiritual isn’t about becoming the embodiment of positivity, it’s about acknowledging and transforming darkness. A good place to face your darkness is in your dreams, although it’s not always fun. Autistic children are more prone to night terrors for some reason. My screams used to wake up my entire family. I haven’t completely outgrown my nightmares, but I’ve learned to manipulate my dreams, and by doing so, can transform a bad dream into a good one. Controlling your dreams is called lucid dreaming.
I recently emailed Denholm Aspy (PhD), in Australia who is studying lucid dreaming. I wasn’t eligible to volunteer for his research because I have anxiety, depression, and ptsd, which could have compromised the results. Ironically, the purpose of his work is to help develop treatment methods for people struggling with ptsd. I will be following his advances as it fascinates me to no end. I actually had an unpleasant encounter in a dream with someone who harmed me in the past. Once I realized I was dreaming, I was able to take control of the dream and confront my demons, sort of speak. I woke up feeling like a weight was lifted off my shoulders; it really did help me.
I’m spiritual but not superstitious. While I do think some dreams have meaning, I’m not one to associate every experience with a spiritual significance. I get the craziest dreams when I go to bed after having a full meal. I’ve also been stuck in sleep paralysis states before where my desperate attempts to wake myself up resulted in yelling or audibly altered breathing patterns. Dreams/ nightmares can result from stress, unhealthy sleeping habits, sleep positions, unconscious feelings, or it can point to something more inexplicable.
“Dreams often seem to be experiences of a confused parallel world. Reflecting on this experience, we may speculate that during dreams we travel to a real, alternate realm. It has been suggested that one of the principle sources of this idea—a spiritual world distinct from the physical—is dreams. If this hypothesis is true, even partially, then dreams contribute to one of the basic notions of religion.”
– James R. Lewis, The Dream Encyclopedia, p. xiv.
Many religions recognize the dream state as an intermediary between worlds. Many writings from various faiths refer to the nature of dreams and their purpose. As some of you may already know, I practice the Bahá'í faith so I’ll share the following quote with you.
“One of the created phenomena is the dream. Behold how many secrets are deposited therein, how many wisdoms treasured up, how many worlds concealed. Observe, how thou art asleep in a dwelling, and its doors are barred; on a sudden thou findest thyself in a far-off city, which thou enterest without moving thy feet or wearying thy body; without using thine eyes, thou seest; without taxing thine ears, thou hearest; without a tongue, thou speakest. And perchance when ten years are gone, thou wilt witness in the outer world the very things thou hast dreamed tonight.”
Baha’u’llah, The Seven Valleys, pp. 32-33.
Prophet Joseph is one of my favourite biblical characters because of his gift with dream interpretation, a skill I’d love to develop. While some people don’t identify with a religion, many people see truth in spirituality. Being autistic, I struggle with small talk, and quite frankly, loathe it. Spirituality is usually a common ground I can find with most people to start elevated conversations. Dreams and spirituality go hand in hand. I’m known for my knowledge about dreams. I find it interesting how I’ve had many déjà vu dreams, including about deaths and breakups. While I’m no prophet, it shouldn’t surprise me when someone asks me to interpret the meaning of a dream.
Some people part ways because their dreams are incompatible. Sometimes these people meet up again in their dreams. Abdu’l-Baha compared the spiritual world with the “the world of dreams when man is detached from things which are tangible and experienceth those of the spirit. What amazing laws operate, and what remarkable discoveries are made! And it may even be that detailed communications are registered.” We may never really know in this life if I truly did communicate with him via our dreams, but it’s very probable that we did, especially that he rarely dreams.
Energy doesn’t disappear, it transforms. The end of a relationship doesn’t mean that love dies, no matter the cause. A breakup means there is potential for the love to develop into something different: a friendship. I find it beautiful how love is literally the only thing in existence that can transcend worlds. A friend of mine was an atheist widow up until the point when she saw her late husband again, while awake, happy and in full health (and yes, this woman is perfectly sane)! I’m not sure if she believes in what most people call “God”, but she’s now certain that souls live on after death.
“Sleep is the sister of death, and the people of Paradise do not sleep.”
“Sleep is the brother of death, and the people of Paradise do not die.”
- Muhammad (pbuh), Source: al-Mu’jam al-Awsaṭ 938i
Whether it’s your differing life dreams/goals or a transition into a dream-like realm that tears you apart from a loved one, separation is only physical. In sickness and in health, ‘til dreams do us part, a loving bond endures, even in death.
I've been deep in thought recently about what it means to be a friend. There are different types of relationships that are considered forms of friendship, romantic partnership being the most unique of them since they usually involve monogamous intimacy. A decade ago, someone told me that romantic love is a modern concept of our time that hasn't always existed, therefore is a utopian figment of our imagination. Unsurprisingly (and sadly), this person is still single, probably forever (alone). His cynicism made me question my ideas about love so much so that I presented an essay on love at a French speaking competition. I won first place at the local level and third place at the provincial level. Actually, I won first place at the local level only by default as no one else signed up to compete in my category. The high school newspaper omitted that small detail in the article praising me. There was even an announcement of my winning on the school intercom and everything...but I digress. Let's explore love in a very analytical manner.
Love can hurt if someone we love loves someone else. If something "hurts us", or makes us uncomfortable, does that make it wrong? Western culture considers cheating to be wrong even though it's an act between two consenting adults that is seemingly harmless. I've narrowed down the unethical underlying issue with cheating as being an act based on lies. No one likes being lied to, and the worst thing you can do to an autistic person is be dishonest with them. But how would you categorize instances where there's honesty about extra-marital affairs?
Friend: You see that guy over there?
Me: Yeah, the guy who was just flirting with you?
Friend: He flirts with everyone! Him and his wife are swingers!
I know a few people in open marriages and both parties are always truthful about their adventures. From what I gather, the criteria for such a relationship works against a lot of aspie idiosyncrasies: the need for routine, not understanding complex social nuances, and seeing relationships as deeper than just a flesh attraction.
That being said, autistics are unconventional and may find acceptance and freedom of expression in alternative lifestyles. I would think that such a romantic situation would arouse jealousy, a natural human emotion, to surface more times than what is healthy. Practically speaking, meaningful relationships are already hard to juggle with only one person; adding another would be a crowd. But that's just me.
Historically, polygamy was practiced by kings and prophets alike, but this practice differs from infidelity as there was never an expectation to be monogamous. Many religions worldwide practice polygamy and it has been going on for thousands of years so it can't be inherently wrong to have more than one partner. A parent loves all of their children, a sister/brother loves all of their siblings, and a person can have more than one friend. If you can love more than one partner in your lifetime (those who divorce then remarry, widows), who is to say that you can't love more than one person at the same time? Why is the expectation of being with one person a cultural norm? I'll relate this back to Montaigne's philosophy on friendship. He thinks it's almost impossible to have more than one close friend (and a significant other is the closest friend there is); the more people you throw in the mix, the less intimate the connection. Friendship saturation means that after you've fulfilled your need for a deep emotional connection with someone, no further relationship of this depth is required.
If our purpose in life is to co-exist, (a.k.a) to love, it would be ideal to grow this virtue to the best of our ability in terms of quality as opposed to quantity. It's okay to want many connections, were social beings after all, but not at the expense of one soul-altering companionship. Sharing isn't caring if it's not equal. Choosing a partner isn't about playing the field, it's about winning the game. Eenie, meenie, miney, more. More love, less lovers. Less is more.
Anyone who knows me well knows that banal things make me laugh the most. Someone being silly can have me laughing nonstop making others wonder how something so ridiculous can be so entertaining. What excites most people bores me: sports, clubs/bars, beaches, the high life, and car toys. I need something deeper in my life: meaning. Everyone needs meaning but not everyone actively pursues it. I've been feeling very unfulfilled and unaccomplished for the longest time. The autistic in me is afraid of change, the unknown, and failure. I kept making excuses to myself about how I have a functional routine going on in my life and that I shouldn't mess that up. I was stuck somewhere between comfortable and unchallenged. It's a very blah place to be.
Friend/author/scholar: If you could do anything at all in the world, what would you do?
Me: Go back to school.
That's when I realized that the only thing that could ever make me happy was by continuing to grow. Someone told me a while back that when I find what it is that's meant for me, I'll know. I've been flirting with the idea of going back to school for years now, but like a wedding dress, my choice of program has to be THE ONE. I recently came across an undergrad title I hadn't seen before. Something clicked, it was like Eureka! I'm thinking 'I've been searching for you my whole life!'. It instantly created a domino effect of ideas in my mind from what graduate/ phd level education that could lead to, to projects I could create and books I could write afterwards.
I stayed behind today at the office and sent in my university application. There's still room in my program of choice so I will find out in a few weeks if I got accepted. I don't want to get my hopes up but I'm feeling pretty confident about my likelihood of being accepted. I'll keep you posted! I won't say what school or program it is to create some illusion of privacy in my blog, and to keep some mystery. What I will tell you is that one day I will master my special interest and use that mastery to create something that is meaningful.
There's no man, amount of money, or worldly comfort that can replace the satisfaction my special interest gives me. I mean, if God sends any of those as a blessing along the way, that's cool, but I need to immerse myself in my world to be happy. I can't make someone else happy if I'm not happy. The love of my life, my one and only, is my passion. I have to follow it.
Some sensory seeking autistic children like to chew non-edible items. The extent to which biting occurs differs in each person. Some parents have to cover the legs of their wooden furniture to keep their children safe. As for myself, my habits were a lot more subtle. I was like a gerbil; I chewed entire pencils, water bottle caps, and plastic cutlery.
Friend: Were you at Carlingwood Mall today?
Me: Yeah, how did you know?
Friend: I found one of your distinctively chewed forks in the parking lot.
Yup. It was a known thing. I've gotten better with age, mainly because my friend started ripping things right out of my mouth the second she'd catch me chewing. I'd attempt to dodge it but she was too quick. There are alternative items to nibble on such as chew toys for children on the spectrum for age-ranges way past the teething phase. There are adult versions of these toys but I won't be jumping on that bandwagon. I'm a changed person now. My days of getting my fix from biting things are behind me. I even got an instrument that prevents me from grinding my teeth to keep my gums sober.
Dentist: Bite this mould softly please so that we can fit your night guard properly.
Despite choosing snacks according to texture as opposed to taste, I never overate because I ate slowly sinking my teeth into soft foods such as jello, pâté, cheese, and soft chocolate, to name a few. I've outgrown most of my biting habits...except biting my lips. Sometimes I bite my tongue too but that's not a bad thing. ;)
Vulgarity is an abuse of language that serves multiple purposes: to emphasize meaning, attempt to impress (or oppress), and offend. People have often been shocked when they've witnessed me using colourful language; they don't expect it from me. I was surprised myself when I found that many autistic advocates swear in their blogs (verbal and nonverbal alike). Maybe a part of it is because I internalized the infantilization of autistic people. Being gullible, naive, and even good-hearted doesn't equate to innocence. By definition, maturity is the loss of innocence by gaining the knowledge needed to make it out into the world. Though people may not always be the delicate flowers they appear to be, that doesn't reflect on character. The truth is quite the opposite: there's a consistent positive relationship between profanity and honesty. Bad words used to make me uncomfortable but as I got older, they helped me spot trustworthy people. That's not to say that people with a clean vocabulary aren't truthful. Good manners help build relationships and get along in society, but "all that glitters is not gold" (J.R.R. Tolkien).
When I think of words I dislike, I don't think of the ones that get censored on tv or bleeped out in songs. The words that hurt the most are used in everyday conversations and usually don't grab anyone's attention: loner, reject, and loser. The negative meaning behind a socially acceptable word is more hurtful than the crudest word ever spoken. The cruelest word ever spoken is also the kindest: friend. I hated the word. It offended me. I couldn't use a word I didn't understand. Friend. I always wanted a friend. Just one. I always lied through my teeth every time I'd come home from a new setting and my mom asked me if I had made any friends. A word that brought joy to others brought me great sorrow. Friend was like a cruel joke that I wasn't getting. I don't get friends, I don't get the joke. I never got into trouble in elementary school for using the F word because I had no friend to say it to. It seemed like the other kids bonded over things they weren't supposed to say or do and disliking the same things and people. Counter-culture was the "it" thing, still is, and probably always will be. Depending on the motive, the "it" thing can reflect our lower nature which prevents us from reaching our highest communicative capacities. That being said, I understand the occasional need and/or slip-ups of releasing verbal tension between F words.
Sometimes life just gets on your effin' nerves.
The term Autism derives from the Greek word 'autos' meaning 'self'. I don't think that's an accurate description for the condition. We're not selfish, self-absorbed, or self-serving. We're disconnected. Imagine being able to talk but not connect or not being able to talk or connect. My mind is like a black hole; once I get sucked into it, I become disconnected from the rest of the world. The ability to zone out is what makes aspies such deep thinkers. My thoughts are a constellation of theories, philosophies, and observations. Professionals call aspie females 'Little Philosophers'. We overthink, over-analyze, and over-explain. Everything is complex. Everything has meaning. Ironically, it's the need to concentrate on the self that contributes to the 'us' in life. I think, therefore we are.
I think. We are. Why do I think we are?
"We are animals that don't follow the natural order of the environment because we co-exist....What is it exactly that sets us apart from our non-human counterparts?"
- from my 'Minds Without Borders' post
The answer to the age-old question 'What is the meaning of life?' is obvious to me. Uncommon sense states that it's exactly what separates us from animals that is the meaning of life: co-existence. It seems like such a simple answer to a very complex question. A simple answer that isn't simple to live up to. Ubuntu is an African philosophy on interconnectedness, a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity. Several native communities worldwide share similar beliefs that seek reparation over retribution, and understanding over vengeance. Some cultures considered 'primitive' even revere the disabled. Western and European society isn't designed with ubuntu in mind by perpetuating the every-man-for-himself-mentality. I think, therefore I am.
For someone with a supposed self-interested mind, I've been pretty good at pointing out how society itself is disconnected. It's a paradox that the more I tried to be like the world, the more I felt removed from it. My 'autos' mind was designed to think alone but created nonetheless to live with others. Having a communication deficit shouldn't mean social death. No matter our conditions and personality traits, no human being is meant to live in isolation. Mimicking people's behaviour will help to blend in but not connect. Superficial social skills can fool a group but will never be sufficient to build deep, lasting relationships. I had to get creative with my methods. By being open about who I am I was finally able to feel like I'm a part of something bigger than myself. Co-existing with myself was the first step in co-existing with others. If I live an inauthentic life I'm taking away something from the world that could otherwise be used for the greater good. I think for myself, but live for others. I think, therefore we are.
Human behaviour doesn't fit in a textbook: it's irrational and unpredictable. Socializing is a difficult skill to learn because the second you learn the rules, they change. For autistics, recognizing unidentified social hierarchies can be like trying to decipher hieroglyphs. This can be a good or bad thing. Not seeing seeing the social ladder is what creates leaders from nothing, entrepreneurs, and artists. It's a double advantage if you learn the rules from the sidelines and still have a disregard for conventionality.
"Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist."
- Pablo Picasso
The downside is that if you're stuck in a structured environment, there's little room for eccentricity. When you don't know the unwritten rules, it's safest to just ride the wave. Maslow had the right idea with his hierarchy of needs, but there's no pyramid within the belongingness and love level to explain friendship, cliques, and group mentality. I was always confused as a child because in class we were taught about acceptance and respect but the playground was free-for-all. The real world works the same way. The intention of rules is to do what is right but there are always loopholes that can be used for wrong. Even though the system is meant to function a certain way, it isn't entirely reliable.
To survive, finding out who to trust with what is the trickiest part, but worth it. If you're trustworthy and truthful yourself, people will be more receptive to you. Stay humble no matter where you find yourself. The last thing you want to do is barge into a situation and try to run the show. Unless you have the abilities of Dr. House, no amount of intelligence will take away from the fact that you're stepping over people's heads. Depending on your social support, you may need to seek different associations with various types of people to have a solid grasp of how everything works: friendships, acquaintances, work relationships, faith/spiritual/or motivational guidance, successful individuals in all sorts of fields, and academics.
If/when you figure out how everything works, that's when you can decide if you want to continue going along with it or move in the other direction to create change. Autistics are innovative thinkers; the movers and shakers of the world. You don't need a hierarchal 'squad' to make things happen.
"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose."
- Dr. Seuss
Up, down, sideways. The places you'll go inside or outside the pyramid is up to you!
Dyspraxia is a form of developmental coordination disorder which usually goes hand in hand with an autism diagnosis that affects someone's ability to perform movements in a smooth, coordinated manner. The condition exists in varying degrees and may impact speech, perception, and thinking patterns (piecing words and ideas together). This is what I believe prevented me from articulating properly as a child. My sentences used to be very cut-and-dried; I've come a long way since then. Now I'm an excellent public speaker and I can have spontaneous conversations with banter and all.
Communication is 90% nonverbal: tone of voice, body, language, and facial expressions. Matching facial expressions with emotions, displaying proper reactions to various situations, and maintaining a natural gait/ posture are all elements autistics struggle with. These are more reasons why autistics are often labeled as lacking empathy. I've smiled and even laughed after receiving bad news before. I think I do it out of anxiety and a part of me wants to cheer the other person up.
Friend: Why are you smiling? It's sad.
Me: I don't know. Why are you smiling?
Friend: Because you're smiling.
Responding "normally" to situations isn't something that comes naturally to those on the spectrum. This can give others the wrong impression which can go beyond social awkwardness and make us seem like insensitive sociopaths. As a kid, I used to spend hours upon hours in front of a mirror practicing different facial expressions and hand gestures. I became an expert in appearing neurotypical. Like most aspie females, I was hiding in plain sight. When a friend found out I was autistic he equated it to finding out I was a spy. A very blunt spy.
Him: I just thought you were a bada**.
Well, I'd still like to think of myself as a bada**, but not as bad. Autistic people can struggle to wear a natural smile that may come off as "creepy", odd, or even rude. I always opted for the soft smile as it was a safer bet than attempting a big teethe grin. Now I'm very comfortable expressing the entire spectrum of emotion: the good and bad ones.
I'm very familiar with angry emotions. >:|
Kiddinggg... I'm made entirely of rainbows and butterflies! :)
Dark butterflies. >:)
No wait, a social butterfly. :D
My social learning curve has had a butterfly effect on my interpersonal motivation and interactions. Mimicking other people's behaviour helped me wing it for most of my life. I'm happy I broke free from my insecure cucoon. Now that I've morphed into an expressive person, I'm hoping I can still maintain a poker face when I get butterflies in my stomach.
"Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee."
- Muhammad Ali
I want to maintain a delicate exterior and a strong interior.