I don’t like to think about “autism awareness” a whole lot, because a lot of the “autism awareness” hype is exactly that. I’ve been aware of autism my entire life. I just didn’t know what it was called until 11 years ago, and even then I had a hard time accepting that description as belonging to me. I rationalized that diagnosis every way I knew how. I couldn’t be “autistic-” hell, I’d just spent the previous however many years playing the normal game- academic achievement, professional achievement, raising a child. Don’t people with autism just sit and rock in a chair, non-communicative, sitting in their own shitty diapers all day? How could someone like me- addicted to overwork, obsessed with professional achievement, possibly be autistic?
I’m not asocial. I function in social situations. I get through. I come off OK. Even when I’m scared as hell. Even though I will probably never get the whole business with eye contact or how to give and receive non-verbals with any kind of accuracy. Even when at times I’ve just had too much and I have to flip into a bathroom stall or pull the car over to freak out. Even when I get emotional and lose all ability to find or use words. Even when I know that everyone around me thinks I’m a spaz and a freakazoid.
Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage, and we are merely players.” I learned to be a damned good actress, most of the time- partially out of self preservation, and partially out of a determination to prove that I can out-normal the normals.
But by the time I was 30 and my physical health took a dramatic nosedive, I began to realize just how high a price I was paying for the semblance of normality, which was really just a hollow caricature. It was hypernormality. I had to be super-normal to hide the fact that I was anything but- and by my mid-thirties, that illusion was falling apart.
I wanted to believe that whatever was missing or wrong with me had an easy fix. It doesn’t. There is no fix. It’s hard wired. It’s just the way I am. I will never be “normal,” and that’s the way it is.
I’m aware that I don’t fit in. I’ve always been aware that I’m the “one of these things that’s not like the others” – even before the kids’ TV show made a game of spotting the oddball.
That being said, the way I’m wired is not an excuse. If anything my wiring has served as an impetus for others to impose their notions of noblesse oblige upon me- and for me to gladly embrace that position of noblesse oblige, with the hidden motive that if I do enough, well enough, I might just validate my own existence. I have some interesting abilities for what it’s worth, such as speed reading, technical knowledge, and so forth.
“You can, therefore, you must.” OK., whatever, if you promise to leave me alone when I’m done. Only they never do.
I have to wonder about that too. Most of the ones I encountered were asshats.
Maybe overwork and overachievement are coping mechanisms. Or maybe they are just ways to keep myself occupied so I don’t have to stop and think- and freak.
In music there is a concept of dissonance and resolution. A dissonant chord sounds tense and unfinished until the chord is resolved. Sometimes I feel like I live in that tension and unresolved dissonance like that, just hanging in the air waiting for resolution.
I have to admit that I am afraid to just step back and be, as weird as that sounds. I’ve always been more concerned with what I can do (as though I can actually prove my own worthiness to suck up valuable oxygen) as opposed to having intrinsic value for just being. I’ve never been a fan of psychological systems that propose to validate one for doing nothing, and maybe that’s just my own defense mechanism. I don’t believe in giving prizes to the 12th place loser, even on those occasions when I am the 12th place loser. I still have something that screams out, “I may be defective, but I can still serve some kind of purpose!”
Today being Good Friday, among more awesome truths to ponder, I am challenged to see the Biblical perspective on life and vocation and purpose, and when I look at life that way I find I’ve pretty much been chasing after wind. Ultimately I have to accept the facts that: I can’t earn or attain justification or validity, I am deeply and inherently flawed in many ways, and there is nothing I can do to change that. I have to accept that only in the death and resurrection of Christ does anything have any purpose or meaning. I don’t completely get that, but on its most basic level it means that I am free to be what God created me to be, whatever that is, and I’m still trying to figure that out.
I would add the caveat that salvation is not license, but among other things it is permission not to confuse doing with being. Still working through that one, complete with fear and trembling.