Note to a bewildered younger autistic friend, corrected by a teacher for being…
Sometimes… it doesn’t pay to be autistic.
I am the worst autist in the world. I TRY to express concern…
9 times outta 10… comes out preachy.
You touched me with your story. I’m trying to write to you like a grandpa… with love.
I can’t begin to count the number of similar stories of my own that sprang into my mind as I read yours.
I’d like to tell you it gets better.
But it’s more complex than that. Humans don’t change. Autists don’t change.
Cats never become dogs.
Neither needs to be cured. Or, apparently, can be.
What changes is a long, slow process of acceptance & accomodation.
You slowly learn to find humans who are a better fit.
You enjoy their company… for however long. They enjoy your company… for however long.
My wife and I live separately. Yet deeply, deeply in love. That may be what we love most about each other.
Even though it’s “wrong.” “Weird.” “Just not right.”
It is so HARD to find our autistic joy. Everything and everyone in this society… including family, friends, teachers, bosses, doctors, priests, therapists…
Every one has been taught… from birth… precisely the wrong cultural messages to help US autists thrive.
With obvious rare exceptions. Please excuse my dramatic hyperbole. (Okay, okay… so this autistic grandpa has been known to exaggerate from time to time…)
But we CAN’T bark like dogs… and go out and play with the other dogs… and engage in all their disgusting rituals…
Just so they’ll like us. Or to make our parents happy…
So we’re NOT disappointing children, unreliable besties, students who don’t live up to their potential, non-team players, hypochondriacs, sinners, or shudder… borderline personalities…
We’re. Just. NOT. “Good.” Dogs.
We’re extraordinary cats.
Doing the impossible. Surviving in a dog’s world. One day at a time.
For however long.
But it’s more complex than THAT…
Everybody knows a cat and a dog who love each other like brothers…
And I know a very few neurotypical humans who I am CERTAIN were separated from me at birth…
But also… I’ve come to mostly favor the company of other metaphorical cats… and similar felines.
Nearly all of my intimates are autistic, adhd, schizophrenics, or similar neurodivergencies… or are someone who ALREADY loves someone with similar differences.
But sometimes… Sometimes…
There are those rare humans who LIKE autists. Cat and dog soulmates.
How did I make my way? With every expert I was supposed to respect… every family member I was supposed to love…
Leading me deeper into social, emotional, physical, and career hells? Each with the very best of intentions?
I simply followed my rare moments of bliss… and reduced the much more frequent experiences of pain.
Because I had no one else to guide me for 63 years.
So I gradually added more “forbidden” experiences… like special interests, stimming, isolating when necessary… things I was discouraged, even punished for as a child… as a teen… as an adult…
And gradually deleted other experiences that were the “right thing to do”… career expectations, pursuing perfection, seeing folks who I felt bad around… including family….
At first, I did so guiltily. Because it was always, always “wrong.”
And I moved slowly. Through trial & error. Cuz frankly, I learn slower than the average bear. AND I am autistic… so I’m usually the last to know I’m in pain or bliss. Cuz poor interoception and alexithymia (like many autists, it’s hard for me to feel what’s going on inside physically or emotionally).
But I plodded on steadily. Maybe, even doggedly…
And eventually… joyfully.
I now have few friends.
But I have more love than I’ve ever known in my life.
And can show more. To them. And to others.
All of which gave me #AutisticJoy.
I hope it’s different for you.