Monday, January 6, 2014

This is me….do you like what you see?

I long to be understood. Even deeper than that, I long to be accepted for who I am, every piece of me, by the people I have deemed most important in my life.

This is a very human desire, one that we all share, and there’s no shame in that. And yet, most of us won’t allow ourselves to acknowledge it, let alone take steps to fulfill it. Instead, we see it as weakness. Or we put too much stock in the belief that what’s important is how we see ourselves, that self-esteem or self-confidence are the keys to being truly happy and healthy. Or maybe we did take action, back in the day, and our hearts are scarred by rejection.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I do agree that how we perceive ourselves is ultimately more important than how other people perceive us. I just don’t think we should deny our basic human desire to be understood and accepted by others. These two concepts aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, you really can’t have one without the other. (I believe in psychology this is called “co-dependency”). Humans were created for relationship, to know and be known.

This includes knowing yourself, understanding who you are, why and how you became that way, and coming to a place of acceptance; which is really the first step to being known and understood and accepted by someone else. After all, how will you know if someone understands and accepts you if you don’t know who you are?

I have spent a great deal of time over the past year and a half exploring who I am and how I came to be me. One of the most significant aspects of this introspection is the fact that I have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (I’m an Aspie). There is no way to separate this from my identity, it colors everything about me – the way I think, the way I act, the way I speak and the words I choose, and most basically the way I interact with everyone around me and my world.

It’s been a fantastic journey so far. And naturally, the more I learn about myself, the more excited I become to share those things with my closest friends. (Just the fact that I can have close friends is one of the exciting things I want to share!) So I’ve decided to write them down.

I don’t have a title yet, but the format will be similar to an encyclopedia. This is actually an idea that has been rolling around in my head for the past couple of weeks; I was calling it a “friend manual” and making a list of things I want to include. Until earlier today, when a friend told me that I don’t need to make a book for other people to learn “how to deal” with me. So now I’m going to refer to it as “a guide to my cultural differences.” What do you think?

Or think of it this way:  when you put on a pair of colored glasses, the world becomes tinted by that color (let’s say blue, since that’s my personal favorite). When you look around you, everything is blue. Well, being an Aspie is kind of like wearing a pair of Aspie-colored glasses; the difference is, you can’t take them off.

This is the part where others come in. If you’ve never put on a pair of these glasses, you have no point of reference for understanding the world the way I’m trying to describe it to you. Unless I find ways to use points of reference we both share, like tinted glasses for example. This book is going to be filled with definitions and metaphors; it’s going to be a road map of sorts – not to understanding Autism but to understanding me. And it’s as much for my own benefit as it is for yours; maybe even more so.

Also, I firmly believe that my relationships will become stronger and more enjoyable if my friends come to understand me on an “Aspie-level” the way I’m learning to understand myself. This book is going to be my way of saying, “Ok friends, this is me….do you like what you see?”

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