Everyday seems to present new challenges when living with autism. The overarching feeling is one of pride, confidence and the satisfaction that I have honed in on my strengths while overcoming my weaknesses. There are times, especially when I am overwhelmed with tasks that attack my weaknesses, that I can’t keep myself from asking, “Why can’t I just wake up from autism?”
The adult world is full of pitfalls and difficulties for everyone, autistic or not. We all must balance the ever growing list of things we ought to do with the list of things we would love to do. Time seems the worst of enemies, strictly followed by the availability of disposable funds and the obligation to others. We build complex networks around us in hopes we will weave an interdependent fabric with which we can wrap ourselves.
For me, autism adds another dimension to the commonly shared adult world. Life seems to have this invariable push/pull effect on me. While I push harder to build an existence that is fulfilling, I seem to pull back into my realm of safety with a force that is always exactly proportional to my push. The harder I work to grow, the harder I fight to remain unchanged. It’s the part of autism I can’t seem to negotiate with, redesign or repurpose. This pull is what I call the ebb of my autism.
I persist with a set of actions, that are never accompanied by reason or emotional motivation. A brief tour of my home reveals wallpaper torn from the walls, unnecessary labeling, and dozens of unfinished projects all which fall short of their potential in the ebb of my autism. Just last night, I burned up my third tea kettle when my inability to track time allowed the kettle to stay on the flame long after the water had boiled out. A seemingly small incident, I know, but when itemized on the interminable list of transgressions, the evening served as a power blow to my motivation. I began to feel small in a grand world of neurotypicality.
When I start feeling small, the world becomes a distant light and the end of a dismal tunnel. I withdraw into an aggregate state of doubt, shame and resignation, which is far more destructive to my sense of confidence than simply feeling sorry for myself. As the emotions work their way through my various levels of thinking, I am left standing at the door between my world and everyone else’s, much like Jim Carrey’s character did at the end of The Truman Show.
Sometimes I am so good at pretending to be normal, I forget to feed the parts of me I have tamed and caged. I must remember that I need places to roam unhindered, or it will be the wallpaper and the tea kettles that take the brunt of me. I will reflect today, listening carefully to the shadow songs, and the ebb of my autism will turn by the flow of my determination. I will grasp tightly onto the hope that I can reach an amphidromic point between autism and neurotypicality. I have worked hard to make room for the world in my earthly existence, an action that has offered up more rewards than losses.
In the end, I am proud of being autistic. Though parts of me are far from seamless, I must not be afraid to ask the world to make room for me too. Anyone need their wallpaper removed?