Category: friendship


Today my wife and I went to her cousins house for her daughters 14th birthday. Her cousin and her husband are the only friends we have down here and if they didn’t live an hour away from us we might see and hang out with them more.

My wife’s cousin’s husband is Mexican. He’s a cool guy…he was an architect in Mexico, but can’t work as one here. (don’t get me started). Anyway, her cousin is cool people. She works from home and takes care of their two teen and pre-teen daughters. Needless to say they are all NT’s and they don’t know about my families Aspie-ness.

The husband had some of his friends and relatives over for the party, (my wife is the only family her cousin has down here). There was food, (barbecue and Mexican), music, (I had no idea before today that Mexican’s listen to Merengue music like us Puerto Ricans do), and the kids were in the pool. Now my wife and I sat apart from everyone else, his family usually is very “stick to themselves” when they are there with anyone else (so my wife’s cousin tells me)…but we didn’t mind too much, because it gave my wife a golden reason to NOT have to interact and spared her a lot of pressure.

I was sitting there, listening to the music, eating the food when I realized how much I missed having Spanish culture around me. I’m Puerto Rican from New York, and though I don’t have a very strong cultural identity (i don’t speak read or write Spanish, and I can’t dance Salsa or Merengue etc.) still being  in NY you can’t help but be around it some point. True this was the Mexican culture, but it was similar enough to invoke those feelings. I also felt sad that I didn’t feel connected to what was going on around me.

My wife and I have NO friends out here. We don’t interact with anyone. I don’t hunt or fish and can’t even fathom how that is even entertaining. I am not Mr. Fix-It or Mr. Mechanic in a land of people who were raised building, plumbing, farming, hunting and fishing and working on cars since they were 3. I have NOTHING in common with any of the men down here.

For my wife it’s even worse! She rarely does anything other with her hair than throw it in a pony tail, and usually wears shorts flip flops and a large v neck tee shirt whenever she goes out or stays in, and doesn’t really worry about her appearance too much after that. She doesn’t put a huge priority on cleaning house, or gardening, she doesn’t like shopping or doing girly things like that and has absolutely no  interest in getting together with the girls to gossip. On top of that at least during the day I get to leave the house and go to work and interact with people while she stays at home and feels like a house hostage.

I say all that to make this point. As I sat there feeling disconnected and sad about it, it hit me how my wife and other Aspie’s feel like this every day. Seeing the world go on around them, and not being able to interact with it, and when they do they don’t quite feel connected to it. They will never be able to experience it the way we NT’s do.

I’ve spent my whole life feeling like an outsider. I didn’t have a strong enough Puerto Rican identity for my culture. (To this day I get poked fun of for not speaking Spanish). I was always an outsider wherever I went. We moved around a lot and didn’t stay in one place for any amount of time. We were dirt poor. I never had cool clothes or even new clothes. I was easy pickings for the bullies to make fun of. I had a speech problem. I wasn’t allowed outside and my dad though he lived with us was hardly home to teach me to throw a football around, or hit a ball etc. so I sucked at sports and didn’t know the rules or how to play any of them. I wasn’t allowed to listen to music or go to movies so I had nothing to talk to anyone about. I was lonely my whole life.

But I learned what to say in what situation. I learned the correct social cues and etiquette and eventually even how to understand emotional effects on human behavior and reason out why someone would act a certain way or even predict how they would react if I did a certain thing. So I learned how to survive adapt and blend even if I didn’t feel I ever belonged anywhere.

My wife can’t do that. My sons can’t do that. Nor will they ever learn to. They will forever be disconnected from the world at large. They will never quite fit in. They will always feel like they are in a room full of people yet be so lonely it’s heartbreaking.

Not only that, but outside of this house, they really don’t have a hope of ever being able to do so.

Thank God for the online community. For places like WordPress or Blogger or even Face Book where they can meet other Aspies, share similar experiences, come together and have some sort of solidarity. For cyber-friends and circles. There is hope, they can see they are not alone. They can reach out across miles, states, countries or continents and FIND others like them who can show them they are not as alone as they think.

Thank God for all of you.

I was reading a blog from Autism Daddy, who is one of my all time favorite bloggers (aside from my wife Aspiewriter of course). On his page he had a link to this post on Autism Parents & the Guilt Factor, which I thought was simply amazing. It was written by Jene Aviram of Natural Learning Concepts.  It is an excellent article that I think all parents and family members of people on the spectrum should read.

Autism Daddy made the point that this writers blog doesn’t seem to be widely circulated, and after reading this article I just thought I’d help in spreading the word around. I thoroughly enjoyed the article and hope you do too.

This paragraph especially got to me:

4. Acceptance
On asking adults with autism “What’s the single piece of advice you would give to parents of autism spectrum kids?” the answer is almost always a unanimous “Unconditional love and acceptance.” For just a moment, view your child’s perspective. Almost every action gets corrected. Almost every behavior is modified. Method of play is considered inappropriate. Self stimulatory behavior is often halted. Your child is constantly being told to think, talk and act in a way that is foreign to his inner nature. It can’t be easy to keep one’s self esteem intact. I certainly advocate teaching as many skills as possible to help your child function in life. However, it’s essential your child knows you believe he is perfect just the way he is. It’s simply unfortunate that others might have difficulty understanding him. Your child should intrinsically know the reason he’s learning new skills and altering his behavior is not because you want to change him, but because it will help others relate to him, grant him acceptance and allow him to lead a more productive life. The next time you feel guilty about not correcting your child’s behavior or mannerisms, remember that delighting in your child’s unique qualities is just as important as teaching appropriate actions.

I tend to yell at my oldest a lot. He automatically reaches the end of my patience from the word go. It’s not because I’m frustrated with him…it’s because I’m so frustrated with me…because I can’t teach him things that will help him NOT be teased, or NOT be ridiculed.

As a child I was never the one who fit in. I was the poor kid in second-hand clothing who had no idea what was going on in the world. Most of the time I didn’t have a TV, I wasn’t allowed to go to movies, trick or treat, go to parties (not that I was ever invited), participate in school activities or after school activities etc. etc. I hungered for acceptance, did things that I thought would get me that acceptance only to find out I was being used later on. I was the one everyone teased and who never fit in.

I never wanted my kids to have to go through that, and it was my job to teach them things to make sure that never happened. My kids however, are harder to teach. Every time I see my oldest, and try to teach him something, he doesn’t get it. Or can’t stop concentrating on the things he’s pondering to receive it. Our communication is blocked, not by language or understanding but by blocks I can’t understand or circumvent. My frustrations aren’t with him…it’s with my own failure. Luckily my kids still seem to love me. Sometimes those little acts of love they show me comfort and teach me much more than I think I’ve ever imparted to them.

This is why when I read this post I had to share it. If even one other person besides me gets something from it, it was worth it.

Friendship is born the moment one person says to another: “What? You too! I thought I was the only one!”

-C.S. Lewis

I originally thought that I was just going to post this quote as a “Quote of the Day” type thing. But when I re-read it I realized it triggered something in me to write.

On my wife’s blog Aspie Writer, she touches on the fact that she had and still has a hard time socializing, picking up on non-verbal cues necessary for successful social interaction, and fitting in with people.

This has been true throughout our marriage. While we lived in New York, it was easier to deal with this. She had her brothers who would come over and hang out, or we’d go to her Aunt’s house or her Grandmother’s house. (Remember at this time she was not diagnosed yet). I had two friends who would come over and we’d all watch movies or play board games. But making new friends for her was not only hard, it was traumatic.

She’s mentioned in the book she is blogging that I was always something of a social butterfly. (There is much more to this that does not bear going into here), so I had plenty of friends and making new ones was not that hard for me. I have to admit while reading the blogs she’s been posting, it sometimes has damn near broken my heart to read what she had to go through.

Even in adulthood she has been so very lonely.

Now that she’s started blogging I can’t tell you how much it means that she’s discovered so many people who she can relate to. The introduction of “virtual friends” into her world has given her so much happiness. It’s been thrilling to watch her discover new friends and interact with everyone. She’s truly found her niche I think in blogging about her autism.

So to everyone who reads this blog, or came here because she directed you from her blog, or who just finds your way here and then find your way there to her blog and become involved with her there, thank you so very much. And I hope you enjoy reading both of our blogs.

 

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