Monday, November 22, 2010

Some holiday darkness on a fine winter eve

May I offer you these thoughts, on the anniversary of my divorce, with the holidays coming. And before you begin, this is not a tale of my ex wife and I, so please do not make that particular interpretation . . . Take it as it is; a story of autism and vulnerability at a time of year things often go wrong . . .

Lies, evasions, and half truths. All are deceits. Yesterday’s white lie, once discovered, reveals the big one from the month before. That’s the problem with lies. When you unravel one, there is always another behind. It’s a ball of string that leads to the darkest recesses of the mind . . .

It’s easy to demand honesty, to hold the other person to a high standard. It’s hard to deliver, though, and harder still to know if we receive the truth in our most intimate exchanges. So often, love and hope blinds to what’s obvious, when seen from a distance.

Our understanding of others is based on observation and interpretation. Revisited in the hard light of freshly discovered deception, everything changes. Was it innocent, or was it planned?

Relationships end, and we don’t really know why. A few months later, the truth emerges, in a few casual words. Innocent enough, until the idea percolates in the mind. There were the phone calls, those unexplained days, and those fights that made no sense . . . suddenly, everything looks different. It feels wrong. Did those things really happen, or was it all in the mind? When one fact proves real, other evidence is harder to ignore. Hope gets replaced by resignation. And so the mind begins its tortured journey.

What seemed sweet and sad immediately turns shabby and tawdry. Sympathy turns to cold rage, as the realization of what’s really happened sinks in. All of a sudden, the magic of the precious days before is shattered, never to seem beautiful again. Was her sweet smile real, or was it just a pretty lure, reeling him in?

Logic tells us it started out real. Love grows, and goes astray. Life intrudes. Other options appear. At some point, what was real became false. And looking back, we cannot know the precise time and place that it all went wrong.

The optimist says it was beautiful, until the very last day.

The pessimist says he was played for a fool, right from the start.

The realization sinks in that it’s really over. Some would put her photo in the drawer. Others would cast it in the trash. In the end, everyone moves on. But for some, the pain lingers for a lifetime.

That’s the terrible curse of autism, when love goes wrong. We lack the defenses others have evolved; our hearts are easily broken and hard to repair. We perseverate, and ugly thoughts circle in our mind, slicing jagged tears in the soul with every gyration. We lack expression, so the feelings stay locked inside, eating us alive. And worst of all, we lack the ability to sense positive energy from others, to rebuild our psyche. Breaks are the start of a hard, hard time. For some, it’s a path to alcohol or depression. For others, it’s a door to suicide.

I wish it wasn’t so, having stood in those doorways myself.

Autistic people are particularly vulnerable to deceptions of the heart. Sadly, we often bring them on ourselves, through a mix of hope and blindness. We cannot tell what the other person intends, because that’s the nature of social blindness. We’re drawn to the smile, when another might have seen the phony. We stay when we should run, because we fear we’re disabled, and love may never come again. For so many reasons, we are vulnerable.

It would be easy to blame predatory people. Narcissists. Sociopaths. More and more, that’s the American way. Blame someone or something else; something beyond our control. Many would seize that argument. I don’t believe that.

I believe most people are good, but life presents them hard choices. Sometimes the paths they choose are not the best. As much as we hope otherwise, we cannot control where another life leads.

Sometimes, all the roads hurt.

This is a hard time of year for many of us, me included. When Thanksgiving week comes I pray for the arrival of January second. I wish you Godspeed to the other side.

15 comments:

melissa said...

That was hard for a mom to read... it is surely what I suspected for him but you drove it home. I know like him, you read my words but they don't mean much but read on... I do believe in forever and I believe in broken hearts. I believe we are given the ablitiy to move on and love again because we can. I believe we can find new things to laugh about. I think life changes so much so we can have many new experiences. I wish you much love and hope for joy this season. I am sorry for the loss of your marriage at such a hopeless time of year. Dance more and sing more, it will open your heart.

Outrider said...

After my divorce, I like to go down to the steel mill in Chicago, the Finkl Steel Plant on Christmas morning. It's just dead quiet because the arc furnaces are all shut down. I swear that is the quietest the city ever gets, then I like to go to China Town because everybody's busy there and the smells are amazing. I could draw myself a map of Chicago's China Town just by the smells alone.

Mollie said...

Thank you. This is exactly spot on, and I keep trying to write it out my own way (and missing so much of it that still eludes me). Thank you.

pixiemama said...

You're in my thoughts, John, especially this time of year.

Hank said...

"I believe most people are good, but life presents them hard choices. "

If I believed that most people are good, I would despair at what I see in the world. I believe we are basically bad and constantly need help. I mess up all the time. More often than not, I am serving only myself. During this season, I try very hard to focus on the needs of others. That's what makes the season so great.
If we don't expect much of people, we won't be disappointed.

Steve Borgman said...

John, it's hard to read some of the truths you write about. My heart aches for you and others who have gone through this. As you said, the 'social' blindness makes it so much more complicated and painful. I wish you all the happiness that can be found in this next year.

Staci said...

Your writing is so beautiful and expressive, John, and speaks so eloquently about the mystery of being human. I wish you peace.

Jimbobbedyjobob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jimbobbedyjobob said...

I will admit I found your blog because I was browseing around the internet hunting for facts related to your little brother.

I only realised today that I know of him by a name other than that given by your parents. Which made me feel strangely cheated, owning as I do, three or four of his books.

Anyhoo, I read just this your more recent post and it made me think very deeply.

My little cousin Craig is autistic. I don't really know him very well, we meet at Christmas and mostly that's it. But you really made me think.

He's a very bright chap. And I am under the impression they use the word 'intelligent' as a euphemism for autistic.

Now I am very much considering buying one of your books for him for Christmas. Hopefully it could give him the sense of not being alone that I got when I went into my first gay-bar full of other unkempt and dishevelled homosexuals. As opposed to the awful tidy ones that I abhore.

Anyway, um... Hope your festive season is ok. And I hope to find out more of your tales in the 'radioactive horse' line.

cath c said...

eloquently put.

my 12yo aspie is now going through a very defensive period, if he pushes away first, he can't let anyone in to hurt him. i love him and this 'social inappropriateness' is breaking my heart, because i see how he's preemptively breaking his own.

his transition to middle school has been very hard.

fullsoulahead.com said...

Sending warm thoughts to you John. You will feel better again.

Rachel said...

I am sitting here reading your post and sobbing. My heart goes out to you. I don't know whether I am crying because I hoped that the day would never come that your marriage would end or whether it is that this book has enlightened me so much. My younger brother has Asperger's. I have always made sure after the years of horrible relationships that my mom has endured, that my brother(s) would always treat a woman the way she must and deserves to be treated. Having been ignorant to my brother's incredible lack of ability, or shall I say immense trouble to mend his own heart. I hope for him, that he will never have to endure what you have. He is strong, but not nearly so compared to you. I now redirect my attention to his long time girlfriend, and possibly future wife and ask myself, is she treating him the way he deserves? Because the day she doesn't is the day I will never to ever have to witness. Thank you for your book. It has given me a deeper understanding of my brother and has afforded me the opportunity to respect him more than any other.

Rachel said...

I am sitting here reading your post and sobbing. My heart goes out to you. I don't know whether I am crying because I hoped that the day would never come that your marriage would end or whether it is that this book has enlightened me so much. My younger brother has Asperger's. I have always made sure after the years of horrible relationships that my mom has endured, that my brother(s) would always treat a woman the way she must and deserves to be treated. Having been ignorant to my brother's incredible lack of ability, or shall I say immense trouble to mend his own heart. I hope for him, that he will never have to endure what you have. He is strong, but not nearly so compared to you. I now redirect my attention to his long time girlfriend, and possibly future wife and ask myself, is she treating him the way he deserves? Because the day she doesn't is the day I will never to ever have to witness. Thank you for your book. It has given me a deeper understanding of my brother and has afforded me the opportunity to respect him more than any other.

poetpeteet said...

"stood in those doorways"too,have missed your writing over in the iAtn.Nice to find some more words here,I learn all three ways but that last one is quick and sticks.Keep passing open windows but take a chance tapping on some doors.
Happy Solstice,Wrenching and Peace.

Listener said...

What a conflict. Relationships are difficult enough without having more inherent communications challenges.

My mother told me that she married my father, who has Asperger's, because, "He seemed so out of touch and sensitive but removed. And I had so much love to give. I just knew that if I gave him all the love in my heart he would blossom and become a warm outgoing person. But all he did was take my love and gave nothing in return."

They had known each other since they were both about seven years old and were later married for 23 years and her increasing mood-swings and over-emotionality made his life unpredictable and profoundly confusing. When they broke up he was at a total loss as to why and utterly adrift in his self-doubting silence. She was the love of his life.

Years later, he broke down while attempting to speak in front of a large crowd at her funeral and cried.

My heart broke for him.

I wish my mom had known how to speak to him to get what she wanted. Most people, Aspergians or not, do not know how to do this and that is sad too. It can be as simple as kindly saying, "I worked hard to look this way today so tell me that you think I look nice, OK?" or, "I need to hear that you love me right now. Could you tell me please?" and then accept the compliment or the "I love you" because it's true and leave it at that. Genuine, heart-felt communications are hard to come by.

I feel your pain, John.

Soldier on though. You seem to continue learning and are so open to what's out there. You're better off than so many people and perhaps your Asperger's has helped to make you the fixer - and self-fixer - that you are. The search for answers is never in vain. Even if you don't find the perfect way to fix things, the search is everything.