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.