A New Hope (“It’s what I do.”)

I can get stuck, fixated, obsessed. It’s an autism thing, for sure. That can be bad. But, it can also be good. Ask Luke Skywalker (from Star Wars). He never gave up hope. And, when it was lost, he kept going. Again. And, then later, yet again. Until the end.

He was foolish, reckless, a dreamer. He wanted to save the world. Indeed, he did, but it nearly killed him. And, it nearly killed him again. And, he was left alone; again and again. Even from a far, he still could help, sacrifice. It’s what he did.

In my extended time of solitude, while allowing my brain to heal—quite literally -among many other things, I’ve looked in to MBTI (Myers-Briggs) personalities. While they are not “official,” I find them insightful. Mine is the same as Luke’s, according to multiple completely unofficial sources. They make sense to me.

We are both romantic idealists who see the good in everyone, especially when others tell us it’s not there. But, that is not easy, and there are tough moments, horrible ones, life-altering mistakes, often due to simple misunderstandings or misguided attempts to be helpful. Not understanding social cues and communication can lead me to think someone wants me to do something they don’t, or that I need to protect someone from another person. I will be the human shield to block an arrow being shot at an innocent person. Then, I will be told they are not so innocent, and I get utterly confused. And, enough of these mistakes, of my own doing or of others, and I cannot think. It goes from bad to worse, and my mind shuts down.

But, Luke and I never stop trying, looking for ways around the hurdles others put in our way. Yes, even the boundaries, when we see them as unfair—not to us—but to the person making them. Maybe we caused the boundaries, and we see them as a sign of our failure. That hurts, deeply. It’s not a disrespect for the “boundary” but the love for the person. It’s not about forcing a boundary to come down but to render it moot, not from our arguing but from what we ultimately do, our annoyingly inability to give up and keep trying for a solution. We may be wrong, but our motives are correct. That is not in question, at least not forever. We doubt ourselves constantly, but we forget about it later. When all seems lost, we just can’t quite give up on our ideals, especially people. It’s why we can both be loved and hated by the same person, how we can do the same as well.

Though I’m an introvert who can keep my distance, I don’t know how to not think of others. I do it constantly. It’s not what the stereotypical autistic person does, but it’s partly due to my “special interest.” I need people for it, to share it, to find connection through it. Even if nobody ever does, I feel that when I create it. I am connecting to people even if they reject me, over and over, even when I annoy them or upset them. I’m your friend who will never give up on you, and that is a blessing and a curse. You may hurt me, and I may upset you, but I’m always going to be there if you need me. I know what it’s like to be alone, forgotten, invalidated, and I don’t want that for anyone.

Foolish, reckless, socially awkward, unable to see how someone else could be “bad” when we just see the pain. Luke felt both the “bad” and the pain in his father; so do I. He was close to his sister; so am I. They shared a connection, forged in chaos and loss.

Luke could irritate those around him; so do I! Whether a mentor, a teacher, a friend, a sister, other companions, Luke really could be a persistent irritant. He didn’t have a savior complex, even though he could crash onto the scene to “save” someone. It was something that had to be done, and, if nobody else was going to do it (or he didn’t realize anyone else was doing it), he was there. Eventually, he persuaded a companion to say, “never tell me the odds” when Luke needed rescuing. It wasn’t the only time he did. He required help, a lot of it. But, people were willing because he was as well.

But, I don’t know how to stop trying to fix that which is not fixable. Someone has not to give up hope. Right? It may kill me; it nearly has, literally. It’s my brand of autism, my types of fixations, my special interest in saving the world through creating new things for others. It’s why I’m alive. It’s the air I breathe.

I don’t give up on anyone. Not anyone.

And, I’ve been alone, had time, sorted it out. The last pieces are coming together. If I’m wrong, I may die trying, and that’s OK, for I will not quit trying. That would be worse than dying.

As a friend once told me; “I persevere. It’s what I do.”

No, it’s what we do. And, I now have the confidence in myself again and in others. I’m not quite sure how, but I know it. Just yesterday, I spoke with a young guide and an old sage. They are probably fifty-five years apart in age, and somewhere about in the middle. Both have great advice, though not entirely the same.

I’ve been processing so much advice, been given so many opinions, faced more obstacles than I could have imagined. While I’ve read many books, there is no book for just me. My Twitter friends have helped me to see how lucky I am in certain ways. I’m going to reclaim that as well.

Maybe I don’t have “in real life” friends in the way I’d like, but that also may be a lie—yet another—my brain has been telling me. It’s partly autism, partly trauma, and some bad luck as well. Besides, “right now,” doesn’t mean I won’t always have friends. If some only wanted me “right now,” others may want me “later.”
It’s their loss. They gave up on me, not me on them. If they wanted to distance themselves from someone who was in a crisis largely not of his own making, struggling to stay alive because I was annoying them, then, that is their decision. They choose to give up on a friend who has not and would not give up on them. No, not even now. Luke was injured trying to save his father the first time. He went back. I feel like I’ve lost part of my soul, between my family and friends, over the past year. I’ve not been given help when I’ve needed it and even begged for it. But, I’m stronger now, and I have a renewed soul, like Luke was renewed as well.

My wife, though extreme and irritating many times, does balance out that thinking. Her optimism is of a different sort, but I can use it as well. We are connecting in ways we have not or have not for a long time. Both of us struggle for control of a new dynamic, with all the transitions after the pandemic, from a full house to a nearly empty one. We have faced the overwhelming challenges of my family, not always together, and it’s driven a wedge between us at times.

But, we have made it thus far, our commitment will lead us, keep us, home. In some ways, we lost trust in each other, but not at our core. The issues are external influences, the mistakes of others that she has often naively not seen, and I’ve foolishly thought I could fix. With some time gone by, and shock upon shock with my family, my siblings and I have been able to reconnect again, move past trauma (and re-trauma). I am not alone as long as I have them.

My children are the reason I’m alive, and I would do anything for them that seems helpful to them. I must keep going for them, and if that requires me to do things I didn’t think I could in the past, maybe I’ll just have to figure out how to do them. My wife has to accept my quirks, challenges, and needed support (of various kinds) or find another solution for me. It’s a work in progress, always. I hope she can let go of what she’s controlled enough to allow me to let go of what I’ve been trying to control to gain some safety and “agency” for myself. I am realizing that’s counterproductive.

There is a very fine line between being hopelessly naive and idealistically caring. Honestly, I don’t really care where that is. Autistic people don’t see the world like others, and all the neurotypical rules that make no sense are often the boundaries that they use to alienate us. But, while we are annoying, we are also thinking of them, wanting to help. It may just be in our own minds, hypotheticals that we write out on note cards, put in our pocket, possibly organize in boxes. Some of us do something with them, and when we do, it can change the world forever.

I’ve been spending thousands of hours, months, working on problems I partly caused, though they mostly were from others not heeding my warnings over many years. I don’t dismiss problems. I keep looking for solutions. And, I think I’ve finally found one. If I’m wrong, I’ll try again, until I die. Maybe then, someone will see what I was doing.

In returning to Star Wars (apologies for those who don’t get the references), my wife places her trust in order and structure. That provides much comfort, and it allows me to spend my time creating new worlds, even though she doesn’t understand or appreciate them. I’ll save her in my own way, and she saves me in her way as well. And, I’m far from being done with other people. No, I’m going to “save” them as well or die trying. And, they will save me as well. I need them. My wife can’t be everything for me.

As the young guide keeps telling me, in various ways, I can’t count only wife for some things, and it’s no point in trying to control that. I have to get that somewhere else. The old sage, in a different way, agreed. She sees me too, and feels my pain, and knows what I require. Both are relieving the guilt I’ve felt for trying to connect with others, and I don’t need to keep attempting to fix that need with just my wife. That’s not giving up on anyone! That’s recognizing nobody can be everything.

I’ve already begun to put my life back together, one person at a time. I will see whether people are willing to accept me or not, forgive me if they need to, to accept my forgiveness, and to trust me, and let me trust them. If I am hurting someone, I’ll stop. I can’t have that. It destroys me. But, I have to know that’s how they really feel. Luke knew his father was more complicated than he realized himself. As hurtful as his father was, he realized he was being controlled by something—or someone. That someone may not even be alive, maybe not even real, perhaps just the person themselves.

As I’ve put the pieces together, I’m sure others have as well. My new guide and old sage both understand what I’m needing, and I’m finally where I can make it work, I think. We’ll find out soon enough, I suppose. Hopefully, the people may need will also have had time to sort out their feelings and thoughts about me. It would be wonderful and easy if they line up with mine. If not, I can make another plan. But, that doesn’t feel right quite yet. There is not just one possible answer. I like creative solutions, though I can get stuck on one for a while.

My plan—this plan—is for everyone. Absolutely everyone. And, it’s a win-win-win, a win to infinity. I know it is possible, but others have to believe. Why should they? I don’t know, but what’s the other option? It’s the defeatist, boring neurotypical one or indifferent, blind autistic one. I’d like to combine those two worlds, as much as I can. Or, I just live with one foot in each. I don’t need many people in both worlds, but I need someone. I’ll keep wandering until I do or die trying. That’s OK; it’s part of my personality. The old sage understands. . I believe people can change, even if they haven’t yet. I know I needed to change, and I have. No matter the reason or circumstance, sometimes change is inevitable, but it doesn’t always mean the path has to change, just be traversed differently. It doesn’t always mean you must walk it alone. Maybe you have old companions, perhaps new ones, and, hopefully, both. I’m so thankful for my new guide (my autism therapist) and old sage, as well as others. They will help me down the right path with the right people, new and old.

I persevere. It’s what I do. I just hope I live to see it. I’m optimistic enough to believe I will. Just wait and see. Good things are coming! They are coming for everyone.

Postscript: It’s 5:00 am, and my wife is waking while I’m on my way to bed. I bet I can get a good “autistic” hug in. That’s one change with her this past year that’s been quite positive, and I expect it to last. It turns out she’s started to like them as well. It makes me feel like I’m not always annoying or worthless after all, like someone is there and cares. That’s really all I want for everyone.)

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