(There is a progression here . . .)
If someone were to examine what I’ve done in my life to be a good son, father, brother, husband, friend, employee, I don’t know for certain what they’d say. However, at times, I’ve been given satisfactory marks, maybe even good, in all of these areas by someone. I believe they reflect, if nothing else, the seriousness and effort I put into them.
Sadly, even though I do the equivalent of completing all the homework, showing up to class, passing small quizzes, and seemingly doing OK, I still fail the class.
I still fail.
When I was maybe twenty, I came up with a saying, “You’re either trying and failing or not trying and failing.” That’s not especially original, but I think it’s accurate. It’s also more true for some than others.
Have I trodden water too long and too hard that I don’t have energy to swim to shore? Did I let others take advantage of me too long for me to recover?
Could I have predicted how others would have behaved in certain situations? Did I know that my wife’s personality, often an asset, would become a liability in some ways during the most stressful times in my life?
There was no way for me to know my parents would betray me, after all my years of trying to help them address problems they denied or didn’t understand, clinging to their false belief that they could either ignore or blame their children. But, I also didn’t know they would reveal who they really were, and I finally have a relationship with my mother again, one I thought I’d never have, but one I really needed. And, even though I’ve lost so much, getting her back, finding my way back to her – and her way back to me – is worth it.
I didn’t know what I would have to do, to face my mother in such a harsh way it nearly killed me. And, this would happen on the day after a friend dismissed all my difficulties as, “normal family things.” It was curious to see him – and others – dismiss my trauma and experience while excusing their behavior with their own trauma. Actually, I’ve excused his behavior, and I still would, in the sense that I think he – like me, and many others – can simply be misunderstood, and that is not fun.
But, a misunderstood person can end up alone on an island (Luke, in Star Wars) or destroys planets (Vader, his father). I know which one I will not be. I also know I will always see good in others, no matter how much they hurt me. I will also always fear the bad in myself, and that can be debilitating. If you know Star Wars, I identify strongly with Luke, just a more autistic version. (I’m uncertain if he was autistic, though . . . his father might have been. Hmm. Actually, most of the Jedi were autistic, of course.)
At this point in my life, I’ve endured far too much to doubt that. It’s why people misunderstand me, I think. I don’t think of them in the way they think of me because I think peace, reconciliation, hope, and forgiveness. Not everyone does. Some seek justice and revenge. I just want people to get along, but I know it’s not easy. It is not cheap. You will pay a price for loving people when they hate you. That’s the deal. It’s virtually 100% guarantee. And, you will end up on an island alone, possibly insane.
How could I have known any of these things? Yes, I was warned. Repeatedly. Do people take advantage of me? Of course, they do, and they always have, and they probably always will.
But, I have learned not to be quite so trusting. I’m already nervous about a job that I may only be at a couple of months. I have to be vigilant, and I’m already spotting the pitfalls, unexpected ones, that people, intentionally or not, are putting in my path. I have to see them and not step in to those.
For most neurotypicals, it probably does get better as you become an adult, in terms of social interactions and not being taken advantage of. But, for me, it’s only more refined versions of those games that people seem to play. And, as I advance in my ability to figure this out, those people refine their skills as well. I can only hope to have enough good people around me to counter those who might wish to harm me.
After the past couple of years (or my entire life), I’d hope I’m more vigilant. The world seems more frightening yet my view of it is more realistic, if only in knowing how much of it I’ll never understand. Fundamentally, I’ve not changed, but practically, I hope I have. There is nothing wrong with me, in a sense, apart from having all the congenital flaws that come with being born homo sapienitis. Much is wrong with the chaos that surrounds human behavior and communication, and that’s what I’m constantly trying to understand better.
I have failed, and I am alone.
However, on this day, of all days, Friday, April 7, 2023, I’m reminded that others in the past have failed and been alone. Failure comes in many forms, and the failure to make or keep friends is not always a reflection of the person who has been rejected. If people reject you, it can be because they are jerks. It doesn’t mean you were perfect! Of course, you were not. You never suggested it, and you likely feel more guilty than you should. If you are like me, you do! People will tell you that, but you won’t believe it. If guilt has been hardwired in your DNA or stuffed into your inner thoughts by people in the past, it’s difficult to overcome.
But, if you don’t give up, if you accept that failure and loneliness are part of your journey, one day, that smallest amount of hope, that stubbornness, the belief that there is good in everyone, a moment will surprise you. Just as you can be surprised by the indifference and cruelty of others that have left you alone, you can be surprised to become aware of what you’ve always known. Perhaps, your autism worsened it, as I like to say. You likely are ruminating on it more, and people have maybe abused you more easily.
And, you will keep failing, and people will keep hurting you, and occasionally, you will hurt them. The pain won’t go away. Some people won’t forgive you for things they don’t even fully understand or want to, during the times you were scrambling to do what was right, and it was never good enough for them. You were NEVER going to be good enough for them! Remember that.
But, you still will feel guilt, even though the hurt was going in all directions. When in doubt, it will fall to you to pick up the guilty pieces, as if they were your own because you feel like someone has to take on all that pain. It may not be wise, but it’s how some of us process. (That is not an autistic trait, that I know of.)
However, Jesus addresses all of this in one of his most famous speeches, excerpted below with slight alteration from a modern adaption by Eugene H. Peterson:
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope . . . You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less . . . You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for . . . You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see Love in the outside world . . . You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight . . . You’re blessed when your commitment to Love provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into Love’s kingdom . . . count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit Love. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable” (The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson)
People are going to have to accept some things about me.
They can beat me down, over and over, but I don’t ever give up on them. It’s not who I am, and if I ever stopped giving up on people, I’d be giving up on my life. I’d rather be isolated from others than isolated from myself.
Nobody can separate me from myself, from the “inside world – your mind and heart.”
That doesn’t mean I have to ever see or be around the people who have hurt me, at least not until they can show me they accept what they have done wrong and accepted me for what I’ve done wrong. They may never choose the path of love and forgiveness; some like the bitter taste of resentment and the false sense of power that comes from trying to fill an inner void with hatred for others. That is their choice, not mine. I wish my father – I hope my father – will someday make it. But, one thing he can never say is that I didn’t try to help him, far more – FAR MORE – than most would. Of that, I am certain, and I suspect that’s in large part from autism (and conditioning).
If nothing else, I can have peace knowing how much I’ve tried to help my father. (My parents were told by a psychologist (when then finally went decades too late!) that it was very unusual for children to have given their parents as much grace as my siblings and I gave them. I was actually the lone child in trying to help them for several years, even though I, in many ways, carried the greatest burden, especially by then. I’m not saying that was the right choice, by the way, and I’m certainly not saying my siblings were wrong. It’s not that simple, for certain. It was brutal on us all. And, it somehow lined up insanely horribly with stress with my job and friends. But, I’m still alive!
My mother understands the beatitudes. It could be, that, ultimately, we’ve saved each other. There has been a lot of “saving” this past year, to go along with so much loss. That will be for another post I’m working on, challenging in how strangely beautifully and ironically horribly that part of this saga fits together.
I’m always hopeful others will be mutually willing to work for the peace, love, and blessing everyone longs for, yet nobody really deserves. Just as we can choose to give it to others, we can choose to receive it from others as well. Some throw the beatitudes away, but they are far too beautiful – and valuable – to discard, save for the most empty hearts.
My father decided to throw it away. My mother did not.
Perhaps, I’m just an autistic fool who thinks I should keep extending grace to people like my father and others who seem not to care how much pain they inflict on others.
But, I’m far from the only one who thinks this way, even though it can be deadly. However, I would rather not live any other way. It doesn’t work for me.
It’s been an interesting – and good – Friday.
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope . . . You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less . . . You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for . . . You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see Love in the outside world . . . You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight . . . You’re blessed when your commitment to Love provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into Love’s kingdom . . . count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit Love. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable” (The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson) https://messagebible.com/
Leave a Reply