There is almost a kind of beauty in these days and nights. The quiet stillness of pandemic- induced “social distancing.” I don’t mean to trivialize the situation… people are dying as we speak and we have no way of knowing what gifts they had yet to bestow upon us. But I do know that time has shifted, seismically. What was once 5 minutes, has become an hour; days turn into weeks. It feels like forever we’ve been indoors, but it hasn’t yet been two weeks. The slowness in space is palpable too. Like the universe has shifted. But what do I know?
I am a middle-aged, late-diagnosed autistic woman. I know things. I know them because I see them, but more often, I know them because I feel them. Things I know come to me through all of my senses, when I turn them on/up. Most of the time, I turn my senses WAYYYYYYY down. People are loud and bright-flashy and smelly. Some of you might be interested to know that, but it has been my experience that rather than accept what someone else’s reaction to your “self” is, you would rather not. Ego is a strong force, though quite fragile at the same time. When one’s ego is bruised, one can resort to all kinds of things: verbal abuse, shaming, bullying, or worse.
Autistic people, being the extra-sensitive super-humans we are, have been subject to that kinds of ridicule and abuse most of our lives. Autism does not necessarily make you disabled; sometimes autism is a condition of enhanced empathy, of highly acute senses and of prodigy-like skills at extreme niche activities. Some of us have perfect pitch. Others can do incredible math equations in our heads. Yet others could recite the entire King James Bible backward, if you asked nicely enough.
The one thing we all have in common, though, is issues with trust and shame and feeling like other people believe we are defective when all we ever did to them was ask them politely to use a softer voice or to let us have the seat with our back to the window or to pick a different song on the playlist.
So remember, the next time someone asks you to do something simple that would make no difference to you, consider just doing it. If it mattered enough for someone to actually ask you…
And try to enjoy the pause.