Sometimes just being in the world can be overwhelming these days. It’s not that you even need to be DOING anything, per se. There are so many CONSTANT demands for our attention, whether they eminate from the workplace, our relationships, our homes, or our digital lives. Then when we can finally carve out some time to create, to bring forth JUST a little more of our gift to the world, that thing that is unique, that ONLY YOU can bring forth and share, time and inspiration so infrequently coincide. And then, when do you recharge yourself, sleep, shower, meditate, think, dance, etc? It’s enough to make one lose their mind a little bit.
All of this is what I’m struggling with these days. My energy budget is lower than normal, partly due to the time of year and partly due to the consistent, draining sapping from those activities that no longer serve me, but that I simply cannot let go of for purely practical reasons.
I logged off from the day job today after 5.75 hours, 40 for the week, having just receiving a paycheck for nearly 94 hours in the previous pay period. I am exhausted. I immediately took a two hour nap so that I can effectively have some kind of Friday night before spending more time, likely each day this weekend, at the “day job.” I am spent; I have little left to give. My time and attention is no longer meant for this place. Other tasks and greater purposes occupy my mind, including writing. But if I’m so wrung out, my soul is dry, what is there to write?
But I FINALLY had clarity on something today that I have been trying to put into words for at least 2 years… something that, since my diagnosis has bounced around in the back of my mind and I simply cannot shake, so if I’m able to successfully articulate it, this really could change the game for some folks.
The premise is this… we are each both known and unknown to ourselves. Much of what you think you know about yourself as you move through life is either reiterated and proved to be true over and over again, or changes or evolves based on context or our relationship with others. We can see this, for example, in our intimate relationships. If you are thrice-divorced and you feel some kind of way about it because you don’t know what you’re doing wrong, you might seek the help of a counselor, therapist or psychologist whose insights, based on education and experience that you do not have can shed light on habits and thought patterns that you may have that are preventing you from getting what you want, a stable committed relationship with a life-partner. It could be you are physically attracted to the wrong people, or your communication style causes harm that your partners can only take for so long. Whatever the case may be, the point is, without that other person, in this case a paid professional, you would not have learned that little something about yourself. You may have just thought you were destined to drive others away or that your ex-partners started out as awesome people when you met, but that they eventually became assholes who treated you badly. The TRUTH of all human self-knowledge comes from challenging what we believe to be the truth in the stories we tell ourselves by testing those hypotheses against another’s view in a trusted setting. You cannot know yourself in a vacuum or in a moment in time. You are always changing and other people’s perspectives on WHO you ARE, are just as valid as the stories you tell yourself about yourself.
I think this is a concept that most autistic people can understand intuitively and (probably, possibly) most allistic people do not. It could even be broader than that, but let’s stick with this for now. Autistic people are constantly affected by their environment, by that which is going on around them and by whom they surround themselves with. I have been in a situation where I was barely holding it together for specific reasons, and when one person entered the room, who I had never met and didn’t know, but the energy changed and I lost it. That person’s impression of me was not “me,” but it was the me that was present in that time and place. It wasn’t who/how I wanted to be, but it was, and that is true.
So as much as we might strive to be a certain way, to present ourselves in a certain manner, to appear as we like to think that we are, whether that is competent, or smart, or rich, or grounded, or whatever value we choose to have, we will never be seen that way in all times and places or by all people. The best we can do is to remain focused on acting in accordance with the values we espouse and leave others to form their own opinions. It does no good to waste energy trying to be something you’re not, and pretending you are further along on your journey to reach your goals only shuts down whatever opportunity that might arise from the people you do bump into for a reason, because you will NEVER know who they are beforehand. You will only be able to say, in retrospect, THAT person, even if we only spoke that once while in line at Safeway, or spent that day at the gate in the airport waiting for a flight that was delayed by 6 hours… that person taught me something about myself. They were part of my journey. And my life would not be the same now had I not been in that precise time and place and condition that I was.
It’s kind of magic, really, if you think about it.