Was It Something I Said?
An Aspergers Experience
I write a Facebook message and there’s no response. I’d tried to tell the truth of my experience, but maybe I failed somehow. I look back over what I’ve written. The words seem to accurately represent my thoughts. But perhaps I shared some ideas that are too far from the norm. And I begin to wonder… Did I say something offensive?
I speak up in a group of humans discussing a piece of their holy scripture, and notice the leader looking at me, his brow deeply lined. I tried to share my fascination with the meaning of the words we’d just read, and how we might question their usual interpretation. I think back over my sharing. Perhaps I had some unusual energy connected to my words. A loud, nervous voice. A quickness of speech. A forcefulness of expression. And I begin to wonder… Were the others put off by my comment?
I send someone a friend request. I give them the URL for my blog. But the request goes weeks before it’s accepted, and nary a word is said about my writing. I think back over my interactions, and try to see the world through the other person’s eyes. I think about the content of my blog posts. And I begin to wonder… Am I just too scary?
I answer a question somebody poses to me on Twitter. My first 140 characters are not enough, so I tweet another 140, then follow that up with a longer direct message. She doesn’t answer right away. I go back over what I’ve written, pouring over my sentences, wondering if I’d crossed a boundary I could not see, thinking maybe I’d devolved into giving advice, or pontificating and pronouncing like a White Guy™. And I begin to wonder… Were my responses too much?
Over and over, as I’ve slowly grown to accept my Aspie nature, I’ve been confronted by the astonishing news that I do not always accurately understand the needs, feelings, interests, limitations, superpowers, and capacities of the people with whom I interact. It’s astonishing to me because I feel like I’m so deeply sensitive to the humans around me. I notice the silences, the furrowed brows, the strange looks, and the energy in their voices. I hear every voice in the restaurant. I watch people as they interact.
But my noticing is often more a matter of self-preservation than connection, or even interest. My focus is on my own thoughts, my fascinations, my exciting ideas and my interesting bits of data. And I’m constantly monitoring the alarm bells that sound in my soul in the presence of other humans, looking for danger, trying to stay a step ahead, figuring out exactly what I have to do or say, who I have to be, in order to survive the interaction unscathed. Usually that involves getting out of it as soon as is possible.
So I notice, but I too often fail to understand. And now, knowing that I do this, I wonder and worry more than ever.
Sometimes I feel like I’m this towering, striding giant, stomping through the world, not noticing whom I might be stepping on as I make my way. I try to be careful, but I’m so high up that I can barely hear the voices of the people underfoot, and my attention is on the horizon, where sits yet another fascinating new building for me to explore.